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

 

Parental Newsletter October 2013

Dear Parent

Staffing

Unusually for this time of year, we have a number of staffing changes. Mrs Steel in Support for Learning retires at the end of this week and is replaced by Ms MacBeath, a teacher of many years’ experience. Mrs Steel has been a huge support to pupils and staff alike since she came here after many years’ service in East Lothian schools and I wish her a long and prosperous retirement. Mrs Marshall in Business Education is moving to another school much closer to her home – many thanks for her work here and I’m sure she will settle into her new surroundings quickly. Ms Addison is soon to arrive to cover Mrs Ellis’ maternity absence in Biology, as Ms McKendrick, who was covering that absence is moving to a permanent post in another school. Ms Mitchell and Mr Calder join us in Geography as cover for Mrs Dias and Mrs Orsi who are on maternity leave. Ms Taylor, who was covering one of these posts, has also left us for a permanent post in another school. Mrs Jardine has returned to the school as a Grange Guidance teacher after maternity leave and Mrs Taylor returns to her duties as a teacher in Home Economics. Many thanks to Mrs Taylor for her support to Grange pupils in her acting PT Guidance role for most of the last year.

School session dates 2014/2015

The authority has now completed its consultation on the session dates for next year 2014/2015 and I enclose the dates for your reference. Parents of pupils in S4-6 should be aware that there is no examination resit process for SQA examinations and thus pupils should not be out of school during the examination diet.

Celebrating Success

My congratulations to Rachel Sharples of S6 who recently competed at the Sainsbury School Games in Sheffield and returned with a bronze medal, competing against people from all across Britain. Also worthy of mention is Niamh Rayfield of S2 who is now attending the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow one afternoon a week as part of their Scotland’s Transitions project– a great achievement to be selected for this and I’m sure it will be immensely enjoyable and stimulating.

Work Experience

Our S4 pupils are completing the second batch of placements this week. As ever, we have received some very appreciative emails, letters and telephone messages about how well our pupils have acted as ambassadors for the schools. I’m delighted to see them all do so well and return with an increased awareness of the importance of courtesy, timekeeping and personal skills in the workplace.

Reading Race S1-3

Some parents may have noted recent articles in the press about how young people are reading far less than before and are actually embarrassed about being seen reading. Not in this school they’re not! Every English class starts with pupils opening their own personal reader and the department has just recently introduced The Reading Race for S1-3, whereby pupils are encouraged to read a variety and range of texts, not just the types of book (fiction and non-fiction) that they like. This builds on the 5 minute reading period we have had for some time at the start of each period which was to encourage personal reading and enjoyment in reading. Literacy is hugely important to success in life and our pupil’s literacy must deepen and widen in their time here.

Visits and trips out of school

Even at this early point of the session, there have been a lot of curriculum visits and trips out of school.

Duke of Edinburgh Silver Pupils have completed both their practice and qualifying expeditions; an Advanced Higher Biology group have been at Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh; the S5/6 Creative Industries group have been at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh while an S3 Art group visited the Peter Doig Expedition at the National Gallery of Edinburgh.

S6 pupils have had their Dalguise weekend; another group have been away at Alton Towers; and S5/6 PE group were down in Manchester on a Tactical Awareness course and attended the Manchester City versus Bayern Munich football match.

S4 Geography pupils need to do fieldwork as part of their course and one group has been away at Innerwick Centre on the east side of the county for two days as part of this – another group will do this work later on in the year.

2 pupils (Morgan Beattie and Craig Johnston) had a wonderful experience as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust by visiting Auschwitz.

Future Dates to note

Thursday 10th October – P7 Parents’ Information Evening 6.30 pm- 8.30pm

October holiday – Monday 14th October to Monday 21st October inclusive: pupils return Tuesday 22nd October

Tuesday 29th October – S1 Parents’ Consultation Meeting 5pm- 7pm.

Wednesday 6th November – S4 Parents’ Consultation Meeting 5pm-7pm.

Thursday 28th November – S5/6 Parents’ Consultation meeting 5pm- 7pm

Yours sincerely,

 

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

Parental Newsletter August 2013

Dear Parent

Welcome back after the holidays to everyone connected with the school. It was delightful to have solid sunshine for many weeks in July after the dreich weather of last summer. (I was unlucky two weeks ago to be at the Edinburgh Tattoo when it rained for 80 solid minutes, though.)

I intend to put out a fuller newsletter in the mailshot in early September, but there are a couple of general issues which I’d like to cover in this first newsletter.

Staffing

I indicated in my June newsletter that I would update parents on staffing changes in August as a result of retirements and contractual changes.

