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Farewell message from the Rector
20th December 2019
Today we bid a fond farewell to our Rector, Dr John Halliday, who is retiring after 11 ½ years leading the School, and a career spanning 40 years working in education.
Dr Halliday said, “It has been a huge privilege to lead this fine school, one of the oldest in the UK, and one whose influence has been felt across the nation, as well as in Dundee and Tayside, since 1239.
For me teaching is not just a job. It is a profession, and I like to think a highly skilled one. More than that, though, it is a vocation! The opportunity to nurture, encourage and challenge young people is immensely rewarding. Hard work yes, but in the time-honoured phrase, the more you put in the more you get out of it. Great teachers, and I have known many over the last 30 years, never stop learning, from each other, from external influences and not least, from the pupils.
When I look back, the vibrancy of our school community, and the range of achievements of our pupils – earned through hard work, skill and determination - makes picking out individual highlights an extremely challenging task! There is so much that I’m proud of, evolving outwards from the three ‘pillars’ of our Integrated Curriculum: the Academic, the Co-curricular and the Pastoral.
Since I joined the school in August 2008 approximately 2,500 pupils have passed through the School, sitting a total of 18,888 SQA exams! During that time, HSD pupils have achieved the SQA Star Award for the best exam performance in the whole country on two separate occasions – a huge reward for all their, and their teachers’, hard work and endeavour.
But education is about so much more than the academic. In the past decade or so, the school community has raised some £380,000 for local, national and international charities and community causes. To see our rugby teams contesting two Scottish Schools Rugby Cup Finals at Murrayfield, cheered on by the HSD community in significant numbers, was a source of immense pride. I will never forget the incredible drama performances, the amazing music concerts, the Red Nose Days, the Whole School Walk up the Law to mark the centenary of the outbreak of WW1…to name but a few of the highlights.
It was a real privilege to have been able to open our Nursery at Mayfield - our first in 780 years! – and an honour to name the building after a remarkable FP and social campaigner in Dundee and beyond, namely Mary Lily Walker.
Facilities do not make a school but they help, and they are also a reflection of the priorities. I’m a firm and passionate believer in the transformative impact of creativity on a pupil’s all-round development and well-being, and our ambitious and exciting Meadowside Arts Centre project in Dundee’s former Head Post Office Building remains firmly on the agenda.
Our role and place within the community has been incredibly important to me, and it has been a real pleasure to have seen the links and relationships with organisations across Dundee grow and blossom in the past decade. We must never forget we are a community and one that is physically located at the heart of a much wider community. This gives our pupils many of their special qualities: a grounded openness and awareness of their global responsibilities, combined with an ability to speak to anyone.
Above all, I remember the countless acts of kindness, initiative and good humour from pupils and colleagues. But now after 11½ years as Rector of the High School and 22 years as a Head in three very different schools, I am now having to look Father Time in the face and step back from my role. What on earth will I do on 6 January 2020?!
Thank you to all who have accompanied me on this amazing journey, to those who have challenged, supported and inspired me at every turn. I will always carry that with me. Thank you!"
Dr John D Halliday