Parental Newsletter June 2014

Dear Parent

Staffing

 As ever at this time of year, we say goodbye to a number of staff.

 Mrs Wills, PT of Support for Learning, retires at the end of the term after at least 20 years in post. Hers is a very complex post: demanding a considerable knowledge of the legislation around Additional Support Needs, an ability to work closely with other agencies, an ability to work closely with parents and pupils, and an ability to advise subject staff of how best to support those pupils in class. She brings great patience and compassion to her job. I wish her a long and prosperous retirement. Ms Donoghue takes over as PT in August.
Mr Sneddon in Physics is also retiring. He was the PT Physics here from 1986 and has been a tremendous mentor to the staff who joined that department and a hugely wise and committed teacher to many generations of pupils here. I appreciated his thoughtful comments about any changes we were introducing to the school.

Mr Scott in the PE Department is also moving to Dunbar Grammar School as Head of Health and Wellbeing. He has been with us for 6 years. Nothing is too much trouble for him and I thank him for all his work here and wish him well in his new post when he starts in August.

Several staff have been with us for a year as newly qualified teachers so we say goodbye to Ms McGhee in Music, Mr McCarthy and Ms Benson in PE, Ms Robinson in English and Mr Ritchie in History. Ms Mitchell and Mr Calder finish as temporary teachers in Social Studies also.

 
The final staffing change is my own. I am going on secondment for two years to the Scottish Qualifications Authority in August as Head of Qualifications Development. This post oversees the introduction of the new National Qualifications in Higher and Advanced Higher. It is an exciting opportunity to be involved in national developments and one that I am looking forward to. However, it is my intention to retire as Head Teacher at the end of that secondment and I have agreed that the authority can advertise the post on a permanent basis. I thus will finish as Head Teacher here at the end of the term in July. The authority will appoint an Acting Head Teacher until the post has been advertised, interviewed and a preferred candidate identified. It has been a very enjoyable 11 years in post and it has been a privilege to serve this community and work with so many committed staff and supportive parents and pupils. I leave with many happy memories.

 
Change to the Mailshot arrangements

Traditionally, we have sent out a mailshot by post in September to all our parents with a booklet of details and several return forms. The cost of running off a large booklet and the postage for this is considerable and we have decided that we will now place the information on the school website, which we are reconfiguring. Parents will receive a set of forms to complete and return by pupil post. (Any parent who does not have access to the website can ask for a paper copy of the booklet.)

SQA examinations
The final examination in this year’s diet took place on Monday 2nd June, the day the seniors returned from examination leave. We were very impressed with the attitude of the pupils sitting examinations this year – National 5 for S4 and Intermediates, Higher and Advanced Higher for S5 and S6 – arriving in good time, well prepared and methodical in their use of time during each examination. The invigilators led by Mr Reeves were very complimentary.
Perhaps it would be timely to say to parents of the new S4 that last year’s S4 had to be very organised and keep on top of work right from the start of June. Several should have been presented at a higher level or had to be withdrawn from courses because their coursework was not handed in on time and they could not be passed for a course.

P7 pupils
After a number of preparatory events and transitions organised by the school and Community Learning and Development, we will welcome P7 pupils for their two day visit on Tuesday 17th and Monday 18th June. They will arrive slightly later than usual on Tuesday because of the Queen’s Baton Relay.

Queen’s Baton Relay
We have now been notified of the exact time when this will pass through Musselburgh, which is later than we expected. It starts at 9:00am at Murdoch’s Green, Musselburgh. The route follows Edinburgh Road onto Bridge Street, High Street, Linksfield Road and arrives at Ravensheugh Road at approx. 10am. Having pupils come in to school and then leave again, causing congestion as they move to the route is not a good idea, so here is what we expect:
• Pupils who do NOT want to see the relay can come to school at the normal time, but once they are here, they stay here and go to their classes.
• Pupils who DO want to see the relay can go to the vantage points straight from home and then come to school: they must arrive by 10.30 when we will take registration.

End of term details

School Concert Thursday 26th June 7.30pm
Prizegiving Wednesay 2nd July 7pm
End of term Friday 4th July at 12.10pm
School reopens for pupils on Thursday 21st August at 8.45.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

Parental Newsletter May 2014

Dear Parent,
Musselburgh Grammar School Inspection report
The report is now published and I hope you have had the chance to read it. It praises aspects of the school and it also identifies areas that need attention. We are well placed to meet the request for improvement from the inspection team. There were positive comments about the staff’s approach to teaching and learning – “most tasks and activities in classes match the needs of most young people well and allow them to make appropriate progress in their learning” – and “their willingness …. to lead on improving aspects of young people’s experience.” There were positive comments about our pupils – “most young people are motivated and keen to do well” and they were seen as a key strength. There were positive comments about the support of our parents – “parents organised a very successful careers event which helped young people in thinking about realistic possibilities for their future beyond school.”
The grading of “weak” for improvements in performance was a disappointment to us. That rather suggests that there has been no improvement or no quality in examination performance in the school which is not the case. The Musselburgh Area Profile which is drawn up by the authority indicates that pupils in many areas of our community exceed the East Lothian average in their examination performance. We gathered a lot of extra data about the circumstances of the school and about our performance by the end of S6: for example the number of S4 pupils achieving 5 Credit passes by the end of S6 has risen from 35% to 50% in 11 years and for 3 Highers from 22% to 31% in the same period. Quality is there: our pupils achieved 436 Higher awards at Grades A-C last year. We felt this showed long-term improvement over many years, and it was the subject of very intense conversations with the inspection team. However, we now have to accept the findings of the inspectors and so we have to seek quicker improvements in performance in the number of passes at National 4 and National 5 and have more pupils pass a subject at Higher in S5 rather than a year later in S6.
The school improvement plan for 2014-15 will accordingly reflect the issues raised in the HMIe report as well as reflecting national developments such as the delivery of the new SQA qualifications. The plan will focus on the request to raise attainment in national examinations, but we also intend to extend the tracking system we use for S4-6 into S1-3 to help raise attainment and expectations in the longer term for our pupils. Teachers will continue to develop the curriculum for all years and we will continue to reflect as a school on the things we need to do to improve the educational experience of our pupils, appreciating their wider achievements and also helping them achieve skills for learning, life and work. We also intend to spend more time sharing our best practice in teaching across the different departments in the school, sharing what leads to better learning for pupils and thus better performance. The Senior Management Team and Principal Teachers will be spending more time in classes, helping class teachers raise the expectations and aspirations of some pupils and guiding staff into getting the most out of pupils. Pupils obviously have a role to play in this since teaching and learning is a two-way process. While the vast majority want to do well at school and try very hard, some pupils attend poorly, are reluctant to give their best in class, and do not yet recognise the importance of homework and producing their best work first time around. For the good of those children, we will continue to challenge those attitudes.
We already work with a number of agencies in East Lothian and further afield to help us achieve our goals and some further collaborative work has already started to achieve more for the Musselburgh community. We have a large, experienced and committed group of staff in the school; pupils who want to do well; parents who appreciate the work we do; and a community who knows the school’s value to the area.
We are, as I said at the beginning of this letter, well placed to meet the request for improvement from the inspection team and are determined to address the issues identified in the report. Many parents have commented during the session about the hard-working staff in the school. The staff appreciate the support of parents and want to work with you to bring about further improvement.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