Mr MacDonald has taken over as PT Health and Wellbeing with responsibility for the PE and Home Economics Departments. There are three changes in the English Department: Mrs Neill returns after maternity leave; Ms Thomas is a new member of staff and Ms Johnstone will join that department in a week or so also, both as permanent appointments. Mrs Mair joins the Mathematics Department. Mr Wright joins the Physics Department. Mr Nicolson returns to the Modern Studies Department after his secondment with Education Scotland. Mr Court will join the Biology Department very soon as maternity cover for Mrs Robertson – Ms Archibald covering temporarily. Mr Tully joins the Support for Learning Department. Several staff join us on temporary contracts for their training year – Ms Benson and Mr McCarthy in PE, Ms Robinson in English, Ms Henderson in Modern Languages, Ms McGhee in Music and Mr Ritchie in History.

Ms Ramsay who was our Active Sports co-ordinator leaves at the end of the week to take up a post in Cheltenham as Head of Girls’ Sports – she has been a great asset to the school and involved many children in the sports programmes we run and I wish her well.

SQA Results

I will go into more details about the results for S4-S6 pupils in my September mailshot, but I wish to mention some excellent performances by a number of pupils – in S4, Nathan Russell and Jennifer Scott achieved a Grade 1 pass in all 9 subjects; in S5 19 pupils passed all 5 Highers they sat, with John Archer and Andrew Gibson passing all 5 at Grade A and at Band 1, Greig McLay and Beth Slight also had 5 Grade A passes, while Callum Hunter achieved 5 Grade Higher passes and picked up an Advanced Higher in Music too. Rachel Foley sat an extra Higher and had 6 Higher passes in total. From S6, Marei  Binnie, last year’s Head Girl, achieved 4 Advanced Higher passes with Rhona McLay, Rosemary McLister, Kerry Morris,  and Rebecca Tonner all achieving 3 AH passes. 3 S6 pupils passed 5 Highers in S6 – Lucie Hill, Verena Kimpel, and Rachel Stewart.

Timetables

All pupils have been given an individual timetable and we advise them to copy it into their planner. If it is lost, they can see their Guidance teacher for a replacement initially.

S4 timetables have an indication N3, N4 or N5. This is purely an administrative code at present to generate timetables. It does not indicate the course level (National 3, National 4 or National 5) a pupil will be presented for at the end of the year. As I explained in June, decisions on presentation are not taken until much later on in the session. I will hold a meeting on Monday 9th September for S4 parents – a letter will be issued Friday 30th August about this.

Parking

A reminder that we ask parents not to park at 3.50 in the turning circle outside the school if they are collecting a child  –  it obstructs the school bus and service bus from parking properly so that our pupils can get on safely. The whole area is double yellow lined for this reason.  We also ask parents not to come in to the school car park at the beginning and end of the school day as we have the potential for accidents with people coming both in and out – pupils are perfectly capable of walking out of the school to be collected nearby. I also have pupils who must be picked up by taxi each day and they must be able to come in and park.

If you have business in the school between 9.00 and 3.15 you are of course welcome to park in the visitor spaces provided in the bottom car park, as it is safe to do so during the school day. If you are in the car park for any reason, there is a one-way system which must be followed – whereby you enter by the middle gate and exit by the gates in the top playground. I would also encourage parents to have their child walk to school – we are in an urban area with broad well-lit pavements: it gives children exercise. Pupils can also cycle – there is an area outside the main reception where bikes can be securely chained.

Attendance and Timekeeping

If you know your child is going to be absent, please telephone the school absence line 0131 653 1390 to leave a message. If your child is absent and we do not receive a message, you will be contacted by Group Call, our device to reduce truancy and ensure pupil safety.  The main number 0131 665 4278 is for all other enquiries – the school switchboard is manned from 8.15.

Pupils who miss registration MUST sign in at the front door and give a reason for lateness: if it is not a good reason, a 10 minute detention is set at 1.05 in the Assembly Hall. (There have been occasions when pupils have not signed in and we have sent out a Group Call causing anxiety to parents who know their child has left for school – hence this protocol is very important.)

Morning break and lunchtime

All pupils have been issued with smartcards which they can load up with money to buy food in the dining hall at break and lunchtime. Pupils are not allowed to leave the school at morning break time. The Parent Council and the school are keen that pupils use the dining hall to eat a healthy lunch rather than go to fast food outlets down the street with older pupils. S1 pupils will be brought down to the Dining Hall early for the first month to encourage them to get to know the facilities and become familiar with the different menus. Pupils can order lunch using the Grab and Go system which speeds up the lunch queues. As a parent, you can load money onto the card remotely – see the council website for details. Senior staff are present in the Dining Hall to ensure good order and we note that almost all pupils are served 15 minutes into lunch.

MGS Parent Council AGM

The Parent Council is always pleased to welcome parents of new pupils onto the Parent Council. Our constitution is flexible enough to admit many members and we are not full. The AGM is on Wednesday 25th September at 6.30 p.m. Any proposed amendments to the constitution have to be submitted to Mrs Allen the Chair of the Parent Council two weeks before the AGM – so by Wednesday  11th September. They can reach her in a sealed envelope given to the school office which will be placed in the Parent Council folder for her to collect.

