Month: January 2023

Head Teacher Update 27/01/23

Our next phase of recruitment is now well underway and our young people have once again risen to the challenge of supporting this. I visited Pinkie St. Peter’s this week where P7 pupils worked with me to generate questions for the upcoming Curriculum Leader interviews. I really admired their clear focus on kindness, inclusion, and relationships in the classroom. I also very much enjoyed the fact that they arrived with a bunch of questions they had for me, so I have added to the Pupil FAQ section on the website accordingly. The direct link is here: Pupil FAQs

‘Will you bring your dog to visit the new school?’ goes down as my favourite Pupil Voice question ever.

With our timetable now largely devised the next adverts to go out will be for classroom teachers. I will continue to include updates here, and our staff list on the website is amended regularly to reflect the emerging picture: WLC Draft Staff List

In continuing to learn from other schools, I visited West Calder High School this week. Both the staff and the young people there were very clear about the importance of everyone in the community understanding the relationship between the spaces that have been created and the learning and teaching that goes on in them. I am hugely grateful to the HT, Greg McDowall, for pulling together a full day’s programme that gave me a real sense of the school. I particularly appreciated one of the S6 pupils reminding me to make sure I have enough bins, as one of her strongest memories of moving to the new school was always struggling to find one! Duly noted.

There was a busy site visit this week with Mr Valentine, Mrs Stewart-Young and Ms O’Neill all getting their first proper look at our new home. We are already working hard as a team to consider how we will create a safe, secure space that welcomes all of our learners, and doesn’t feel overwhelming. We were also joined by guests from the University of Edinburgh, who are supporting me through the completion of my Masters in Leadership and Learning this year. My current research project is focused on the work I am doing in developing a professional learning programme for our new senior and middle leaders. They found it really helpful to be able to picture the building I have been reflecting on in our course discussions more accurately, and were particularly envious of my beautiful corner office which, like much of the building, has developed significantly every time I look. Our first SLT phot is on Twitter @MsPrestonHT

The Google Form on Vision and Values is currently open and I hope you can take the time to make a note of the vocabulary you would most like to see. So far, there has been a lots of focus on wellbeing, positivity and responsibility. Once our senior leadership team has started, we will start to share some ideas on how we will turn these into clear vision and values statements.

Head Teacher Update 20/01/23

One of the reasons that this project is so exciting is, if course, because of how unusual it is. Most ‘new schools’ are in fact new buildings, which take existing school populations and place them in better facilities. Others happen as the result of schools amalgamating, bringing staff from two or three school together. It’s especially unusual at secondary level to go from the ground up, which is why I sought out the only school in Scotland which has been through a similar process recently; Bertha Park High School, in Perth.

I am very grateful that the HT there dedicated a full morning this week to showing me round and talking openly and authentically about what he felt had been the risks worth taking, and what he would do differently if he had his time again. It was hugely encouraging to know we are all absolutely on the right lines in terms of our planning and the importance of focusing on:

  • Routines, routine, routines
  • Creating safe spaces within epic scales
  • Going digital
  • Connecting authentically with the community
  • Learning to walk before you try to run!

We plan to maintain the relationship between the schools moving forward. Bertha Park now has pupils up to S5 so watching their senior phase develop will be particularly beneficial.

Now that we are in 2023, the next stage of transition planning in underway. I met with both Mr Valentine and Ms Hannan at MGS this week to look at the specific support needed for our new S2 and S3 and am grateful to the team there for their continued commitment to getting it right for all of our young people. Mr Valentine will take a lead on Personal Pathways for the new S3, as well as beginning to work on one page profiles which will give the young people the opportunity to share what they think is most important about them.

Mr Valentine will also be visiting Pinkie St. Peter’s Parent Council this week to make initial introductions, and will follow this up with introductions to the Wallyford Parent Council in line with planned meetings. I provided some updates to the Wallyford Parent Council this week, including some images of the building’s progress.

All parents access the presentation here: Parent Council Update January 2023

Mrs Stewart-Young now has a confirmed start date of 16th March and we hope to offer a Google Meet thereafter to ensure that as many parents as possible are able to start putting names to faces!

I also had the privilege of hosting one to one meetings with parents whose young people will be joining the SCN provision in August. Many are keen to firmly establish a sense of unique identity for the provision and we’ll be looking to name this in line with the eventual decision we make on the name of the school as a whole.

Your support in completing the Google Forms on this and other topics is much appreciated and it’s been very interesting to see just how wide the range of opinions is. There are a couple of favourites starting to emerge!