2nd Parental Newsletter April 2014

Dear Parent

Update on inspection process

The school was inspected week beginning 24th February and things have been moving on behind the scenes. I was given a copy of the draft report from the Managing Inspector and had the opportunity to make suggestions to the wording, many of which have been accepted. I also asked for supplementary data to be considered in relation to one of the quality indicators. This has delayed the publication of the report. I was however told on Thursday that the date of publication will now be Tuesday 13th May. Like all schools, we will then have to put together an action plan to deal with aspects of the report. I will put out another newsletter at the time of the publication of the report explaining aspects of this.

Easter Revision Classes
School staff were asked if they were willing to run revision classes over Easter again this year and Mr Mackinnon put together a programme covering most subjects in a total of 40 sessions. There was a good take-up from pupils who are obviously anxious to do well in the forthcoming examinations, which start on Tuesday 29th April.
I am sure all staff in the school join me in wishing our S4-S6 good luck in their forthcoming examinations and qualifications.

Queen’s Baton Relay for Commonwealth Games
We have been notified that the baton will pass through Musselburgh on Tuesday 17th June between 8.15 until 9.20. Following a discussion at the Senior Management meeting, we have decided to adopt the same procedure as we did for the Olympic Torch in 2012. We think that many pupils will want to see the baton, so we will give them the chance to do so if they wish. The school will open at the usual time and pupils will go to registration as normal if they do not want to see the baton. Those attending the event should reach the school by 9.30 and go to their period 1 class. We will remind pupils of the arrangements nearer the time. I would also remind parents of how congested the roads became when the Olympic Flame came through Musselburgh and the east of Edinburgh and it might be better to have children walk to school that day rather than drop them off.
Just as importantly, three of our pupils will be baton-bearers: Sean McCann, Alex Muir and Rachel Cameron. It is a great honour for them and I am delighted for them and their families.
Electoral Registration
The referendum on Scottish Independence draws nearer and we are keen that our pupils who are eligible to vote – i.e. over the age of 16 on the day of the referendum – have registered. We were approached by the Youth Parliament to make it easier for our pupils to register and we did this one day in March.
Tell Them from Me
This is a project run by Edinburgh University where school leavers can log on to a website and talk about their experience of school. The project last ran in 1979 and was very influential on policy makers at Scottish Government and other agencies. We arranged for S6 pupils to complete it at their PSE period last week or do it in their own study time. It can be completed by all leavers in the school from S4 and S5 too – Mrs Scott the Librarian has the details and pupils can log on to the website and complete the online questionnaire there – it takes about 10 minutes. The on-line survey is being designed, hosted and analysed by the research team at the University of Edinburgh. Young people taking part in the survey will not be asked to give their names. Responses will be anonymous, and will be electronically submitted directly to the survey database at the University. The school will get anonymised feedback from the project team summarising what our own pupils have said.
Extra in-service day in August 2014
Scottish Government announced some time ago that there would be an extra in-service day for secondary staff only in session 2014-15 to help teachers with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence – the new Higher is introduced this year.
Following consultation with schools and stakeholders, East Lothian Council has announced that this day will be added to the 2 August in-service days, so that staff are in Monday Tuesday and now Wednesday 18-20th August, with pupils returning to school on Thursday 21st August.
If you have a child at an East Lothian primary school, he or she will still start school on Wednesday 20th August.
Dates for your diary

Monday 5th May – May Day holiday
Tuesday 6th May – In-service Day for staff
Wednesday 7th May – Pupils return
Friday 16th May – S1 reports issued
Monday 19th May – Victoria Day holiday
Tuesday 20th May – Pupils and staff resume
Friday 30th May – S3 reports issued
Monday 2nd June – start of new timetable for S2-S6.
Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th June – P7 visits
Thursday 26th June – Summer Concert
Wednesday 2nd July – Prizegiving
Friday 4th July – close for summer at 12.10

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

April 2014 newsletter one

Dear Parent

S4 reports and Easter Revision

I spent quite a long time over a weekend reading through the S4 reports. The vast majority of our pupils have clearly been working hard since August to try to reach the correct level of presentation with many pupils getting “excellents” across the board for effort, behaviour and homework in almost all their subjects. I have issued a number of letters in recognition of this with some advice on revision and examination preparation too. I will place the revision information on the school website.

Parents of pupils in S4 might also find the Parentzone website helpful:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/parentzone/learningathome/helpingprepareforexams/prepare.asp

There are a number of revision classes running during the school term and also over the Easter holiday and I would encourage pupils to sign up for these to support their own individual revision. S4 – S6 have this information already but we will try to add it to the school website.