Transport

Bus passes are arranged by the authority not by the school. All pupils are expected to behave well on the buses, especially when they are sharing the service with the general public. The school has removed passes from pupils in the past as both a short-term and permanent sanction after bad behaviour. If a pupil going to Whitecraig misses the dedicated school bus, they should return to the school for arrangements to be made to get him or her home safely. No Whitecraig pupil should be walking home, since it involves crossing the road at several points.

All pupils must carry their pass each day and show it to the driver if asked – the company has the right to ask for payment if it is not carried. The pass is non-transferable. If it is lost, you must make arrangements for a replacement. We can issue paper passes for a short period, but we will not do so long-term and it is the responsibility of a parent to complete a new application form and pay for another pass.

Pupil planners

All pupils in the school are being given a planner to record homework. I would like to stress to parents that we would encourage you to monitor this planner – it is not a personal diary for pupils and you are quite entitled to see what homework is being set by staff and take an interest in when your child is doing their homework. We expect the planner to be carried in a bag along with other materials every day.

Assemblies

I held an assembly for every yeargroup on Thursday to welcome them back and remind them about the standards of work and behaviour we expect of them in the school. I was pleased to see almost everyone in uniform on their return. We also welcomed back very many senior pupils  – over 340. Many were absolutely delighted at having done so well in their SQA examinations – but also know how hard they will have to work to get the very best results they can in the current difficult economic climate. Our Head Boy and Head Girl interviews will be held next Thursday.

I wish every pupil success in the coming year and we look forward to establishing positive working relationships with parents of our new pupils in S1 and continuing positive relationships with those in S2-S6.

And finally…

Celebrating Success – congratulations to Ben Forsyth in S5, champion cyclist. He travelled down to Blackpool during the summer to compete against the 80 best riders in Britain in his age group, won the race, and is the British Youth Circuit Under-16 Champion.  Also nice to see Lewis White in S5 continue to be an international footballer, as he has been picked again for the Under-16 squad to play against Italy on 4th September.

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

2013 Prizegiving Speech

Ladies and gentlemen, Chief Executive, guests, pupils and staff of Musselburgh Grammar School, I’m delighted to have the chance to talk to you tonight about the last twelve months in the school and also about my experience as Head Teacher in that time. It does not feel like 365 days have passed since I stood on this stage last year for the same purpose – a school year passes faster and faster since I first came here in August 2003.

 As in other years, my address to you falls into four sections which do overlap at times – an overview of Scottish education, an indication of my involvement in Scottish education beyond headship of this school, an appreciation of retiring staff and an overview of events in the school this year, illustrating how education is far more than events in the classroom for 27 periods per week for 40 weeks of the year. We offer a rich and varied education and our pupils learn to value our values and seize the opportunities open to them.

 Allow me then to elaborate on that overview of Scottish education first of all. We are fortunate to see education appear regularly in both print and other media like radio and television. We are unfortunate that on too many occasions the story is written from a negative standpoint – probably because good news doesn’t make the headlines and complex changes and soundbite journalism are not easy bedfellows. We also now have to deal with social media – where it is too easy to offer up speculation as fact either through misunderstanding or malice – which require a speedy response to avoid damage to the reputation of the school.

 I read too often about perceived problems in Scottish education and do not recognise that picture in my own school. One reason for my monthly newsletter to you is to share the good things that happen and to explain changes to you. I have also been very prepared to take the time to have extra parental meetings for Curriculum for Excellence and I will do so again for the parents of those pupils who have just started their new S4 timetable. That meeting will occur in early September and will explain the new qualification arrangements and what will occur for pupils this year. Staff here work very hard and go the extra mile: pupils here work hard and take advantage of the opportunities opened up to them. I spoke a week past on Monday to the new S4 pupils in a series of workshops about the challenges which will face them this year and how they can be successful.

 We are now in the fifth year of seven years of change as part of the  Curriculum for Excellence programme. By this time, schools across Scotland have delivered changed courses for pupils in S1-S3; have written informative reports for each year; and have now delivered the S3 profile as required. Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualification Authority have arranged briefing meetings for subject staff, for verifiers of the new qualifications, and for SQA co-ordinators and senior staff including head teachers. We have had 11 Briefing Papers on curriculum matters – and in fact one might argue that the volume of paperwork to read and internalise is contributing to the pressure staff are feeling.

 I was amused at Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell’s assertion at a recent education conference that head teachers are adding to the bureaucracy for teachers. The reality is the opposite – I sift out piles of material that comes to me and decide what is essential for all and only necessary for some. I use the round file extensively – i.e. the waste bin both virtually and in reality –and on a daily basis. Mr MacKinnon and I have a very good system because of our backgrounds as English and Mathematics teachers: if it’s words, it’s mine; if it’s figures, it’s his. I do think he has the better deal!

