Welcome to the Head Teacher’s Update section of the North Berwick High School website. Here you will find posts on topics which I hope will be of interest to parents and friends of the school.
Mrs Lauren Rodger
Recently, I spent a very enjoyable day shadowing S3 pupils in their lessons. Some of them perhaps thought I was shadowing them individually as I appeared in so many of their classes, but I can assure them that wasn’t the case! While I often pop into lessons, I don’t normally spend a whole day in classes so this was a privilege for me. My focus was on the learners’ experience, in particular the level of challenge and pace S3 pupils experience in lessons. It was a real pleasure for me to see young people so engaged in their studies; focused and on task; confident in planning and organising their own learning; seeing the relevance of their studies to the ‘real world’; working collaboratively on tasks; having fun with their learning. In terms of challenge, I saw some classes being challenged with level 5 work (equivalent to National 5) and coping admirably. In one class, pupils were producing work which was of Higher standard. I shared my thoughts on the day with pupils in assembly and I also challenged them to be more curious in their learning, to ask more questions of their teachers, of the texts they read and of the world around them: occasionally, the pupils were perhaps too compliant, waiting for teachers to provide answers rather than being curious and asking their own questions. This curiosity is something that the teachers will continue to encourage, too. I learnt a lot throughout the day myself, not least how to take bearings when piloting a boat or a plane. That may well come in handy the next time I’m sailing from Troon to Brodick and getting blown off course in a gale.
Talking of shadowing, it was my turn to be shadowed this week when a principal teacher from another East Lothian secondary spent the day with me. I felt very proud as I showed her around the school, talking to teachers and pupils as we went. Everyone was so welcoming, and very keen to talk about learning and the life of the school. Perhaps the loveliest moment for me was when she said “There’s lots of laughter in this place, isn’t there?”
Last weekend was a momentous one for North Berwick High School: a group of pupils, from S3 to S6, attended the Model United Nations Conference at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and were awarded the BEST DELEGATION prize, the first state school to achieve this honour! On top of that, Nathan Robertson in S6 was awarded the BEST DELEGATE prize! Please excuse my use of capital letters and exclamation marks; this is not something I normally do in my writing but on this occasion I feel it’s warranted. I am extremely proud of our young people, who were very impressive throughout the two day debate. NBHS pupils represented Cambodia and China and they argued the case for their countries’ interests extremely effectively. There were over 500 delegates at the Conference from schools all over the world, so the achievement of the NBHS pupils is massive. As well as congratulating our pupils, I would like to thank them for all their hard work, commitment, confidence and – on occasion – bravery. There were times during the weekend when our pupils really pushed themselves beyond their comfort zone and I know that they felt a huge sense of achievement when they did so. I would also like to thank Mrs Martin and her team for supporting and encouraging the NBHS pupils. You are all stars!
I am very grateful to two groups of parents who willingly give of their time to support the school: the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the Parent School Partnership (PSP).
PTA – I hope that you will have seen the advert for the latest PTA event, a Fizz and Fancies afternoon on Saturday 27 May. Please do consider coming along to the event; you will have a lovely afternoon, I’m sure, and at the same time you will be making a difference for all the young people in NBHS. It’s hard to emphasise enough the importance of all our parents supporting the work of the PTA: in a time when the school budget barely covers the necessities, the donations from the PTA are absolutely vital in enabling us to continue providing some of the extras – and, indeed, some of those necessities. As well as attending events, you can also help the PTA to raise funds by entering the monthly prize draw or registering with easyfundraising, where every purchase you make online includes a contribution to the school. The PTA will also be raising funds at our Spring Concert next week by providing drinks at the interval and running a raffle. Any raffle prizes would be gratefully received; just hand them in to the School Office.
PSP – At recent Parents’ Consultation Evenings, you may have been approached by a member of the PSP to ask if you’d be interested in hearing more about the work of the school and sharing your opinions. Thank you to all parents who provided their email address. The PSP will be in touch with you soon and will let you know when particular topics are being discussed. Our next PSP meeting will be held in the School Library on Tuesday 25 April at 7.00 pm. All parents and carers are very welcome to attend.