SAFE event
My thanks to Mr O’Connor and various other external agencies, including Community Learning and Development, for running the SAFE event last week. Parents of P7 pupils due to arrive in August were shown how to access the new my MERIT account, PC Smith spoke about safety in the community, and various tips were given to parents on dealing with setting boundaries with children and dealing with internet safety.

Celebrating Success
27 pupils, from S1 through to S6, sat Trinity Music College Graded Music Examinations in February with great success, from Grade 1 through to Grade 7. I am delighted to see them do so well – many will be the next generation of performers in school concerts and in the East Lothian Showcase event each March. The certificates were awarded at House Assemblies.
S1 – Rebecca Addie (Grade 3), Leylah Campbell (G2), Blair Hay (G3), Gabriel Neill (G3), Finn Ritchie (G3), Rachel Stevenson (G4)
S2 – Joy Archer (G5), Eleanor Ellis (G1), Ross Hunter (G2), Aimee Wilkinson (G4)
S3 – Simon Archer (G7), Chloe Briggs (G2) , Alisdair Colver (G4), Sophie Robertson (G3), Nicole Wilkinson (G4)
S4 – Seth Allen (G4), Cameron Dunlop (G4) Peter McNeill (G5), Greg Miller (G4)
S5 – Maria Addie (G7), Zoe Maxwell (G5), Emily Page (G5), Hazel Pike (G5), Nathan Russell (G5), Eilidh Walter (G5)
S6 – Katy Mackale (G5), Laura Stevenson (G6)
Simon Archer and Peter McNeill of the pupils above also auditioned for and were accepted into the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra – this is a real feather in their cap because of the high standard of entry, number of applicants and because we have never had anyone accepted before. They have also auditioned for the Junior Conservatoire at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow and we await news regarding this.
Karate
Daniel Simpson of S1 has been selected to be part of the JKA Karate Scotland team and will compete in the European Championships in Prague in May.
Badminton
The Mid and East Lothian Schools Badminton Championships took place during February and I’m delighted to report that Rachel Cameron S1 represented Musselburgh Grammar for the Under 14 girls singles (reaching the quarter-finals). Her brother Jason in S4 and Rachel Cameron represented Musselburgh Grammar in the Under 16 Mixed Doubles at the Scottish National Schools Championships in Perth on 8/9 March. Jason then went on to play in the under -16 singles at that tournament, reaching the third round. Rachel was in the top 4 for under-13 singles, semi-finals for mixed doubles and second for doubles. She is now part of the National Junior Squad.
Football success
Mr Scott’s senior football team have won the East division of the Edinburgh and Lothian’s league. They won it with a dramatic 3-2 victory last week. They will play the winners of the West division on Friday the 8th of May in a match to decide the overall Edinburgh and Lothian’s champions, a title that Musselburgh have not won for a significant time (maybe ever?). Mr Scott, who manages the team, says that their attitude, commitment and maturity have been outstanding for the whole year.

Mr Semple’s team, the U14s, won the Lothian League. They were unbeaten having played 8, won 7 and drawn 1(against Ross HS – a thrilling 4-4 draw).

Mr Forrest’s team, the under-13s, lost to preston Lodge in the opening game of the season but have been unbeaten since. They play Preston Lodge again on Tuesday this week and if they win, will have to play them again in a play off for the title. One of our Under-13 sevens teams has won through to the SSFA Cashback 7’s regional final. This will be played in Edinburgh on 7th May with the Scottish Finals provisionally held at Celtic Park in Glasgow.
S4 qualifications arrangements

SQA qualifications change this year and our current S4 will be presented for the new National 3, 4 and 5 qualifications. As National 3 and 4 courses have no external examination at the end of the course, there is no need for all pupils to be given examination leave in April and May. Mrs Mackie distributed material last week to pupils who are sitting examinations and Mr Fruish spoke to the others last weekend. All pupils should now be clear about the arrangements.

Fundraising
Pupils, staff and parents are very generous in this school thinking of others. Here is the work we have done in this area this year so far: Total donated: £3941.36
Make a wish £350
Vine Trust £150
Rag Bag £23 + £27.20 – £50.20
McMillan £435.27
Wear It Pink £224.14
Poppies £738.34
Poppy Wristbands £312.00
CHAS £94.94
British Heart £1017.16
Action Aid £180.00
Syria Oxfam £45.00
Mirco Tyco £274.31
Oxfam £ 70.00

Dates for your diary

Friday 4th April at 12.10 – finish for Easter holiday
Tuesday 23rd April at 8.45 – Staff and pupils return
Monday 5th May – May Day holiday
Tuesday 6th May – In-service Day for staff
Wednesday 7th May – Pupils return
Friday 16th May – S1 reports issued
Monday 19th May – Victoria Day holiday
Tuesday 20th May – Pupils and staff resume
Friday 30th May – S3 reports issued
Monday 2nd June – start of new timetable for S2-S6.

As you can see from the dates above, we close on Friday for the Easter holiday and I hope everyone enjoys their break – although S4-S6 pupils need to find the right balance between recharging their batteries and making time to revise for the forthcoming SQA examinations which begin on Tuesday 29th April. There is very little time left for pupils before the examinations start so pupils should already have drawn up a revision plan and be working through the Easter holiday period.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

March 2014 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

Inspection
The inspection took place as planned week beginning 24th February. There were 8 people on the team including a Lay Inspector and a Food and Nutrition Inspector, so it was a very intense week, where they observed a large number of lessons, though they usually only stayed for half the period and moved on to another class. The Senior Management team were given verbal feedback on Friday 28th February for over 2 hours and we have very extensive notes. Unfortunately, we are not able to share all of this information with the staff and with parents at this point, which is frustrating for all concerned.