 What is not in doubt from any quarter is that staff are working extremely hard to make the new qualifications a reality while continuing to prepare older pupils in S4-6 for the current examinations. 

 You will be aware that this process of change is taking place against a backdrop of increasing financial austerity. Local authorities have to take very hard decisions about their priorities and corporate responsibilities. You would expect me as Head Teacher of this school to argue for the importance of education and indeed I will. I am personally opposed to asking all parts of the council to shoulder cuts to budgets on an equal basis since I believe some things are more important than others. Education cannot consider itself immune from requests for savings but there has, however, to be a clear understanding that education has high fixed costs (primarily salaries) which make up a very large proportion of our budget. We have already made savings in each of the last 5 years and it will be difficult to make further savings without that impacting on the education of pupils. We will continue to work with officers of the council to deliver the best service we can on the budget available to us.

 Education in East Lothian does not work in a vacuum and we were notified in January – as a late Christmas present – that we and our cluster nursery and primary schools were to receive a Professional Engagement visit from Education Scotland staff the next month on the topic of health and wellbeing. These engagement visits are quite new and we were not sure what to expect – but they were, we discovered, more of a fact-finding visit by Inspectorate staff to identify good practice. It was gratifying to find out just how well our staff had understood that they were all responsible for pupil health and wellbeing – diet, exercise, mental wellbeing – and the feedback to us all was good.

Our Parent Council, one of the most active in East Lothian, approached us with a view to holding a Careers Fair for all pupils on Friday 7th June. That was a huge success involving a tremendous amount of preparation and we have received very positive feedback from the exhibitors who came that day and from the pupils themselves. It is a very good example of parental partnership with the school for the benefit of pupils.

 You will be aware that Don Ledingham Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services will leave the authority in late July. It would be inappropriate for me to omit reference to this especially since my son attended Dunbar Grammar School when he was Head Teacher. I am sorry to see him depart the authority: he gave East Lothian national prominence because of the suggestions he made on how education should be arranged for the benefit of pupils. He was one of the prime movers in the development of the Hospitality and Tourism Academy, of which more later.  His phrase “unconditional positive regard” reminds us that children make mistakes and it is important for teachers both to accept this without qualification and not to give up on any child. His educational view was inclusive not elitist. I know he was hugely appreciative of the work staff did in dealing with challenging children here and elsewhere. I also know how hard he worked in recent years to find savings at the centre rather than cut into school budgets. I wish him well in his new role as Director of Innovative Ideas and hope that he continues to have contact with schools in East Lothian.

In November, I became President of School Leaders Scotland and it has been hugely helpful for me to be involved in high-level discussions with the significant players in Scottish education such as Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell, Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualification Authority, Universities Scotland and the General Teaching Council. It has helped me steer the school in the right direction and share that information quietly and advantageously – and sometimes in confidence – with education colleagues in the local authority and in other schools. Sometimes those significant players, because they are divorced from the day to day reality of a school, can make suggestions that look ideal on paper but which would not add value to the experience of pupils ore even send us in unproductive directions. It is important that I am empowered to raise legitimate objections on behalf of pupils, parents and staff to such organisations. In such company you learn how to phrase your concerns – and also to offer solutions too. I thus act as a figurehead for the school on that national stage and you would be surprised to hear how often people quietly praise the work we do here.

 Let me move on then to describe some of that work that has occurred in the last year in the third section of my address to you. The most important thing we do is our maintenance agenda – delivering education for 27 periods a week for all our pupils, to meet their needs, to respond to what is in front of the teacher and to have the professional confidence to deviate from the lesson plan if required. Education is not a sprint but a marathon – with relays of teachers from nursery to S6 passing on the baton with each child. Success generally comes from persistence and resilience, not just innate talent. That doesn’t make for good newspaper headlines, alluding to an earlier point I made – but it’s the core of what we do and we do it well.

 Bearing in mind that pupils might not recall trigonometry on a wet Wednesday afternoon in March – what might pupils and staff recall from their year if they were asked?

 In Mathematics, they might recall the Enterprising Mathematics competition earlier this month where one of our two teams came 7th out of 30 Lothian schools, and we were the first East Lothian school – so we move on to national finals in Glasgow – that  team composed on Seth Allen, Keir Convey, Amelia Stott, James Allison. Liam Carlyle, Alisdair Colver, Kyle Irvine and Beth Orr. In the UK Mathematics Challenge we were awarded 6 Gold, 9 Silver and 17 Bronze certificates: a Gold means you are in the top 6% of the UK. Simon Archer in S2 scored so highly in the Junior section that he was invited to participate in the Junior Mathematics Olympiad earlier this month. Two S3 pupils were invited to a mathematics masterclass at Edinburgh University. Our success is not limited to younger pupils though. As part of their Higher Mathematics course, pupils have to sit and pass interim assessments called NABs. Four pupils got 100% in each of the 3 NABS they had to sit – outstanding for Greg McLay, Beth Slight, Andrew Gibson and Moray Cumming.

