Author: gpreston

Head Teacher Update 02/12/22

As we move towards the end of 2022, it’s important to continue to think about transition for our new WLC pupils. Of course, aspects of transition are ongoing, such as Pupil Voice activities, parent engagement opportunities, and my time with staff in the associated schools, all of which are important parts of getting to know each other.

Transition activities in a secondary school generally focus on the move from P7 into S1, but we have three year groups undergoing a significant transition this year. Therefore, transition planning is as much about young people currently at Musselburgh Grammar School as it is about our associated primaries. A crucial part of this has been confirming which young people will be joining us at WLC in August, so that we can share data appropriately and ensure that planning reflects individual learning needs. Thank you, therefore, to everyone who has already confirmed their intentions with East Lothian Council.

In addition to this, we also have a number of young people joining us from other areas in ELC in order to access our Severe and Complex Needs (SCN) provision. Two meetings have been set up for these families. Individual introductory meetings have been set up for the 17th January, with a group meeting to look at more general matters related to the campus 23rd January. Parents of pupils accessing the SCN should be sure to email WLCTransitions@edubuzz.org to book into these.

I am currently working on a ‘one page plan’ which notes all of the transition activities already undertaken and highlights what will be happening from January onwards. This will be published on the website by the end of next week.

There has been lots of exciting discussion on Theme 3: Our school identity. There is a link on the Parent Engagement page to a summary of the early parent comments around the ideas for the school name and dress code. The views of young people will be shared via Pupil Voice Updates after working on this with them over the next couple of weeks. Early indications are that there is currently no consensus whatsoever, but that’s perhaps to be expected! After gathering all of these initial ideas, a range of proposals will be shared with our community during the Spring term, with a chance to comment further and/or vote as appropriate. More on the options next week…

 

 

Head Teacher Update 25/11/22

I was lucky enough to be joined for Pupil Voice input by members of the Design Team this week. I learned as much as the young people with regards to terms such as biophilic design and supergraphics. We shared a number of images from the 3D building models and talked through the key concept of trying to bring nature from the outside, to the inside. I am particularly fond of the planning for real trees in our central atrium, and of the sheer amount of natural light that will flood into each part of the building. I’ve been encouraging all future pupils to take a look at the building ‘close up’ if they can, as there is plenty you can see from the roadside.  In addition to this, a number of pupils have asked about the possibility of both ‘real life’ visits and video/360 tours of the building inside. We obviously need to balance this up with the health and safety associated with building sites but do watch this space…we are working on it!

I have now shared the curriculum rationale for the Broad General Education (S1-S3) on the website. This outlines the key drivers behind our curriculum and highlights its core principles of wellbeing, inclusion and equity. As well as clear alignment with Curriculum for Excellence, it also reflects the conversations that have been undertaken with parent and pupil groups. I have shared this ‘big picture’ thinking with our timetabler who is now working turning it into technical reality. We hope to be able to share a couple of ‘sample’ timetables ahead of the Christmas break.

Pathways are important beyond as well as within school, and today I met with our Skills Development Scotland (SDS) link. Schools have a shared responsibility with SDS and other partners to support young people into sustained, positive destinations. Part of this is offering high quality careers education and identifying, at an early stage, which young people might need some extra help in figuring out their next steps. Although this seems like a long way away for our youngest learners, it’s important that we get that input right from S1 onwards.

Pinkie St. Peter’s Primary hosted our most recent Parent Engagement session. This was on Theme 3: Our identity. It was great to hear from parents about how they see the local area, and how they think others see it. We even started to generate some ideas for the name of the high school and its Houses. All suggestions welcome ahead of some votes in the New Year! We also discussed dress code and the importance of this being appropriate for active, collaborative learning- comfortable, easy to look after, gender neutral and inclusive. I’ll be picking this up with pupil groups next.

If you would like some ‘in person’ updates on a range of matters pertaining to the school, as well as the summary messages from the engagement work around Theme 2: Our Community, please feel free to join me on Google Meet live at 4pm on Monday 28th November. The link is in the letter that you were sent by your current schools in early November. However, if you don’t have this to hand, please email wlctransitions@edubuzz.org and it can be re-sent. If you can’t make that time, a recording will be added to the Parent Engagement page on the website a few days afterwards.

And finally, our last parent engagement session is hosted by Musselburgh Grammar on Monday 5th December (6-7pm) and is on Theme 4: Our learning. There are still places available and I would love to see as many people as possible to look at all things curriculum and learning and teaching. Please email to book your spot.

 

Pupil Voice Theme 2: Summary data

Several pupil voice groups have now had the opportunity to explore Theme 2: Our school community. They focused on three key questions:

  • What do you want to know or be able to do by the time you leave school?
  • What should be our priorities in year 1?
  • What activities in your current school help you feel like part of a community?

