HERMITAGE Academy’s new head teacher says he’ll take a “traditional” approach when he takes up his new post later this month – but doesn’t plan any sweeping changes.

Robert Williamson also says he plans to involve pupils and parents as much as he can in the school’s development.

Mr Williamson, whose first day in his new job will be Monday, October 23, spoke to the Advertiser this week about his new post – and said radical change at the school is not on his agenda.

He said: “I have no intention of bringing in any dramatic models.

“You don’t arrive at a new school with a big stick. I’ve spoken to the school’s leadership team already, and they understand I’m not coming in to change things that are working well.

“Hermitage is a very traditional school, and I think a traditional model meets its needs.

“It needs to meet the requirement of a broad general education while at the same time offering a good range of choice.

“I think if the teaching is strong, pupils will do well. It’s not about this model or that model – it’s about building strong relationships and giving everyone the tools they need to be successful.”

That pledge follows criticism of the school in 2015 over a controversial curriculumn model which saw no pupils sit exams in their fourth year, and comes after senior staff and pupils in the school’s captaincy team told the Advertiser they were looking forward to a period of stability for the school after the adoption of a more flexible exam system.

Mr Williamson also said building strong and lasting relationships with pupils, parents, staff and the wider Helensburgh and Lomond community will be one of his top priorities.

He said: “One of the most important things for me will be to embed myself as part of the community.

“I don’t know the pupils or the community yet, but I want to build that sense of community and build up those strong, personal, face-to-face relationships as much as possible.

“I want to know what pupils and parents have to say. I don’t want a school where bodies such as the pupil council are just a talking shop, and nothing changes – people lose faith if you have a situation like that.

“I want Hermitage to be pupil-led, parent-led, and where all the staff feel they can make a valued contribution to the life of the school.”

Prior to taking up the head teacher’s role at Drumchapel High in 2012, Mr Williamson spent six years as a depute head in Bishopbriggs and, before that, nine years as a principal teacher and faculty head of social subjects at Balfron High School, in Stirlingshire.

Before taking up teaching, he spent seven years working as an office junior with Glasgow City Council, and has also worked as a labourer, a storeman and a taxi driver.

All of that followed a decision to leave secondary school at the end of his fourth year – and gives him a broad experience of life which he thinks is key to his own teaching success.

He told the Advertiser: “That life experience is a very positive thing.

“People who come straight through the system are probably very switched-on to it, but maybe people who took the kind of route I did get a broad understanding of the situations people face.

“And I know Hermitage has a very broad range of young people. It reminds me a bit of my Balfron days – all the local community goes to the school, and it has a bigger impact on the life of the whole community.

“Yes, there are people in the community – both in Balfron and in Helensburgh – who are well off, but that can make it harder for those who aren’t from those wealthier backgrounds.

“It was very important to us that everyone was supported to achieve their best, and that will be crucial in my Hermitage journey too.”

Mr Williamson will take up the role following a short spell between August and the October holiday in which Dunoon Grammar School rector David Mitchell filled the post on an acting basis.

And the building blocks put in place by Mr Mitchell will remain there under the school’s new permanent head teacher.

Mr Williamson said: “David has been really supportive.

“It’s very clear he’s built strong relationships with pupils, staff and the community in his short time at the school and I’m very grateful for all the support he’s given me.

“Hermitage will be working closely with Dunoon Grammar School and Rothesay Academy and my approach will be very similar to that of Mr Mitchell.

“I’ll have an open mind and an open door. I want there to be a mechanism in place where everybody feels they can initiate improvement.”