 In Expressive Arts subjects like Art and Music, younger pupils were working on a graffiti boards project with the Parent Council while older pupils did a Performance Show in association with other departments and we had our first Art and Design trip to London last September. 43 pupils in Music have just returned from a tour to Germany and gave us a lovely outdoor concert just before they left. That group also went busking in Asda the week before Christmas. We were heavily represented at the authority Showcase Concert for all schools in March at the Brunton Hall. We had 6 pupils at the Rotary Club Young Musician of the Year – Simon Archer taking 3rd place for Juniors and Rebecca Traynor won the senior vocal section and then progressed to the semi-finals held at Heriot-Watt University.

In Business Education and Computing, pupils attended the Christmas Cyber Lecture at Napier University and S3 Business pupils were involved in an Enterprise event in December, with S2 pupils involved in a Financial Awareness and Money Management programme in March.

 S6 pupils are likely to remember the Dalguise Leadership weekend in September and their Show in December in this Hall as well as the Senior Ceilidh on Burns Night.

 The Support for Learning Department has had its usual busy year – dealing with the Scottish Disability Sport Association for two wheelchair pupils and others, visiting the Scottish Museum, a Ceramics Experience, East Links Farm, participating in various inter-school events, various indoor and outdoor athletics on a regional basis too. Alex Muir was awarded Young Sick Kids Fundraiser of the Year and Seam McCann played Boccia for Scotland and was selected for trials for the Paralympic Boccia team.

Sport remains an important part of what we do here – Miss Ramsay working as our Active School Co-ordinator whipping up enthusiasm for our new P7 pupils on their visit and getting them to sign up for various clubs, for example. I have just found out today that she has been successful in her application to be Head of Girls Sports at a school down in England. I am sorry to lose her – I will miss her can-do attitude and willingness to throw herself into the life of the school. Mrs McSherry has been working with a group of girls and a professional choreographer to prepare a dance to promote the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year – you have probably seen photographs from this in various newspapers. The piece will be danced publicly in August. Our Badminton Group flourishes with more and more pupils involved each year and with increasing success. Morgan Naples, Calum Ferguson and Jason Cameron all won medals in the East and Mid Lothian competition, with Jason selected for the East and Mid Team in the Scottish Championships. We came third in the inter-schools golf event with Jack Valentine runner-up in the scratch event and Declan Henderson runner up in the handicap event. Lewis Bain was selected to represent East Lothian in the Scottish Schools Championship and for the Lothians in the Scottish Boys Team Championship. Stuart Blair qualified for the knock-out stages of the Lothian Men’s Championship for the 3rd year running. Sophie Bain won Monktonhall Ladies Golf Club Championship, the youngest ever to win this. Various pupils also were supported in their pursuit of junior and senior sports leadership qualification. Finally, Ross Muir in S5 has finally achieved his dream of becoming a professional snooker player. I’m awaiting my personal invitation to the Crucible Theatre

More generally, we received huge support from local groups like the Rotary Club, the Red House Trust, East Lothian Education Trust and the Jimmy Harrison Trust Fund and to allow Mr Forrest to take away a group of pupils to the Camas project on the Isle of Mull. Pupils were astonished when they arrived – to find that they could not get a signal on mobile phones – shock horror to have to talk to people face to face!

Other trips went near to Edinburgh like the Royal Highland Show and a Genetics workshop in the Botanic Gardens and far on to France with the Battlefields Trip and Watersports trips, two trips to London and even over to America with the Modern Studies Department.

All of this does not cover various visitors coming to the school, Geography field trips, the Christmas Show and Marketplace and Christmas Concert, fundraising events, Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition, competitions entered, revision classes taking place during the year and at Easter, a Mathematics project using receipts from Tesco to identify pupil eating habits with the primary schools, debates, the S1 Health Day, PSE recycling projects and liaison with the outside community such as St Anne’s Care Home….. and many more. Far more than chalk and talk.

But I’m going to pause to mention finally here one particular project in more depth because it has been the most rewarding professional initiative I have ever been involved in. Three schools – Ross HS, Preston Lodge and ourselves – have been working with Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh College and employers to develop the Hospitality and Tourism Academy. The academy seeks to combine academic knowledge and practical skills to raise the profile of the tourism industry and develop transferable skills. Mr Forgan in Home Economics has been closely involved for us and done a wonderful job in helping the pupils. Parents, pupils and partners stood in the Scottish Parliament last September where Lauren Cain addressed over 150 people from the staircase of the Parliament and fittingly last night the pupils involved received their course certificates for Intermediate 2 Skills for Work at the university. The initiative has generated huge interest from outside and the academy programme is now extending into creative industries, health and social care and food science. All 10 pupils have now graduated from their course with several moving into Year 2.

