HEADTEACHER Colin Gerrie has “mixed emotions” as he prepares to say farewell to Musselburgh Grammar School tomorrow (Friday) after six-and-a-half years at the helm.

He will leave with fond memories of the Honest Toun as he begins a new chapter of his life as headteacher of Greenfield International School in Dubai on August 10.

With an ambition to work abroad stemming from his early twenties, the 52-year-old father-of-four now feels the time is right to take on that challenge and is set to make the “life-changing” move from the family home in Edinburgh with his wife Yvonne and their youngest daughter Ruby, aged 11.

Mr Gerrie, a former depute headteacher of Ross High School in Tranent, said: “I have always harboured ambitions to work abroad and, after 28 years of working in Scotland, this is an exciting challenge and opportunity.

“The time is right and I am lucky to get the chance to work internationally. I am really looking forward to working in the Middle East and it really is the gateway to the world. Ultimately though, leadership and working with children is the same thing, regardless of whether it is in Scotland or Dubai. I hope to continue to contribute to the great work at Greenfield International School.”

READ MORE: Mr Gerrie confirms he will be leaving Musselburgh Grammar School

He stressed: “I feel Musselburgh Grammar has made significant progress and improvements whilst, at the same time, as is the case for every school, there is scope for further improvements and it would be nice to see the next part of the journey through, particularly given how much I admire and love working in the community, and given the staff we have now got. We have inherited a lot of excellent teachers and supplemented that with some strong recruitment so we now have a really outstanding staff.

“Musselburgh is a historic town with a real sense of community – that was a big part of the lure of the job.

“As a history and modern studies teacher myself, I was aware of some of the history of Musselburgh. Prior to the bypass being built, my grandparents came from Tranent and I stayed in Falkirk so we would have to drive through Musselburgh to get to Tranent, and I had relatives in Musselburgh as well.”

He said that one of the highlights of being part of the community was being invited to be the Sasher at the Musselburgh Festival in 2018. He also attended the Silver Arrow competition in Musselburgh, dating back to 1603, when members of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland, take part in what is reputedly the oldest sporting trophy in the world still competed for annually.

Mr Gerrie spoke at the Old Musselburgh Club’s annual dinner and the school formed partnerships with Musselburgh Racecourse.

He said: “It is a fantastic town and it wasn’t by accident I applied for a post here. Musselburgh Grammar is the fifth oldest school in Scotland and that is quite remarkable.”

He highlighted the wider achievement of the young people and opportunities that the staff provided for them, whether outdoor learning, trips internationally and within Scotland, and the way that the staff had adapted the “traditional” curriculum to include more vocational opportunities.

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Mr Gerrie said: “We have more young people going to college and our exam results have been the best they have ever been – that is huge for the community.

“The last six years we have had our highest levels of attainment ever. We are very proud about that and it was our number one priority.

“It provides an excellent foundation for the new headteacher coming in who can take it to the next level. That is illustrated by the fact that we have more students than every going to higher education – the figures are up a third there.”

He stressed that more apprenticeships were also being secured by pupils.

Mr Gerrie said a “wonderful side to the job” was the prizegiving ceremonies and musical concerts showcasing the standard of the music department and orchestras, with a high percentage of pupils in the East Lothian orchestra.

He paid tribute to the “strong work ethic” of staff, adding: “We have brought new departments and subjects in. We now have a drama department, sport and recreation and we do photography and care. We still have a long way to go but these are positive initiatives.”

Mr Gerrie also praised the young people of the school, saying: “The pupils are genuine. They know when all adults from all walks of life care – they are a good judge of character. I will miss them on a daily basis – listening to them every day to helping them and them making me laugh.

“I have really enjoyed working with our active parent council and the elected members have been so supportive of the school. This reinforces the commitment to the local community. East Lothian Council is an excellent place to work and I will miss working with primary colleagues in the Musselburgh cluster. The six secondary headteachers have a really strong bond and we work very closely together. Relationships are strong.”

On the Covid-19 pandemic, he said: “All the teachers, as in all other professions that have been right at the heart of the pandemic, would say it’s the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to face. The resilience of staff and pupils has been extraordinary.

“The pupils coped admirably well but it isn’t really what we wanted for anyone. It has been a real challenge which hopefully we will never see the like of again but it has been a success by the whole school community given the challenges we faced.”

Mr Gerrie has had online meetings with his successor Jodie Hannan, currently headteacher at Drummond Community High School, who will take up the role on August 16.