I am able to share the strengths of the school which they identified as high quality support to pupils; friendly and mannerly young people; steps taken to broaden and stretch the curriculum; and staff willingness to lead on improving aspects of the school. The action points will be around improving approaches to joint self-evaluation with parents, pupils and stakeholders; improving attainment; and continuing to improve the curriculum.
The Managing Inspector now writes a draft report (which is shared with the Head Teacher, the authority and the co-chairs of the Parent Council) on which we can comment. That draft report should reach us this week. Once our comments are received and considered, the final report is drafted and should be published online around about the end of April. (I am aware that our S4-6 pupils might be on exam leave at this point so I will issue them with a note to let you know when it is finally published.)
Members of the inspection team had a large number of meetings with the senior management team, with groups of staff and with groups of pupils. They also met a number of parents. The Managing Inspector had clearly read the parental and pupil questionnaire returns in great detail and was able to give me good feedback on this aspect of the school.
I am very aware as head teacher just how seriously staff regarded the inspection. Many people were in the school well after the end of the school day on many occasions and we had 25 staff in the school on the Saturday morning before the inspection – my thanks to them for their continuing hard work in preparing for the inspection and indeed for their hard work in implementing Curriculum for Excellence.
I was very proud of the pupils during the week of the inspection as they were a credit to us all, speaking well about their learning and what they do in school and outside and generally giving the inspectors very positive messages. You will be able to see what they said once the final report is published.
Over 100 parents posted off the questionnaire, so thanks to all who responded. I will be better able to elaborate on this once the final report is out, but I appreciate people taking the time to do this.
Beyond the inspection….
The school, of course, does not stop simply because we have visitors. This is an exceptionally busy term in any year, and of course we are in the first year of the new SQA qualifications. In this week alone we have SQA Music performances on Monday and Tuesday, S5/6 photographs on Tuesday, course choice forms due for return, HPV vaccinations for S2 girls on Thursday and the S4 reports will be out at the end of this week. The S5/6 reports will be issued on Wednesday 26th March.
Mr MacKinnon is currently finding out from staff about revision courses which we will run over Easter for S4-6. Details on this will follow soon. In the meantime, I would remind parents that a number of our staff run revision classes after school already and that it would be well worth a pupil’s time to attend if they are struggling with a subject.

Dates to note:
Tuesday 11th March – S4/5 course choice forms returned
Friday 14th March – S4 reports issued
Friday 21st March – Performance Show
Tuesday 25th March – P7 SAFE event
Friday 4th April – Easter Service and close for holiday at 12.10pm.
Tuesday 22nd April – School restarts for pupils and staff

Summary of 2012-2013 School Improvement Plan
It has been pointed out to me that parents should receive a summary of the previous year’s improvement plan. Although I generally have commented on the school’s work through the various newsletters and by posting my Prizegiving speech on the website, it is only right that this should be pulled together formally – my apologies for not doing so earlier. It is enclosed with this newsletter (with pupil post only)

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

February 2014 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

Parental questionnaires for Inspection

Many thanks to the parents who were selected (by the criteria given to us by the Inspectorate) for parental questionnaires and who were asked to send in the responses by Friday 7th February. Your totalled responses are shared with the school during the inspection week and your views are obviously important to us and to the inspecting team and form part of their judgement about the school.

Pupil Profiling

As part of the Curriculum for Excellence, every pupil in Scotland should complete the Broad General Education in S3 with a profile of their best achievements. These achievements can be academic and non-academic and should celebrate what a young person has accomplished throughout their broad general education. It also allows pupils to reflect on their achievements and also on their learning. This will develop the essential skills necessary for pupils to succeed as reflective learners.

Profiling is largely aimed at pupils and their parents and it allows a young person not only to reflect on their learning but to share their learning and achievements with others, too. It is supported in school, but should also be worked on at home.

At Musselburgh Grammar School we have introduced a new system for profiling this session called MerIT (https://www.mymerit.net/). Each pupil from S1-3 has their own personal login and password and they are able to access their profile from school and home. They are able to write about their achievements in and out of school, record their progress in learning, save pieces of work they are particularly proud of and carry on adding to this year on year.

We work on MerIT in PSE lessons with Guidance staff supporting and reviewing the profiles of the young people. Staff in other subject areas are able to encourage pupils to save good pieces of work to the pupil’s server file which can then be copied onto their profile. Where possible we would ask you to talk to your children about pupil profiling and ask them to share what they are writing with you. Another perspective can only help with increased self-esteem, motivation and through this, reflective learning.

Wider Achievement Day Friday 7th February

We completed the week before the half-term holiday with something quite different – A Dress Up Day where pupils and staff could show their interests outside school. As part of this, we held assemblies for S1, S2 and S3 where 4 former pupils spoke to the pupils about where their interests at school had taken them in their lives. Danielle Locke spoke about how her love of dance had led to her going off to London to train and now trains younger people as part of the Morag Alexander Dance School. Scott Robertson spoke about how he had been asked to be depute coach of a school football team when in S4 and how this has led him to be involved with football coaching all his life with school teams, Musselburgh Windsor and having the chance to be at the Scottish Parliament, Hampden Park, meet the Queen and be honoured by East Lothian Council. Jill Smillie left school at 16 to become a hairdresser and studied very intensively at college, working in Edinburgh and now running her own salon in Musselburgh. Calum Beattie followed his interest in music to become a singer-songwriter, performing locally initially in Musselburgh and Edinburgh, but now also playing in London and backing various artists. A Very Important Member of the Senior Management Team also had his arm twisted up his back by Mr MacKinnon to go on stage and play bass guitar – just to show that teachers have hidden talents too. One of the assemblies was taped and will be shown on MGS TV in due course. Rebecca Addie of S1 won vouchers from the school for getting the quiz all correct – it asked pupils to guess the interests and talents of members of staff.

During period 3, we suspended the timetable for all pupils in the school to give them a chance to reflect on the skills they are learning and are proud of and to share these with their classmates. The MerIT system described in the first section of the newsletter will help us capture this very well now and in the future.

Part of the Dress Up Day was also to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation – we raised £546.