Head Teacher Additional Update: 16/01/23

This additional update is to confirm our preferred candidate for the post of DHT Curriculum. Subject to the required pre-employment checks, Mrs. Lynsey Stewart-Young will be joining the team.

Mrs Stewart-Young is an East Lothian resident and spent much of her early career here, before taking up promoted posts in both Midlothian and Edinburgh, most recently as a Depute Head Teacher. We will, I am sure, gain a great deal from her experiences in working with a range of local authorities.

As you will be aware, there have already been significant developments in aspects of our Curriculum, ensuring we have a timetable that works for young people, and can be realistically staffed. Therefore, ahead of the school opening, Mrs Stewart-Young will be focusing on her key role in supporting high quality learning, teaching and assessment. This will include working with all teaching and support staff to ensure consistency in delivering excellent learning experiences, with an absolute commitment to positive relationships between staff and young people in all faculties and individual classrooms.

Mrs Stewart-Young looks forward to joining East Lothian Council and meeting our new school community.


Head Teacher Update 13/01/23

Head Teacher Update 13/01/23

Happy New Year! This is a long one, as lots has been happening…

I am pleased to be able to begin to introduce some of the team who will be joining us at the new campus.

Our preferred candidate for the post of Business Manager is Ms Paula O’Neill who, subject to pre-employment checks, will join us at the end of February. Ms O’Neill is currently the Business Manager at Ross High School and comes to us with a wealth of experience and strong ELC networks. Ms O’Neill has a crucial role to play in terms of finance, resources, staffing, and a whole range of operational responsibilities related to the new building. I know she absolutely relishes the opportunity of this new challenge.

Mr Neil Valentine is the preferred candidate for the post of Depute Head Teacher, Pupil Support. Subject to pre-employment checks, he will join us from the 6th of March. Mr Valentine is currently a Pupil Support Leader at Musselburgh Grammar school and, as such, will be a huge asset in terms of the smooth transition of young people across the three year groups. Mr Valentine’s key responsibility is the safety, wellbeing and inclusion of young people, and he is very much looking forward to focusing on establishing the positive climate for learning that I know is so important to all of us.

We also have a preferred candidate for the role of DHT Curriculum, about which I will provide further details next week.

Both parents and pupils have been involved, and continue to be involved, in the recruitment of the senior team. This has been very positive for all of us, and I really do appreciate the input of the school community as a whole.

I am also very fortunate in being able to welcome a number of middle leaders who are currently employed at Musselburgh Grammar School, but who will move to work at the new campus from Term 3 (dates to be confirmed):

  • Curriculum Leader for Languages and Literacy: English, Media, and Modern Languages, with a whole school responsibility for Literacy.
  • Curriculum Leader of Social Subjects: Business Education, Geography, History and Modern Studies, with a whole school responsibility for Learning for Sustainability.
  • Curriculum Leader for Science and Technology: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and a range of CDT courses, with a whole school responsibility for Digital Learning.

All of the staff are very excited about the possibilities afforded by the next steps in their careers, and we are very lucky to have the experience and expertise that they bring. They will also have an important role to play in transition.

In the coming weeks we will populate the ‘Our Staff’ section of the website in order to help you get to know the team.

A number of additional middle leader posts will now be open to external recruitment. These include:

  • Curriculum Leader for Expressive Arts
  • Curriculum Leader for Health and Wellbeing
  • Curriculum Leader for Maths and Numeracy
  • Curriculum Leader for Support for Learning

I look forward to providing further staffing updates in due course.

In terms of continuing parental engagement, you should now have received a letter from your associated schools with information on a range of surveys you can complete to support the further development of the school identity. I really value your input and hope that as many people as possible are able to have their say.

A copy of the letter can be accessed here: Parent Survey Letter with links to Google Forms

You may also have noticed that there is now a sample timetable for S3 under the Curriculum tab on the website, as well as a link to some information on S3 Pathways. Young people moving into S3 in August 2023 will be supported to select two Personal Pathways to continue to extend their learning in the final stage of their Broad General Education. I am currently working with Mr Valentine on collecting the relevant data for learners, and we will be working with them on this during the month of February.

I had my first site visit of 2023 this week and am thrilled to report that we have doors, sinks, benches in the science labs… It’s all coming together. It was also great to meet with representatives from Edinburgh College, who were visiting the Regional Construction Skills facilities. Their presence on campus is going to be a real strength within the senior phase curriculum which we will be scoping out during the course of the coming academic year.