Finally, staffing changes 2012- 2013. Since there are so many changes in staff in over the year, I gave you this in writing on a separate sheet on your chair, but there are several staff retiring whom I will mention in more detail in the fourth and final section of this report.

Mrs Howarth has been PT Home Economics here since 1987 and latterly took up the post of PT Health and Wellbeing. Often the first member of staff in the car park in the morning, she has run a very effective and important department in the school and her careful management of resources has resulted in the best-appointed set of kitchens and work areas in the whole authority. Congratutions on such a successful career and enjoy your retirement. Mrs Souness was PT Biology here for many years – in fact from 1998 but a teacher from 1979 and a Senior Teacher in 1990 – and has seen her department increase in size and have many more pupils in the department from S3 onward, with many continuing with the subject to Higher and indeed to Advanced Higher with a number of pupils continuing with it at university. She also introduced Higher Human Biology into the senior curriculum. I thank her for her work here and for her encouragement to colleagues in her department over the years. Mr Parker has been a presence in the Mathematics Department since 1986 moving from a school in Edinburgh,  although he moved to being part-time a couple of years ago to the betterment of his golf handicap. He has run the Badminton Club for pupils for many years and been our organiser for participating in East Lothian golf competitions. He has been a dedicated and hardworking colleague and I wish him well in his retirement. Mrs Storey in Support for Learning came to us last August having spent many years in a different support role in the authority. She very quickly established herself here as a caring and supportive teacher for pupils in her care and a great help to Mrs Wills. She too has now decided to retire and I’m sure staff across the authority who know her will join our own staff in hoping she has a long and prosperous retirement. Mrs Steele has been our Librarian here since 1976 sharing the post with Mrs Scott now for some years and she too has decided to retire. The Library for all schools is an important learning hub – it encourages pupils in their own personal reading of fiction, it is an important resource for boys who have a large stock of non-fiction to get their teeth into, it has computer access for those who do not have this facility and home, and here it also holds a very well stocked Careers Library. Mrs Steele has always been an encouraging presence in the Library for both staff and pupils and I hope she enjoys her retirement.

As I said at the beginning, I came here in 2003 – it feels paradoxically like a long time ago and yet the years have gone in very quickly. Is it still rewarding being Head Teacher of Musselburgh Grammar?  – yes indeed. I still get up in the morning knowing I make a difference to the lives of pupils who attend this school, just like every member of staff in this establishment. Thank you to all parents here for your support over the year and my thanks to other colleagues in East Lothian here tonight for your assistance over the last 12 months. To my pupils, well done and you will soon receive tangible reward for your hard work from the table on my right.

 Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

26th June 2013

June 2013 Newsletters

Part One

Dear Parent,

I am writing this with a view to releasing it to you as S4-S5 return from examination leave on Thursday 6th June and the day before we have our Careers Fair, organised by the Parent Council with the assistance of Mr MacKinnon and FES, who run our janitorial and building service.

The Parent Council have spent a lot of time planning the event and we are looking forward to it – we have been trailing it with the pupils this week, asking staff to explain why their subject is important and relevant and emphasising that pupils need to be looking ahead to their futures. We want all our pupils to move into positive destinations, to use the current term – whether that means entering work, training, college or university – all are equally valid depending on a pupil’s aptitude and interests.

S4 Workshop

Linking with that wish to help pupils reach positive destinations, the school intends to suspend the timetable for at least part of the day on Monday 14th June for S4. They are the first group who will be presented for the new National Qualifications and we obviously want them to achieve as highly as possible. We will talk about the challenges of S4 in terms of coursework, homework and examinations and the things they need to do right from the start of the new timetable in June. Last year, we introduced a new system of tracking and monitoring S4-6 – this exercise will help us prepare pupils for that too.

New timetable

Pupils in S1-3 moved on to their new timetable on Monday 3rd June. The pupils were handed a new timetable on Monday morning and I’m sure they did not realise the huge logistical exercise involved. Getting over 1200 pupils into the right place with the right teacher for 27 periods in the week is no mean feat! My compliments as ever to Mr MacKinnon and to Mrs Ferguson in the school office who have been planning for the changeover for months.

For S4, we need to put a nominal SQA entry to make the timetable work. No presentation level is decided for any S4 pupil at this stage. I’ll elaborate on this in a note to S4 parents.

New S5 and S6 pupils will be briefed by Mr Burns  before the end of the term about recoursing arrangements once the examination results are received in August.

SQA examinations

We have our last examination on Wednesday 6th June. I’d like to thank Mrs Mackie for her efficient organisation of the examination diet, to thank our team of invigilators led by our Chief Invigilator Mr Reeves, whose calm demeanour eases any unexpected problem, and to thank those staff in Support for Learning and elsewhere who acted as readers and scrbes for those candidates with additional support needs. The invigilators were very complimentary about our pupils’ attitude to their examinations and we now await the SQA results in August.