S2 Parents’ Consultation Meeting Thursday 27th February 2014 5-7pm

This meeting arranges for parents of S2 pupils to meet their teachers for this year and is part of the process of receiving an update on their progress at school as part of the Broad General Education and as part of the process of personalisation and choice. Materials for this are issued on Wednesday 19th February.

Swimming Gala

Our annual swimming gala took place on 16th January with Grange House wining both the S1 Girls and the S1 Boys competitions. Caird House won the S2 Girls Competition and Grange rounded their excellent day off by winning the S2 Boys Competition as well. Awards for the gala will take place at the Annual Prizegiving in June.

Cross-Country Event Thursday 6th February

We held our junior cross-country competition just before the holiday is fairly reasonable weather over a 1, 2 and 3 kilometre course. Moray House won for S1 Girls and Caird for S1 Boys; Grange won for S2 Girls and Moray and Caird tied for S2 Boys; and Moray won both S3 Boys and Girls. Awards for the gala will take place at the Annual Prizegiving in June too.

Senior Ceilidh Thursday 6th February

This was well attended by pupils who had spent time learning the various dances with the PE department earlier on in the week. Right from the off all 120 S6 got involved with great gusto accompanied by a good selection of enthusiastic staff. Eightsome reels and Dashing White Sergeants were no problem to this group! Thanks go to Mr MacDonald for calling the dances, Ms Watson for organising the event and Mr Goodall for providing the music. A late food crisis was averted by supplying the hardy souls with 30 pizzas at the interval. Photographs can be seen at http://www.edubuzz.org/mgsonline.

Pop-Up Gig Thursday 6th February

Thursday was a busy day, because pupils could pop into the assembly hall at lunchtime to be entertained by their fellow pupils, many performing solo. Well done to all involved.

P6 Euroquiz

This is the first transition event we hold with our cluster primary schools and is organised by Mr MacKinnon assisted by Mrs Bonnar with a number of our S3 pupils acting as supervisors and leaders for each table of 4 pupils. It is not a competition between the schools as we mix pupils up, but a chance to meet your future classmates. Our thanks as ever to our primary colleagues for giving us time with the pupils and bringing them up to the school.

S2 and S4/5 Information Evenings

We hold these to brief parents on the procedure for making choices for the coming year and once again both meetings were very well attended with few spaces left in the hall. Ged Lepiniere of LEAPS also spoke to S4/5 parents about how pupils in East Lothian can access places at university and we made the point about the importance of planning over a two year period for S5/6.

Holocaust Memorial Day Monday 27th January

As part of global citizenship, we think it is important that pupils are aware of events in the past like the First and Second World Wars, which is why we have our Remembrance Event in November and take part in Holocaust Memorial Day. There is a display in the foyer which S2 parents might like to look at when they are in the school.

We were very fortunate to have Judy Russell come in to talk about her father Ernest Levy OBE, a holocaust survivor, at the exhibition in our Library. Mr Levy had been a visitor to the school in the past but passed away in 2009 – there is a very touching obituary in the Scotsman about him. One of the pupil pieces on the display quotes the historian George Santayana – “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. There are too many cases of genocide in the world today – such as Syria – for us to forget what happened in the 1940s and each generation must find things out anew.

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

January 2014 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

Show/ Christmas Market and Christmas Concert

My thanks to all staff and pupils involved in the above events just before the holiday. A good time was had by all and sent us off on our holidays in a good mood!

Movement of cars around schools

I have received a reminder from the authority in relation to safe movement of cars at the start and finish of the school day for all schools.

I have recently noticed that a number of parents are driving into the school car park to drop off pupils at the start of the day – please do not do this. Only taxis which have to drop off pupils in the disabled spaces should enter the car park. Pupils should be dropped off in the turning circle or in the street. This also applies if the pupil is arriving late for school. I also have reminded pupils getting off the school bus from Whitecraig that they should not be walking through the car park but should enter through the pedestrian gate. All of this is designed to reduce the potential risk of injury to pupils and damage to vehicles. All of the above apply at the end of the day when pupils are going home too.

Better communication with parents

As communication with parents is important and today’s world provides many different ways for people to communicate with each other, the Parent Council and the school are looking at expanding the different ways to contact parents.  As well as newsletters, there is the school website http://www.edubuzz.org/mgsonline/ which is frequently updated with Pupil News and items of interest to parents.  Text messaging is also used to advise parents of important events or situations such as parents’ evenings.

The Parent Council has established a communications subgroup to discuss improving the ways that the school and the Parent Council communicates with the wider parent body.  The key areas the subgroup is looking at are:

  • Improving the website
  • Wider use of text messages
  • Use of Facebook and Twitter

Parents can subscribe to an information feed so that updates to the school website are notified directly to your email inbox.  To do this, visit the school website and in the box on the right hand side – Subscribe by email – enter your email address.  You will then receive a confirmation email which will allow you to complete the subscription.

The Parent Council also now has a Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/pages/MGS-Parents-Page/727550713921992

 If you Like this page on Facebook and ensure you set the “Get notifications” option, you will receive MGS Parents Page updates on your Newsfeed.  A Twitter feed is likely to follow, but the Parent Council are always keen to hear from parents with ideas on developing the interaction between parents and the school, so feel free to come along to a meeting to air your ideas, email the Parent Council or contribute to the news items posted on the Facebook page.  The next Parent Council meeting is at the school on Wednesday 5th March.

Any parents interested in joining our communications group are welcome to do so and should contact parentcouncil@musselburghgrammar.elcschool.org.uk

S4-6 Preliminary examinations

We rearranged the timing of the S4 preliminary examinations from November to occur at the same time as the examinations for S5-6. They started on Monday 13th January and the invigilators have been very pleased and impressed by the behaviour and demeanour of the pupils before and during the examinations. S4 pupils being presented for subjects at National 3 and National 4 level do not have examinations (apart from N4 Mathematics), as these courses are coursework based, and work has continued in all classes for them – there was no examination leave.

