KEVIN MCKENNA’S DIARY: The secret to Dunoon Grammar’s world fame? Students are told that life is just a game

At Dunoon where I met the inspiring staff and students of Dunoon Grammar School who have been voted the best in the world for their community engagement initiatives.

The judges were impressed with the school’s commitment to reversing the brain drain that sees young people from Scotland’s islands and its remote and rural communities moving away from home for more fulfilling lives in busier places.

Those I have met have always expressed regret at not feeling able to make their homes and careers where they were born. And when you visit them, you often want to live and work there.

Paul Gallanagh, Business and IT Manager at Dunoon Grammar, has been the driving force behind many of his students’ engagements with the city. He intends to spend a significant portion of their $50,000 prize money to develop an esports center in the school.

His reasoning is simple: the dynamic tech landscape of esports and gaming is where the big jobs and opportunities are opening up. By developing their expertise in this potentially rewarding industry, students at Dunoon Grammar can gain a crucial advantage when it comes time for them to find employment.

Even better: they won’t have to sit in an office in Glasgow or London to do such work. And if they were to spend most of their lives in a place like Dunoon, they’d probably live a few more years too.

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The numbers that periodically indicate distress in the NHS and our education system often betray the work being done off-camera to improve the picture.

Last week, I interviewed Susan Stewart, Director of the Open University in Scotland, for a long-awaited conversation about the work of this incredible institution. Susan described the OU as second only to the NHS in the list of Britain’s biggest social interventions.

She told me about an OU initiative to help the National Care Service by reskilling and reskilling Scotland’s undervalued and underpaid social workforce. At the same time, an initiative aims to make health and social care a more attractive career path for school leavers.

There is also a strategy to identify NHS employees who are currently working at a relatively junior or unskilled level, but who have shown an aptitude for something more useful. It is a three-way approach involving the 32 Scottish Boards of Health and the Open University, where these workers train part-time to become nurses while the Scottish Government provides the funds to cover their shifts. of work.

Some people, for all sorts of reasons, fail to do themselves justice in adolescence and early adulthood, but society chooses to close the doors to them throughout their lives.

The beauty and simplicity of The Open University is in opening those doors and inviting people to try again.


I confess to Susan Stewart that I had a rather bad time with my first attempt at education for three years at the University of Glasgow. I left this great place of learning after having rarely glimpsed the interior of one of its amphitheatres.

Instead, I spent a good few dollars of government money to learn first-hand about the economic inequalities of small African states by enrolling in the South West African People’s Organization…or at least their brilliant social evenings.

I have regularly urged the United States to seize El Salvador and Nicaragua; visited Yorkshire to rescue grateful striking miners and insulted Margaret Thatcher during several educational marches. So not everything was a waste of money.

This posed an obvious problem for me when I sat through those crucial first job interviews that could determine the future course of your life: How do you fill the sizable—and uncertified—gap in your college career without lie about it.

As millennials might say, I tried to “own” my failure. I thus explained to my future bosses that the teaching standards of the University of Glasgow, as demanding as they were, had nevertheless not quite met my academic expectations.

And that I would be better off pursuing a career in the more challenging learning environment of their splendid Insurance/Banking/Retail Management/Royal Mail/Civil Service operations.

I had actually undertaken to study English literature at the University of Glasgow. Everything went brilliantly for the first few weeks, reading the English poets of the lake and exploring themes of madness and chaos in the works of Lord Byron.

Then I asked my English teacher when we could expect to start writing our own material. That was, after all, the reason we got the privilege of reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Coleridge, wasn’t it: to try and produce some poetry and prose ourselves?

This Oxford-educated septuagenarian don had none of that, though. “You are not here to write; you are here to enjoy writing. An old phrase from the west of Scotland about lust and a game of soldiers immediately came to mind.


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