Hospitality and Tourism Academy

You will be aware that we have been working with Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh College on the Academy programme this year. The university has secured money from the Scottish Funding Council to expand the programme into other areas. I have said that we would like to be involved in the Health and Social Care Academy and the Creative Industries Academy. I have a meeting on this before the end of term and we will be looking to talk to S5 pupils about this before the end of June.

P7 visit

As one group of pupils departs for adult life the next group arrive: we host P7 pupils from our associated primaries next week for two days. We look forward to meeting the next generation of Musselburgh Grammar School pupils. I am sure they are both excited and apprehensive in equal measure as they leave the security of primary school behind. They will, as ever, find their feet very quickly and make new friends while consolidating old friendships.

Uniform

We seem to be going through one of those periods where fashions emerge which are contrary to school policy. I would remind parents when purchasing clothes for next session that we expect to see pupils in plain black footwear – either shoes or trainers – but not baseball boots or trainers with coloured or while inserts and laces. Pupils should be in plain white or blue shirts with ties or in polo shirts as an alternative for S1/2 only. Please help us to have our pupils smartly dressed for school in uniform.

(A copy of the school uniform policy was enclosed at the end of this letter when issued to pupils.)

Staffing

Ms Ferguson joins the Physics Department on Monday 10th June, having previously worked in Midlothian. We have other new staff joining us in August and I will enclose their details in my August newsletter.

A number of our staff will leave us at the end of their Newly Qualified Teacher Year – Mr Geary in History, Mr Nicolson in PE, Ms Milne in Music, Ms Yates in English  – although two, Ms Taylor in Geography and Ms McKendrick in Biology are staying on to cover for staff on maternity leave.

Ms Forster and Ms Johnstone leave the English Department at the end of their contracts. To all these departing staff, thank you for the enthusiasm and energy you brought to your classes and we wish you all well for the future.

Mrs Neill returns from maternity leave in August. A number of other staff will join us in August and I will cover this in my initial August newsletter.

I also would like to pay tribute to several members of staff who have decided to retire after many years service to the school.

Mrs Howarth steps down as PT Health and Wellbeing after many years service as PT Home Economics – here since 1987. She has been a most effective and conscientious PT – managing her resources carefully, always supportive of her staff and always aware that cooking is a life skill not a lifestyle. One of the first staff in the school at the start of the day, I am sure she is looking forward to long lies!

Mrs Souness served as PT Biology for many years, coming to us in 1979. Like Mrs Howarth, she has had many changes of personnel in her staff and ensured that everyone shared her desire that pupils would be well taught, expected to work hard and expected to achieve in national examinations – nudged, cajoled and encouraged at all times. I will miss her sharp sense of humour. (A keen traveller, she once met a former teaching colleague of mine high up the Atlas Mountains in North Africa.)

Mr Parker also retires from his post in Mathematics – a stalwart in the department since 1986 and always supportive of other colleagues and pupils. A keen golfer himself, he has encouraged many to take part in the game and taken the badminton club too.

Mrs Storey steps down from her post in Support for Learning. Although only with us a short time after working elsewhere in East Lothian, she quickly forged good relationships with pupils in Support for Learning and many will miss her.

Mrs Steel in the Library has decided to retire and her job-share partner Mrs Scott will now work full-time here from August also. Many many pupils will have been guided to new authors and new interests because of her input.

Referendum

As you are no doubt aware, young people aged 16 and over will be eligible to vote in the Referendum on Scottish Independence next year. The Electoral Commission is working with local authorities and Education Scotland to produce guidance for schools. Until that guidance is received, we will not be using materials from any source to discuss the referendum, although we are very keen to ensure that pupils understand the democratic process and feel well informed to vote for the first time.

Next session

(A copy of next session’s dates was enclosed at the end of this letter when issued to pupils) – I would remind parents that children should not be taken out of school on holiday during term time.

Finally – I look forward to seeing many parents at our Annual Prizegiving on Wednesday 26th June. Otherwise, I wish everyone connected with the school an enjoyable summer holiday.

Part Two

Careers Fair

My thanks to the Parent Council for organising the Careers Fair last Friday – it was a superb event for all the yeargroups who attended and very enjoyable for exhibitors and school pupils alike. The exhibitors were very complimentary about the organisation and how well pupils engaged with them.

Chickenpox

However, one downside of this is that one of the exhibitors (from the Army Careers Service) has been diagnosed with chickenpox. I think the risk of infection is slight but think it is probably wise to advise staff and pupils of this. The NHS helpline offers advice on symptoms and risk.

Measles

Schools have also been asked to circulate the following information from NHS Lothian. If you have been following the national news, you will be aware that there have been major outbreaks in Wales and part of England.  Measles is not a disease to be taken lightly.

MMR immunisation catch up campaign

NHS Lothian is running a catch-up campaign for young people aged 10 to 17 years who have not received two doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine. They will be writing to parents and guardians of these children and encouraging them to contact their General Practice to arrange MMR vaccination for their child.