The next step for all S4 pupils once the preliminary examinations are over is to ensure that the coursework for all units and added value units is completed by the deadlines set by the department. I repeat a core message that I gave to all S4 pupils last June – pupils must keep on top of deadlines and homework set by staff and not allow themselves to fall behind.

Parents may find it useful to refer to a new document which we have placed on the website called Nationals in a Nutshell: Assessment which is a good summary for the arrangements for the new qualifications. You can also find it on the National Parent Forum of Scotland site.

Personalisation and Choice Information Evening

I have written a separate letter inviting parents of pupils in S2 and in S4 and S5 to our course choice information evening on Wednesday 29th January. This allows me to explain the process by which pupils make choices for their courses in the new timetable starting in June and how we support pupils in this. Even if you have had an older child at the school, it is worthwhile coming along to hear about the new National Qualifications. I hope to see many of you there. I am also about to arrange for representatives of Napier University to talk to S2 pupils during the school day at some point soon as a way of getting pupils to think ahead about their careers.

Pupil Council

You may recall an exercise that the Pupil Council carried out last year as part of a healthy eating initiative – they collected pupil receipts from Tesco to see the type of food that pupils buy at lunchtime. They are about to carry out a similar exercise insofar as they intend to visit all the food outlets in Musselburgh to see what is on offer to pupils and what they are buying.

We also received notification from the local council that there is a proposal to move the bollards at the west end of Inveresk Road further east. Mr MacKinnon felt that this had implications for the pedestrian safety of our pupils exiting from the back gate and decided to speak to the Pupil Council about it. They have been very pro-active in this and arranged to have a site meeting with representatives from Transport and local councillors to express their views. I understand that discussions are still continuing inside the council on this and I will update you in due course.

S3 Parents’ Meeting

We have just had our first Parents’ Meeting of the new term, with parents of our S3 pupils coming in on Wednesday 15th January. 81% of parents attended – that is our highest ever figure – and we are very grateful to parents for supporting us and taking an interest in the work of the school.

Recognising Wider Achievement

Last year, we held a day to celebrate the different interests and skills staff and pupils had following our janitor’s sponsored cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats. We intend to repeat this event on Friday 7th February. Pupils and staff can come in to school dressed to represent their interests. My thanks to Mrs Jardine for leading on this. There will be assemblies on the day for S1-3 and then we will use period 3 for register teachers to talk to pupils about the importance of wider achievement – school is not just a place to gather examination qualifications – it is far richer than that.

Events in school this term until the end of February

Monday 27th January – Holocaust Memorial Day

Wednesday 29th January – Information Evening on Course Choice (7pm for S2; 8pm for S4/5)

Friday 31st January – end of S4-6 preliminary examinations

Monday 3rd February – P6 Euroquiz

Monday 10th – Friday 14th February – Holiday week

Monday 17th   February – staff return

Tuesday 18th February– pupils return

Wednesday 19th February– S2 Personalisation and Choice course package issued

Monday 24th February – S4/5 Choice course package issued

Thursday 27th February – S2 Parents Consultation Meeting 5-7pm

Wednesday 5th March – S2 Course Choice forms returned

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

December 2013 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

Adverse Weather

We asked all parents to provide us with emergency contact information earlier in the year. Please update this information if you change address or telephone numbers over the year. We may decide to use the Group Call facility if we have to close the school unexpectedly due to adverse weather or some other emergency. It would be helpful if all pupils knew the arrangements in such circumstances – whether to go home or to relatives or to a friend’s house.

The authority continues to advise the school on weather conditions and parents should listen to local radio and access the authority and school websites for information if bad weather is expected.

Staffing

We are delighted that Mr Huish is joining us from Dunbar Grammar as our new Active Sports Co-ordinator in January. Ms McBeath has now joined the Support for Learning Department as a permanent appointment. Ms Williams joins the Office and Information Technology Department on Monday 16th December, replacing Mrs Marshall, also as a permanent appointment. Many thanks to Mrs Burke for help in the department since Mrs Marshall left.

Recent events in school

Chemistry

On Thursday 21st November, our S2 pupils took part in The Royal Society of Chemistry week. We were one of five schools in Scotland that took part in the ‘Global Experiment’ looking at the Vitamin C content in Fruit and Vegetables. The event was hosted by Dr Margaret Ritchie from the RSC. All our pupils took part in the global experiment in the assembly hall and their results uploaded onto the RSC website. This was a fun and informative session with which our pupils fully engaged.

Live n’ Learn

Staff from the Live ‘n’ Learn organisation were recently in school providing workshops for identified groups of fourth and fifth year pupils. They set out to inspire pupils to take responsibility for their learning, develop resiliance and leave workshops with a crystal clear message that success comes through effort, hard work and self-belief. They will return in March with follow up workshops using evidence from Prelim results.

Cre8

This year’s Cre8 show was a glowing success with 16 Dance Acts, ranging from first to sixth year pupils.  The show was fun and full of remarkable pupils encompassing the styles of Ballet, Hip-hop, Breakdance  and Contemporary Dance. Parents were invited this year and brought lots of the family to admire the show. They had many kind words for our pupils and think fully appreciated the effort that had gone into the show.

It was the first year that boys have made it onto the stage and we were all very proud as they produced a Breakdance piece and had the biggest cheers from the audience.

Our performers are supported by a huge backstage team of lighting engineers, sound engineers, smoke machine operators, background graphics projector, box office sellers  and stage managers. Everyone carried out their real life job professionally and pupils were a credit to the school. Mrs McSherry has sent a report to Creative Scotland  as this whole project , Cre8, encompasses their “Get Scotland Dancing” initiative and they are very pleased to hear all about it!

Celebrating Success

Rachel Cameron of S1 recently won the Lothian Schools Badminton Championships (where she represented Musselburgh Grammar) for the under 14 age group.  Not only did she win the singles and the doubles but was runner-up in the mixed doubles too. She then went on to win the Scottish Schools Under 13 Singles tournament. Rachel is currently ranked 6th in Scotland for her age group and is also in the Performance Athletes in Schools programme run by East Lothian Council. She was runner-up in the West of Scotland Championship singles and first in the doubles. She also played with her brother Jason (S4) in the under-16 Lothian Championships – a big ask for a 12 year old. 

