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Grantown headteacher returns home

By Gavin Musgrove

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A familiar face has returning to school – if not the classroom – today.

Claire McGonigal is back in post as Grantown Grammar School headteacher after a 12-month secondment at Highland Council’s education department.

She has resumed her former duties after what she described as a very interesting year with the education improvement team at Inverness headquarters.

Claire McGonigal (left) with Education Secretary John Swinney during an education festival.
Claire McGonigal (left) with Education Secretary John Swinney during an education festival.

Ms McGonigal had a key role in the review of additional support needs provision in the Highlands – the overhaul is sparking much controversy especially amongst parents of ASN pupils.

She lead the consultation to gather views of pupils, parents and staff across the region.

She said: “The Highlands is roughly the size of Belgium and I have now travelled it several times over. I visited all 29 secondary schools and over 100 primary schools and held consultation meetings in every location.

“Visiting these schools, seeing and sharing good practice was a privilege and I have a lot of ideas to make Grantown Grammar School an even better school than it already is.”

The ASN review is on-going.

Ms McGonigal said: “I’m sure that I’ll be involved with it in the future as I will continue to represent the views of those who took part with such emotion and candour in the consultation process.”

She also helped to establish ‘School Improvement Families’ during her spell, linking schools across the Highlands so they can work together rather than in isolation.

In recent weeks she has been lead manager at the Inverness Royal Academy keyworker childcare hub which was set-up and running in just eight hours.

Ms McGonigal said: “I’m have been leading a team of more than 50 volunteers and providing childcare for over 50 children most of whom are primary aged which is very unnerving for a secondary teacher!

“Even though I’m going to be virtually back at Grantown, I’m still going to be based here until the end of lockdown.”

She added: “It has been an interesting year but the most important thing I learnt is that my heart is most definitely in my school.

"I have missed the pupils, staff, community and the rhythm of school life.

"I can’t wait until the schools reopen and I can walk the school corridors greeting the pupils, reassuring parents and working with my amazing staff team again.”

Tom Magowan had been acting headteacher in Ms McGonigal's absence from the school.

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