WHEN Lise Hudson, the Rector of the High School of Dundee talks about the “really good buzz” in the corridors since the new term started, her passion comes through loud and clear. “We’re a family community and we’re just so pleased to be back together again, welcome new pupils and look forward to what’s ahead,” she says.

For the High School of Dundee, it is about making the school a place where pupils enjoy learning, where they try new things and find their passion. “Exam results are important but they don’t give the full picture of the school’s benefits,” she says. “It is about the way we engage with our young people and being positive – and celebrating what they achieve whether that’s in or outside of the classroom.”

“That academic success is important but it is not everything – it is a passport that young people need – but there are different pathways. It is about developing skills and it is our job to be innovative, look ahead and ensure that we are equipping pupils with the skills they will need to thrive now and in tomorrow’s world.

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“With the help of a curriculum in which timetables are built around individual choices, a vast co-curriculum and extensive pastoral support, we help our pupils discover who they are, find their confidence and strengths and begin the journey to where they want to be.

“In our primary school, our teachers focus on developing the core skills which are so crucial. But the focus is also on making learning fun, engaging and wide-ranging. Children receive teaching from our Secondary school subject teachers in multiple areas of study.”

It’s an environment in which learning is cool,” Mrs Hudson adds. “In the Secondary school, there are Enterprise Skills courses which allow pupils the chance to work on real-world projects with local businesses.

“We have a unique Sports Development programme, providing talented sports stars with the expert coaching and all-round guidance they need to reach the next level, and the school held its first-ever Festival of Sport in June.

“There’s also a commitment to STEM, with specialist staff, state-of-the-art labs, equipment, and a focus on digital skills.”

Earlier in September, the school won the Future Skills category in the 2023 Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce Business Champion Awards.

Consistently in the top 10 of all Scottish schools for SQA results, the school sees about 95% of pupils going on to university, although increasing numbers are choosing instead to go directly into employment or apprenticeships, and receiving the support they need to do so.

The school’s location – right in the heart of Dundee – makes it unique. “People know it, people pass it every day, the pupils interact with local people on their way to and from school, at lunchtime – we are very much at the centre of the community – and at our recent Open Morning we wanted parents and their children to experience the atmosphere in the school for themselves.

“Our building is imposing and can look austere from the outside but step inside and you feel the energy from the pupils and the staff.”

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Indeed, pupils regularly work and perform with young people from across the city. For example, a large number recently performed in Dundee Youth Music Theatre’s production of Summer Holiday at the Caird Hall. In the past year, the school also welcomed 120 pupils from the city’s secondary schools to join its own young musicians for a joint wind/brass/percussion day.

“There’s also significant fundraising and volunteering activities focusing on local organisations and last year nearly £13,000 was raised for a range of good causes,” says Mrs Hudson. “In 2022/23 alone, our pupils spent more than 10,000 hours volunteering with various local organisations, clubs and charities.”

As Dundee has benefited from a £1 billion regeneration and its continuing resurgence makes it one of the most exciting places in Scotland, the High School of Dundee – one of the city’s oldest institutions – is also looking forward. In the same way that the city is creative, so is the school – and both can be unconventional too, Mrs Hudson suggests.

From its greenfield nursery campus, through a bespoke primary experience and into a dynamic, all-round educational offer in Senior Years, the school understands that learning new skills required for the jobs of the future has never been more important.

“Even in four or five years’ time there will be a jobs market with different requirements from today,” Mrs Hudson points out. “Our young people need a set of skills that will allow them to capitalise on the way our industries are changing.”

Mrs Hudson explains how the school’s integrated curriculum has been designed to offer a wide programme of curricular opportunities and co-curricular activities along with highly developed and supportive pastoral care.

There is an emphasis and investment in learning support and expert pastoral care. Nurturing and positively challenging pupils is what gives them a unique and natural ability to engage effectively in any situation and these are essential skills for the real world, adds Mrs Hudson.

“There are always going to be bumps on the road for every child and their family but this wraparound care is part of the way in which we nurture and build resilience and produce young people who are confident and able to communicate in any situation but who are also caring and understand the importance of teamwork and collaboration,” she points out.

With its wide catchment, dedicated bus routes from Angus, Fife, Perthshire and beyond provide a convenient and safe way for pupils to travel into the city and home again at the end of the day.

Lise Hudson goes on to say: “We never forget that parents are entrusting us with their children and making an investment in their future. Our aim is to ensure that we provide the very best all-round learning experience for every individual child so that they can shine. We believe every day is an open day and look forward to meeting you and exploring what HSD can do for you.”