Learners’ Experiences

The Senior Management Team and Principal Teachers Curriculum all spent time in the week beginning 25th November observing classes across the school – gauging how pupils were responding to the work that was set for them, how they worked individually and in groups and seeing if work was at the right level of difficulty. We also set up focus groups where staff and senior pupils spoke to small groups of pupils about their learning both in and out of class.  Pupils in classes S1-S3 were also required to complete questionnaires as part of the evaluation.

One interesting thing to emerge from our discussion with pupils over the last year has been pupil acknowledgement that S4 is a challenging year if you have not worked hard enough in S3 – especially in relation to Modern Languages, Science and Mathematics where these subjects are quite knowledge-based. I would encourage all parents to have a discussion with their child about their progress in S3 this year and if they are achieving at a high level in order to be ready for National Qualifications in S4.

End of term events

Thursday 12th December  – School Concert 7.30 pm

Wednesday 18th December – S6 Show – period 6 and 7pm

Friday 20th December – School Service

Friday 20th December  – School closes to pupils and staff at 12.10

Monday 6th January – School re-opens for staff and pupils at 8.45.

I wish everyone connected with the school an enjoyable Christmas holiday.

Yours sincerely,

 Ronnie Summers

Parents of pupils currently in S5 and S6

21st November 2013

Dear Parent

I am sure that you are aware of the changes in Scottish education under the heading of Curriculum for Excellence although your child has not been involved up to this point.

However, there are several matters that I wish to draw to your attention, bearing in mind that pupils currently in S5 sat the last diet of S4 Standard Grade examinations in May 2013 and have moved on to sit Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Higher examinations this year.

Firstly, to remind you that pupils in S5 and S6 still have to pass all units of work in their course as well as the external examination in May to be given a course award. The assessment for a unit is called a NAB (National Assessment Bank) test and these are set by the Scottish Qualification authority. A pupil is given one chance to pass this and one chance to re-sit it, not multiple chances. (Passing the NABS but failing the final examination is given credit by showing the unit passes on the final SQA certificate.)

Secondly, for S5 we anticipate that this is the last year that the school will present pupils for the old type of qualifications. A letter has now been sent to Directors of Education by Bill Maxwell Head of the CFE Implementation Board and Chief Executive of Education Scotland confirming this.

Accordingly, the plan is that in session 2014/15, all S5 and S6 pupils will be sitting the new qualifications for National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. It is important that a pupil passes their current S5 course because any unit passes cannot be carried over into the new courses. To illustrate, if a pupil is sitting Higher English this year and fails the course, they will of course be able to re-take Higher English in S6 but it will be the new Higher English. Furthermore, as in the past, I cannot guarantee that subjects having low numbers of students will automatically run in S6, so it is important that all S5 pupils aim to pass every course first time round this year.

Thirdly, we will be giving S5 and S6 pupils examination leave for their preliminary examinations this year in January as usual. The S4 preliminary examinations are being moved to January. S4 pupils, because they are on the new courses, are not being given examination leave at preliminary examination time. Mrs Mackie will explain this to pupils at a meeting soon.

I wrote to parents in the Mailshot in September reminding you that we expect pupils to achieve at least 35% to be given permission to proceed to presentation in a subject. 35% is not a pass: 50% is a pass and all pupils should be aiming to get a pass in the preliminary examination. Pupils sitting with 35% from the preliminary examination are UNLIKELY to pass – we will only give them the opportunity of sitting if they are prepared to give us assurances of attendance at revision classes, good attendance and more focus and effort in classwork and homework. Pupils sitting with 45% from the preliminary examination have a CHANCE of passing if they work hard and do the things the teacher asks.

The tracking and monitoring system is indicating to us that many pupils are not getting 1 for effort, behaviour, and homework and have a lot to do to reach their targets.

In any case, I would encourage you to make appointments with staff at the S5/6 Consultation Meeting on Thursday 28th November from 5-7 p.m to get further information about your child’s progress.

Fourthly, the current system of SQA appeals is changing. Preliminary examinations were always intended to give pupils examination practice in a subject, not to be a “second chance” to pass. Schools have been losing too much teaching and learning time by having to run second preliminary examinations to provide appeals evidence for later parts of the course. Performance on the day of the examination in May is important.

The new “appeals”system is two-fold -  exceptional circumstances and a post-results service. Exceptional Circumstances is for candidates who miss the national examination through illness in April and May – and the rules for appealing are very stringent. Schools will submit material from the candidate over the course of the year. The post-results service applies after the results are announced in August and will involve a clerical check and/ or a marking review for results which are significantly inconsistent from the school’s expectations.

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

November 2013 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

World War One Remembrance

As we have done in the last few years, we held our Remembrance Reflections event on Monday 11th November. The school held a minute’s silence at 11.11 a.m. to remember those who fell in battle in this war and in others. This was preceded by an assembly during period 1 led by Mrs Bonnar and Mr Duncan when we explained what Remembrance Day was all about, with readings from Ruby Sparkes and Mr Macdonald, reflections from pupil visits to Auschwitz and the Battlefields Visit,  a rendition of the Last Post by Simon Archer and incidental music from bagpiper Michael Morrison. We laid a wreath at the school memorial plaque in the foyer and left messages for the fallen. It was a very moving ceremony with the pupils impeccably behaved and entirely respectful of the occasion.

East Lothian Foodbank

I invited a representative Liz Kilpatrick from this charity to speak to our Parent Council last Monday as we are aware that times are hard for families in many communities. We also had representatives from the primary school Parent Council at the meeting. Musselburgh Grammar is keen to support East Lothian Foodbank. We will be happy to accept donations to the reception office on their behalf which they will collect. We will also look to involve our senior pupils more directly. I enclose a handout from them at the end of this letter with more details.