I am delighted that we are once again able to offer the Duke of Edinburgh Award to our pupils. Mrs Clubb, principal teacher of numeracy, has volunteered to lead D of E at NBHS, with the support of other staff. Our intention is to offer Bronze Award to S3 pupils next session (current S2); we hope to then offer the Silver Award from 2018 and Gold Award from 2019. The initial Bronze Award cohort will comprise up to 28 pupils and information about this opportunity will be coming out to S2 pupils soon. If you would like more information on the D of E Award, please follow this link: http://www.dofe.org/take-part#k2 .
Running the Duke of Edinburgh Award for a group of young people is quite an onerous task and we would be extremely grateful if any parents – or friends in the wider community – could commit to helping out in some way. If you are interested, please email Mrs Clubb directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
You may have seen in the press last week an announcement from John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education, that the Scottish Government is allocating £120 million directly to schools through the Attainment Scotland Fund. The funding is coming out to schools in April and is to be targeted at those children most affected by the poverty-related attainment gap: it is being distributed on the basis of the numbers of pupils in P1-S3 known to be eligible and registered for free school meals. For NBHS, this means we will be receiving £21,600. John Swinney has given a commitment that schools will receive this funding for the next five years.
In order to ensure that we make the best use of this additional funding, we will be consulting widely, with: the head teachers of our cluster primary schools and the other East Lothian secondary schools; with the Parent School Partnership; with staff; with local authority education staff; and, of course, with pupils. If you have any suggestions as to how this funding might be used to help reduce the attainment gap, please do get in touch with me, or with the Parent School Partnership via their email address: email@example.com .
There have been some recent changes in staffing at NBHS. As you know, Mrs Moore and Mr Roderick have now left the school, both taking up posts in Edinburgh City. Our depute Mrs Neri, who had been on secondment to East Lothian Council for eighteen months, has now returned to her substantive post here at NBHS and we are delighted to have her back. Among her duties, Mrs Neri is in charge of pupil support, she is the S6 year head, and she is the depute link with Law House. Mrs Cairns, who has been acting depute during Mrs Neri’s secondment, will be leaving us at the February break. We are very grateful for all that she has done for the school community in her time at NBHS and we wish her well as she returns to Dunbar Grammar School. Following a rigorous selection process, we have appointed Mr McCallum to the vacant depute post. He is currently teaching in Edinburgh City and starts with us after the half-term holiday. Once we have our new senior management team fully in place, I will share details of remits with you.
At the start of this term Mrs Rankine, one of our English teachers, took up an acting post as a principal teacher at Knox Academy. This is a well-deserved opportunity and we wish her every success in the role. We are delighted that Mrs Rankine’s classes are being taken over by Ms Cahoon, an experienced English teacher who has taught in Canada and London, as well as here in Scotland. Recently, we have also welcomed Ms Dudgeon to the pupil support team and Ms Mitchell as a science technician.
Following the February break, we will have a new guidance teacher for Fidra House. Mrs McCormack, who has been a wonderful member of staff at NBHS for many years, is leaving and she will certainly be missed, especially by the pupils of Fidra House. Mrs McCormack has played a leading role in promoting positive mental health in school, including the launch of our mental health app. Our new guidance teacher, Mr Orr, is currently working in Scottish Borders.
Later in the term, we will be welcoming Mr Frew to the post of principal teacher of business education and computing, and we hope to recruit a new computing teacher to the faculty, too. Familiar faces will soon be seen in the science and performing arts faculties, as Dr Scott and Mrs Loudon return from their maternity leave. We are very grateful for all that Ms MacLeod has done for the pupils in her time in the music department and we wish her well as she moves on to a new school.
Schools are always special places in the run-up to Christmas and NBHS was no exception. In December, we held: a stunning art show; two joyful concerts; a fun lunchtime fair; four fabulous dances; and four hilarious pantomime performances. And the learning carried on throughout all of this! I would like to thank all staff, pupils and parents for ensuring that these events were such a success, and for making the month of December so uplifting.