Some young people missed out on the MMR vaccination when they were younger. Two doses of the vaccine are required to ensure protection.

Visit immunisationscotland.org.uk to find out more, or contact your GP to make an appointment.

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher

May 2013 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent,

SQA Examinations

These started for S4 pupils back at the end of April and the senior pupils went off on examination leave for their examinations on Wednesday afternoon last week. We closed off the term for S6 with a lunch and a ceremony in the dining hall in the afternoon and asked them to give something back to departments that morning. Numbers in S6 have grown over the years and that is a tribute to the commitment pupils make to their education both in and out of class. I will, for example, remember fondly the number of excellent musicians we will lose this year. The invigilators have been very impressed with the behaviour and focus shown by all pupils in their examinations although there have been a small number of panic-stricken late arrivals after we have phoned absentee candidates!

Hospitality and Tourism Academy

After the success of the first year of this programme, we are putting the second year of the programme into place. We will repeat the programme for the new S5 pupils and have developed progression routes for those who have completed year one of the programme. I hope to bring you news of an expansion to the academy programme in a later newsletter.

Questionnaires

Mr Stott spoke at the last Parent Council about the results of the S1 Parental Questionnaire issued in April to all S1 pupils. It was clear that most parents felt informed about the Curriculum for Excellence programme and felt that they received most of their information from the school. That is pleasing to hear as we have tried very hard to use newsletters and evening meetings to keep parents informed of developments in the programme.

We also issued a questionnaire to parents of S4 pupils about work experience. Most parents who replied had clearly engaged in discussion about the programme with their children, and felt that the pupils had benefitted from being on placement for a week. However, we did pick up on a few glitches that we want to avoid in the future. We’ll share these with Mr Semple and we will issue a parental briefing on work experience to parents when the new S4 pupils begin the programme in June as part of Personal and Social Education.

 Staffing

A number of staff have confirmed that they intend to retire at the end of the term and I’ll thank them in more detail in my last newsletter of the year in June. Mrs Howarth leaves as PT Health and Wellbeing after many years service as PT Home Economics. We have interviewed for the post and have a preferred candidate who will start in August. Mrs Souness steps down also having been PT Biology for many years. Mr Parker also retires from his post in Mathematics. Mrs Storey leaves her post in Support for Learning. Our Librarian Mrs Steele has decided to retire and her job-share partner Mrs Scott will now work full-time here from August also. There will be further changes in staffing from August as staff leave and others join us as members of the Initial Teacher Education programme.

Curriculum for Excellence

Our new timetable begins in June and S3 pupils move into the Senior Phase and commence qualifications. Staff have worked very hard in changing the curriculum in the last 3 years and I am very confident that pupils have been both supported and challenged in their learning. The S3 reports will follow at the end of this month and the S3 profiles in June.

The pupil voice is very important.  All schools should listen carefully to what their pupils say about their learning experiences so that teachers can address concerns and difficulties. We intend to ask S1-S3 pupils about their experience in two of the subjects they have taken this year as part of this. We also intend to ask S3 pupils about their experience of S1-3 to feed this back to staff. There is no point in gathering data if you do not then use it!

I talk in September every year to S4 pupils about the challenge S4 will bring. I think this year there will be new challenges for many pupils. Whereas every pupil sat a final examination for a subject at Standard Grade, this has changed for National 3 and National 4 presentations. Pupils at N3 and N4 will have to pass all the units in their courses and pass an added value unit. This means pupils need to work steadily and conscientiously to produce their best work throughout the year. National 5 courses will also ask pupils to complete and pass all units as well as pass a final examination. The days of doing little and cramming for an examination at the end of the year have passed.

For that reason, we have decided at SMT that we will suspend the timetable at some point in June or August and talk to S4 pupils about the year ahead. We want to support them. We know some pupils are very motivated and sail through the year – while others struggle to achieve good grades in all of their subjects. Good organisation and good attendance will be critical in achieving success.

I will also arrange to have an evening meeting for S4 parents at an early point in the new term to talk about important points in the calendar year, how pupils are allocated to SQA levels, how good attendance lifts results and how parents can help their children be successful.

Under 13 Football

I mentioned in my April newsletter that our footballers were about to go on to a tie against Duncanrig Secondary. Sadly – we lost by some margin but our players accepted the defeat with grace and we acknowledge that we were beaten by a better team on the day.

Scottish Mathematical Challenge

Congratulations to the following pupils who have gained awards this year:

Junior Gold – Simon Archer S2                      Junior Bronze – Alisdair Colver S2

S3 Middle Bronze – Keir Convey                  S4 Middle Bronze – Hamish Mackinnon

Prizegiving

I am delighted to announce that Mrs Sheila Booker, Depute Head Teacher until her retirement last year, will be our Prizegiving Speaker and Guest of Honour this year.

Yours sincerely

 

Ronnie Summers

Head Teacher