I wish a happy New Year to all those connected with the school and hope that you had an enjoyable holiday.
Events before Christmas
I was pleased that one of Mr Paterson’s final acts as PT Music was to supervise the Christmas Concert. As I said from the stage that evening, his legacy as PT was evident – committed staff and instructors, a large and responsive orchestra and various musical ensembles packed with talent from all the age groups. I wish him well in his retirement and thank him for many years service to the school. It was a superb night, and I know from talking to members of the audience later how much they enjoyed it.
We also had our Show – this year showcasing S6 Talent as well as our Pantomime “The Devil’s Tale”. We were well entertained from both parts of the show and my compliments to all performers and staff and pupils behind the scenes. The Marketplace event that afternoon and evening was also great fun for all present and made for a lively entrance to the Hall.
S2 Parents Meeting Wednesday 1st February 2012 at 7pm
We have spent a lot of time as a school on our plans for implementing A Curriculum for Excellence. I outlined to parents of S2 pupils back in June that we intended to continue allowing pupils to maintain very broad choices for S3 and that pupils would continue to sit up to 8 subjects in S4. (That presentation is shown in Head Teachers letters section of the school website –dated 28th October). We have started explaining to S2 pupils in PSE how that choice process takes place and are putting the finishing touches to our completely new S3 Choice Booklet as we move to a new set of qualifications for these pupils in May 2014. We intend to put a copy of this booklet onto the school website as well as providing paper copies. We have carried out a “dry run” with S2 pupils in the Hall to explain how the new choice form works – Mr MacKinnon was very satisfied with pupil understanding of the form and what they had to do.
We have always had an S2 Parents Meeting to keep parents informed of the process and we will hold one again this year. I would really encourage parents to come along to this – with your child if you wish – as the process is different in some ways this year.
Recognising that this is a new process, I would like to make this evening dedicated to the S3 Choice process so that parents have plenty of time to listen to the presentation and that we can take general questions from the audience later and then talk to individual parents about specific questions after that. We are really committed to helping parents understand what Curriculum for Excellence is trying to achieve and how we want all our pupils to reach their potential through face to face meetings like this.
I would thus like to hold the S4 Choice Evening on Thursday 2nd February at 7pm, one day later than the date published in the mailshot.
We will soon be issuing the S4 reports which will incorporate details of pupil performance in their preliminary examinations as well as overall progress in the course. Some pupils will be delighted with their reports, some will realise that they have underperformed – my message at this time of year to S4 pupils is that there is still time to improve your grades if you put in the hard work and listen to staff advice. Good attendance is absolutely essential for all pupils so that coursework items like the English folio are done for deadline dates and done to the highest possible standard.
Senior pupils will be sitting their preliminary examinations very soon and Mrs Booker has issued examination timetables to them and has offered advice on revision sites to use. I repeat a point I made in an earlier newsletter – the pass rate for all examinations is 50%, whether at Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher or Advanced Higher. I remind you of what was said in my December newsletter – that pupils need to achieve over 35% to proceed to presentation at their current level. If pupils score barely above this, they have a great deal of work to do to reach a pass. We had good attendance at this week’s S5/6 Parents’ Meeting, allowing staff to explain what pupils need to do to improve and to give credit for the progress they have made so far.
I would like to pick up on several points which emerged in the S3 Parental Questionnaire organised by the Parent Council – more on the S1 one next newsletter.
As indicated in the Mailshot, S3 pupils have examinations in March which test their knowledge and skills on what they have learned in the whole of S3. These examinations are significant, since they give us a clear indication of progress and are used to help departments decide what level of presentation (Foundation/ General or General/ Credit) – pupils will be following in S4. When I spoke to S3 pupils about their reports last May, it was clear many pupils have revised very badly or insufficiently. It would be very helpful if parents could make sure pupils are taking these examinations seriously and are well prepared for them. Work revised well now tends to stick in the memory and help revision for the S4 preliminary examinations.
Staff will be helping pupils prepare for the examinations in terms of revision of topics and exam technique as we approach the examinations. Several parents said they were not clear about how they could help pupils revise. If you go to my Head Teacher section of the website, you can click on a presentation published on 28th October for S4 pupils which gives a list of revision websites.
I have to trust pupils to take letters home from school and parents should expect regular communication from us. Regrettably, we are not in a financial position to post all our communications to you and you have the right to expect your child to transmit communications.
Promoted posts restructuring
East Lothian secondary schools have been working together to consider how we wish to allocate promoted posts at Principal Teacher level. Traditionally, schools had a PT for every subject as well as PTs in Guidance and Support for Learning. We made some changes to our own structure back in 2004 when we combined some departments together. All secondary staff were briefed on the proposed changes at staff meetings on the first day of term and the authority is in discussion with the trade unions about aspects of the proposals as part of the consultation phase of this for professionals. For that reason, I do not wish to elaborate further to parents at present, but will do so in my next newsletter.
Recycling Projects in S5/6 Personal Development
One group have signed up to Recycool, an innovative recycling campaign. We are collecting used printer cartridges for school funds. There is a collection box at the front door of the school. We welcome contributions from parents and pupils and we hope you can help us: please hand in used cartridges with your child or simply take them to the box at the door. Many thanks.
Another group is running a recycling project which collects old textiles and clothing. If you have any old textiles that you no long want, please give them to your child in a plastic bag which can then be placed in the large Rag Bag cardboard box at the front door. The group has raised over £25 so far and is ambitious that they can raise more with your help. All funds will go to Hearing Dogs for Blind People. Many thanks to those of you who have already contributed.
School calendar until Easter break
Wednesday 25th January – S4 reports issued
Thursday 26th January – S5/6 Preliminary Examinations start
Wednesday 1st February – S2 Parents’ Choice Meeting 7pm
Thursday 2nd February – S4/5 Parents’ Choice Meeting 7pm
Monday 13th – Friday 17th February inclusive – school holiday
Monday 20th February – staff and pupils return
Thursday 1st March S2 Parents Consultation Meeting with staff 5-7pm
Wednesday 7th March – Return of S2 choice form
Tuesday 13th March – Return of S4/5 course choice forms
Wednesday 14th March – S3 examination begin, ending 27th March
Friday 30th March – term ends for pupils and staff at 12.10
Tuesday 17th April – term resumes for pupils and staff.
Please note also that the national SQA examinations begin on 25th April – parents can see the exact dates of examinations on the SQA website. However, despite the fact that parents should not be taking their child out of school on holiday during term time, we have had senior pupils miss these national examinations and thus receive no award for a subject since there are no resits.