Following the very welcome – and, I hope, happy and relaxing – Christmas break, pupils and staff arrived back in school on Monday 9 January ready for the challenges and opportunities that the new year will bring. Within a few days, the prelim exams began and I am pleased to say that these have gone very smoothly. It has been a pleasure to hear the invigilators praise our senior pupils for how well they are conducting themselves throughout the exam diet. Parents, I am sure you will also be delighted to hear that our pupils have been unfailingly polite and courteous – they really are a credit to you.
This week, the focus for S2 pupils is on building relationships, challenging themselves outwith their comfort zone, learning and developing new skills, and having fun. For some, this is on the Italian ski slopes; for others, it’s here in school and in the local area. You can keep up to date with what’s happening by following the school’s Twitter account.
This Friday evening we hold an event which is always a highlight of the year, especially for our S6 pupils: the Burns Supper. The speeches, recitations and music are all provided by the pupils, and the delicious 3-course meal (with haggis, of course) is followed by dancing to the excellent Clappy Doo Ceilidh Band. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, do contact the School Office. I have had a sneak preview of the speeches and I know the audience is in for an entertaining evening, with plenty of laughs. I am pleased to note there will also be lots of tablet.
Next week, there is another important event, this time aimed at our S3 – S6 pupils and their parents. On Tuesday 31 January we are welcoming some of our partners to the school to provide an information session on pathways beyond school, with a particular focus on careers in business and alternatives to university. This is part of the Developing the Young Workforce initiative, and there will be something for everyone, no matter what their goals and ambitions. Please do make every effort to come along to this event if you have a child in S3 – S6. And do bring your young person with you – it may just be the evening where they hear something that sparks a real interest and takes them on an exciting pathway to their future, one which they hadn’t previously imagined. Information is on the website and is being sent home to parents via email.
In June, our Head Boy, Head Girl and Deputes were appointed, then in September it was the turn of the House Captain applicants to go through the selection process. I am pleased to say that the members of our Senior Pupil Team have made a positive impact already this session.
|Head Boy||Adam Whiteside|
|Head Girl||Rowan Baxter|
|Depute Head Boy||Gregor Griffiths|
|Depute Head Girl||Rosie Hamilton|
|House Captain||Siobhan Duff|
|House Captain||Nathan Robertson|
|Vice Captain||Rebekah Gleeson|
|Vice Captain||Siobhan Duff|
|House Captain||Rebecca Hamilton|
|House Captain||Katie Brown|
|Vice Captain||Zoe Kelly|
|Vice Captain||Jack Algeo|
|House Captain||Rebecca Price|
|House Captain||Alec Thompson|
|Vice Captain||Flora Douglas|
|Vice Captain||Rachel Jackson|
|Vice Captain||Matt Pearson|
|Vice Captain||Lauren Renton|
|House Captain||Elliot Glynn|
|House Captain||Rachel Watson|
|Vice Captain||Noah Poole|
|Vice Captain||Gregor Kelly|
|Vice Captain||Milly Hartley|
|Vice Captain||Daisy Penman|
The school runs a very wide programme of extra-curricular clubs and activities and we encourage all of our pupils to take part in at least one of these. Pupils are given information about the many opportunities available to them through the daily bulletin and notices around the school. Parents can access both the daily bulletin and the extra-curricular programme on the school website.
I am hugely grateful to all the staff who give up their own time outwith school to run these activities, enabling our pupils to access opportunities for wider achievement.
The school year has seven Monday holidays for pupils, outwith standard holiday weeks. In order to address the loss of teaching time for classes which are taught on a Monday, we have a programme of ‘rolling Mondays’. This means that in some of the weeks when there is a Monday holiday, we run our Monday timetable on the Wednesday or Thursday of that week. The dates of the rolling Mondays are as follows:
Thursday 22 September
Wednesday 26 October
Thursday 23 February
Wednesday 19 April.
In order to ensure that rolling Mondays work smoothly, pupils are given plenty of advance notice so that they can be sure to bring the right books and equipment to school with them on the day.