Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.
Schools

33-year-old Lochgelly head teacher has big ambitions for his school’s ‘hugely authentic’ young people

Ross Stewart hopes his experience at an odds-defying Easterhouse school will benefit his Fife pupils reports.
Cheryl Peebles
Ross Stewart arrived at Lochgelly High School in September. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.
Ross Stewart arrived at Lochgelly High School in September. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Aged 33, Ross Stewart must be among the youngest, if not the youngest, secondary school head teacher in Scotland.

But he already has experience in helping lead a school in one of Glasgow’s most deprived housing estates to defy the odds.

And he brings that experience to Lochgelly High School – which also has high levels of deprivation – with the hope of boosting both attendance and attainment.

So who is Ross Stewart?

The former youth football coach for St Mirren and Partick Thistle is keeping pupils guessing on his team allegiance.

But he’s open about his passion for playing the drums.

Ross arrived at Lochgelly, in Fife, in September from Lochend Community High School, in Easterhouse. He was depute head teacher there, having started his career as a design and technology teacher at Dumbarton Academy in 2011.

Ross aims to improve attendance and attainment at Lochgelly High School  Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

His remit involved improving attainment and outcomes for young people and easing transitions from P7 to S1.

Despite over 90% of Lochend’s pupils being from areas with the highest levels of deprivation – known as SIMD 1 – in 2021 it became one of the few schools in Scotland with 100% of leavers going onto positive destinations (ie. work, training, university, college, etc.)

And he brings the lessons he learned there to Lochgelly.

Just under half of Lochgelly High School‘s pupils are from SIMD 1 areas, a significantly lower proportion than in Lochend but among the highest in Fife.

Ross said: “We [Lochend] had done a lot of work on improving our school attendance and I’m aware that attendance is something we want to work on here.

“We had done a huge amount on learning and teaching; what happens in the classroom.

“For three years in a row we [Lochend] had 100% of our young people, despite the deprivation, despite the poverty, going on to do something that was sustainably positive and we were really proud of that.

“Collectively, those experiences were something I thought I could bring here.

Ross is keeps quiet on his football allegiance, despite the best efforts of pupils. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“When I couple that with my own passion for getting transitions right, there’s a real opportunity for us here.”

And key to ensuring Lochgelly High School pupils leave with the best chances they can, he said, is maximising their time in school.

Both rates of attendance and pupils staying on beyond S4 are lower in Lochgelly than the Fife average.

Ross wants to make the school a more appealing place to be.

And he wants every young person to look to S6, not just S4.

He said: “We know if young people stay with us to sixth year they will get more qualifications which opens up more doors beyond school.

“One of the key messages I would love to share is this is a six year secondary school journey.”

The young people are hugely authentic. They always tell you what they think so you know where you stand!”

Getting that message across starts in P7, he said, and he plans to work with local primary schools to improve the transition process.

He also wants to ensure Lochgelly offers the most diverse curriculum it can, and not just for those looking to gain National 5 and Higher qualifications.

Already it offers courses such as make-up skills and Career Ready mentoring, and Ross hopes to introduce more such programmes.

Collaboration with the school’s resident police officer, social worker and attendance officer and the third sector, he hopes, will improve attendance.

As will creating a more welcoming ethos.

“We need to make sure the experiences young people have in school make them feel valued. For example, we want every young person coming into school being referenced by name by a member of staff.”

Behaviour issues are on his radar, and he aims to reduce the number of exclusions and create a culture of mutual respect.

Lochgelly pupils ‘tell you what they think’

Enhanced opportunities for staff development, he hopes, will improve the quality of learning and teaching.

But he’s starting from a good position, he said, with a high quality staff team.

He said: “There’s a real commitment here to getting it right for the young people.

“The young people themselves are hugely authentic. They always tell you what they think so you know where you stand!

“That honesty makes it easier for us to put supports in place to get them to wherever they want to go.”

During his first few weeks, Ross has concentrated on getting to know Lochgelly’s staff, parents, the community and its pupils.

He said: “I’m trying to be a presence around the school, getting into classrooms and seeing what the experience is like.”

Football, drums and Munros

And as he does so, pupils have been trying to discover his football colours.

A ruptured Achilles tendon at the age of 16 restricting his own action on the pitch led Ross to become a UEFA-accredited youth academy coach, and he remains an ardent fan.

He said: “The kids are all asking what football team I support. That’s the big question and I refuse to be drawn on it! I do support one of the four Glasgow teams, which has confused a few of them because they forget about Partick Thistle and Queens Park.”

Between his career and being dad to two children aged five and three, Ross has little time to indulge his hobbies which also include music and Munro-bagging.

I want it to be that as soon as you walk through the door you know you are in a high-performing school.”

He was a snare drummer in a Boys’ Brigade pipe band and Milngavie Pipe Band and occasionally drums with a Glasgow ceilidh band.

For now, he lives in Glasgow with his wife, who works for the Scottish Ambulance Service, and his daily commute eases the work life / home life transition.

He said: “It’s time to reflect. It means when I cross the threshold I’m back into dad mode. I’ve left the worries, the pressure, the stresses or whatever of the day behind.”

And what occupies his mind are his ambitions for Lochgelly High School.

He said: “I do have high expectations for the school, for the young people and the staff.

“I want it to be that as soon as you walk through the door you know you are in a high-performing school where everyone knows their role, what is expected of them and that we have curriculum and learning experiences that are positive for all.”

Conversation

Conversation