S1 Cognitive Ability Tests and S2 MidYIS tests

These tests are used by the school as a way of checking on the progress of our pupils through school and to ensure we offer appropriate support to pupils. The S1 tests were completed in late September and the results have now been returned to us. S2 will sit the MidYIS test in IT classes week beginning 11th November.

S4 Curriculum for Excellence

Every secondary school in Scotland is undergoing SQA verification for the new National Qualifications in several subjects at three points in the school year. We have thus been asked to gather up samples of work in Chemistry, Music and Lifeskills Mathematics and submit these to SQA for the first round. These are then scrutinised by teachers who have been selected as verifiers by SQA. This is not a new process; simply that it has been expanded in the first year of the new courses.

The preliminary examinations for pupils sitting National 5 courses and National 4 Mathematics will take place in mid- January 2014 as indicated in the calendar in the Mailshot. It is important to note that no S4 pupil will be given examination leave for the preliminary examinations – they will simply be out of class at the time on their examination timetable. I explained to pupils in June that this would happen as we expected pupils to be revising constantly through the term and as we wished to maximise teaching and learning time. This approach is being adopted by all the secondary schools in East Lothian following discussion with the authority. Mrs Mackie has already started planning the schedule of examinations with departments and will issue pupil timetables in due course.

Parents’ Meetings

Many thanks to the parents of pupils in S1 and S4.  Attendance rates for both exceeded 82% – these are our highest figures in the last 10 years and a tribute to parental interest in the education of their children.  I remind parents that even if you cannot manage to a parental meeting because of other commitments, you can approach your child’s Guidance teacher for information in any subject that is causing you concern.

Children’s University

Queen Margaret University has been appointed as the Scottish university in the East of Scotland to take forward the Children’s University programme. I am delighted to say that I have already had a meeting with Mary Brittain their Chief Executive in Scotland and I am very keen for the school to be involved. As the scheme is open to children aged 7-14, I invited Mary to speak at the meeting I have each month with the primary head teachers in this area and they too are interested. The programme gives each child a Passport to Success where they can record out of hours learning and accumulate points towards different levels of award. I will expand on this at a later point in the term.

Wider Achievement Day

We intend to use Friday 7th February as Wider Achievement Day – you might remember we started this last year after our janitor Keith Gale cycled all the way from Lands’ End to John O’Groats. Our current pupils and staff have lots and lots of interests and hobbies where they develop their skills and knowledge and we want to share this. However, we are also interested in finding out from former pupils who had interests and hobbies in and out of school that led them into a job which was not directly linked to their school qualifications. For example, someone who was interested in photography while at school and this led them into that career or setting up their own business. Another example would be Ross Muir who played snooker competitively from a very young age and is now a professional snooker player. Mrs Jardine will co-ordinate this and you can email her on ejardine@musselburghgrammar.elcschool.org.uk

Learners’ Experiences

Last June we did an exercise with pupils in S1-S3 during a Wednesday Periods 3 and 4 asking them about their experience in those classes over the year. By and large, pupils were very positive about their learning but we did notice some differences between yeargroups in what they said. We passed these on to staff and teachers made some changes in their teaching as a result. We plan to expand the exercise in the week beginning 22nd November with Principal Teachers and Senior Management visiting classes, repeating the questionnaire, and gathering a number of pupils into focus groups to ask them further questions to tease things out a little more. I also intend to talk to a group of parents about their perception of their child’s schooling – what differences they see from primary school or earlier in secondary, what their children say about school.

Scholar programme for Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher students

This is organised by Heriot Watt University and is a free and very extensive online resource in a range of subjects for pupils. Pupils in past years have used it and found it helpful. It is accessed by a pupil password which Principal Teachers have, so pupils should see the Principal Teacher in the following subjects: (I2=Intermediate 2, H=Higher, AH= Advanced Higher):

Biology H, AH                     Business M/ Ment H, AH              Chemistry H, AH               Computing H, AH               French H, AH                               German H, AH                                      Human Biology H                         Physics H, AH                     Mathematics I1, I2. H. AH

And finally…..Events in School

Here’s a very quick whizz through various events in the school since my last newsletter! Senior pupils organised a Tea Dance for senior citizens one afternoon and we received some lovely appreciative letters back; the PE department have had the House Games, won by Caird House; we participated in Wear it Pink Day for breast cancer and raised £224; various pupils took part in the Transit Gig one lunchtime; the S6 organised our annual Fright Night for junior pupils on Hallowe’en; we had our P7 parents’ Visit on Thursday 10th October which was very well attended; our S4 pupils were off on their Work Experience week in October as well; and our Amnesty Group had a stall at the East Lothian Literacy Festival in Dunbar also in October.

Fundraising

Having mentioned one of the recent fundraising activities above, I should perhaps also mention that we fund-raise fairly extensively over the course of the year.

Please note the information about East Lothian Foodbank below

Christmas is coming …….. and East Lothian Foodbank is gearing up for a busy one. People from all walks of life can reach a crisis point when they need emergency food for themselves and their families.  We are a local, independent charity which tries to help anyone who needs a “stop gap” of nourishing food, no matter what their problems.

We are so grateful for the tremendous support we have had from individuals and local groups, including schools.

We have a standard “shopping list” of key foodstuffs so that each food parcel will provide a balanced diet for at least three days.  At the moment, we are running low on:-

v  Cartons of long-life milk

v  Cartons of long-life juices

…..both of which are always included in our food parcels.

If you can help by buying an extra carton with your weekly shop, it would make a big difference to our stock levels.

You can drop any milk or juice cartons off at the collection box in the School’s Reception, or at Musselburgh Library.  Alternatively, donations can be made to the Foodbank at 33 Civic Square, Tranent (the old Library), on Tues, Wed or Thurs mornings between 9.30am and noon.

To find out more about East Lothian Foodbank, including how easy it is to be referred if you know someone in need, please visit our website at www.eastlothian.foodbank.org.uk, or contact the Citizens Advice Bureau at 141 High St, Musselburgh tel: 0131 653 2748.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher