Dunoon Grammar School wins international T4 Education World's Best School Prize

A Scottish school has won a prestigious international education prize, after embracing new ways of addressing the ‘brain drain’ faced by many rural communities.

Dunoon Grammar has been crowned winner of the T4 Education World's Best School Prize for community collaboration in recognition of the work it has done both home and abroad over the last decade. The award has been hailed by Dame Emma Thompson and her husband, Greg Wise, who have strong connections to the Argyll town and own a holiday home nearby.

"You've put Dunoon Grammar School into a kind of global recognition moment," Dame Emma told pupils at the school. "The spotlight's on you (this), small as we know, rural community in Scotland. It's the most extraordinary achievement. "It actually made me cry when I heard about it. We're so thrilled for you, and so proud of you, and I hope you all just feel, well, on top of the world because, at this moment in time, that's where you are."

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Mr Wise has visited the school on several occasions and had spoken at leavers' events, said head teacher David Mitchell. The award filled him with "so much pride" he said. He and his children attended the school.

Dunoon Grammar School
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"There is just something special about Dunoon Grammar School," he said. "All I want for every single child that comes into this building, as they leave here having achieved their potential and having had a good time. That's all I want. "If every child leaves here with a positive memory, I've done my job."

Much of the work in achieving the award was spearheaded by Paul Gallanagh, principal teacher of computing and IT, whom Mr Mitchell said "deserves a lot of thanks".

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"He has driven a huge amount of this and I would like to thank him for all of his hard work."

The school was recognised for its work in combating "brain drain" in its rural community.

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"Dunoon Grammar has suffered from the brain drain, where young people have had no real option but to pack up and leave the town," said Mr Gallanagh.

"As a school we very much wanted to address that."

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Working with partners, the school's curriculum was adapted to provide 50 courses which reflect key sectors of the local economy such as tourism and maritime studies. Pupils at the school also worked on delivering their own projects in the surrounding community, such as bingo nights for elderly people in nearby care homes during the pandemic, and heading to Malawi to help build schools and hospitals.

The community of Dunoon, Mr Mitchell says, will be just as delighted with the award as those associated with the school.

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"Our vision statement has been about being at the heart of the community, striving together to achieve excellence," he said. "We always want to improve the community. It just plays such an important role and I'm delighted that the community partners will be given that recognition."

Plans have already been made for the prize money of 50,000 US dollars (£44,000) with the school looking to purchase a mini-bus which would enable them to do more community outreach work. Mr Mitchell also has a dream, where a community room is established in the school with intergenerational peer-led workshops on topics such as languages and even wiring a plug.

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