The graphics below provide a simple visualisation of the discussions- the larger a word appears, the more often in came up in feedback.

The young people identified the following things as important to them:

  • Practical life skills such as cooking, swimming and managing money
  • Having aspirations (this is the catch all term that was used for discussions around getting a good job/knowing what you want to do)
  • Pupil voice and genuine listening
  • Expectations and boundaries
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Teams and clubs, whether sports or otherwise
  • House identity (secondary pupils in particular)
  • Positive relationships with friends and teachers as a key aspect of community

Graphic 1: What do you want to know or be able to do by the time you leave school?

Graphic 2: What should be our priorities in year 1?

Graphic 3: What activities in your current school help you feel like part of a community?

Input from the Design Team

Our Wallyford Pupil Voice group met members of the building Design Team today. Our architect and interior designer took time to talk them through some of the key aspects of the design process. Key talking points included:

Biophilic design: This is a type of design in which the patterns and forms of nature are featured in the building, to create a sense of bringing the outside in.

Supergraphics: These are large-scale images that are used to build identity. At the campus, these will make links to the area’s history, including the mining community.

The Heart of the Building: All routes will lead to a central communal area with a range of seating options where users can both collaborate and find quiet spaces, as suits their needs.

The pupils asked lots of really thoughtful questions and were extremely courteous and respectful of their special guests. They agreed that being able to see 3D images was a huge help for them in imagining what the school will feel like.

The Design Team will also be working with Pinkie St. Peter’s and Musselburgh Grammar School groups before the end of November.

Head Teacher Update 18/11/22

One highlight of this week was undoubtedly attending the Learning Places Scotland conference at the SEC in Glasgow. It was a great opportunity to think specifically about the architecture of our new building and how this promotes innovative approaches to learning and teaching. I particularly enjoyed learning from the experiences of young people from both West Calder High School and Inverurie Academy, all of whom had recently moved into new build schools. They had some great advice about the importance of letting pupils gradually get used to the variety of different learning spaces. I also had the chance to speak with a range of potential partners about how we can support an exciting BGE curriculum within the STEAM facility, including Glasgow Science Centre and Morrison Construction.

On Wednesday, I joined a number of Wallyford residents and the Community Centre, for a Bite and a Blether. This included a talk on the history of Wallyford, by Alister Hadden. I learned so much about the way in which the community has grown and changed over the years, and I want to make sure that the eventual name of our school and its Houses really do reflect our unique context. We did laugh a lot together when we saw the images of the original school building in Wallyford, with only four rooms!

All parent and pupil engagements around Theme 1: Our school’s purpose, have now been completed. I therefore held a brief Google Meet on Thursday to summarise some of the findings. These Google Meets are recorded and will be added to the website in the next few days. The website also includes graphics showing the main areas of discussion. However, do feel free to join live if you are able to, as this gives you the chance to add any questions to the chat as we go.

Still on the subject of questions, you may have noticed a couple of new pages on the website. I have pulled together both Pupil and Parent FAQs. These can be accessed through the link to the relevant Google document, which makes it easy for me to update as we move towards opening.

Our next Parent Engagement session is on the 24th November at Pinkie St. Peter’s Primary, at 5.30pm. This will still be going ahead, despite potential disruption to the normal school day. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Pupil Voice Theme 1 Summary Data

Young people in all three partner schools have now had the chance to talk through their ideas around Theme 1: Our school’s purpose. They have explored 3 key questions:

  • What are schools for?
  • What does a good school look like?
  • What do you value in your current school?

Graphics summarising their findings are included below. These are designed to give a flavour of the discussions and have been constructed by putting the raw data into a Word Cloud generator. The bigger the word, the more pupils mentioned it. Emerging key themes have included the importance of:

  • Staff who are kind/helpful
  • Friendships
  • An anti-bullying approach
  • Interesting subjects
  • Good facilities and resources
  • Time to learn/play/relax outdoors
  • Plenty to eat!

Graphic 1: What are schools for?

Graphic 2: What does a good school look like?

Graphic 3: What do you value about your current school?

 

Head Teacher Update 11/11/22

It’s been another busy week with a focus on getting out and about meeting pupils and parents, including:

  • Our second parent engagement meeting
  • Our first Pupil Voice groups at Musselburgh and Wallyford
  • A Musselburgh Parent Council meeting
  • Assemblies for P6 and P7 at Pinkie St. Peter’s

One theme that has been coming through is the value placed on good communication. I couldn’t agree more. It’s good to be aware that I am unable to initiate contact with any parents or pupils directly until they are confirmed as pupils who will be attending the campus, so I hope the following strategies are proving useful:

Information letters on engagement opportunities sent via pupils’ current schools.

Updates via the Twitter account: @WallyfordLC

Setting up the email wlctransitions@edubuzz.org

Building the website edubuzz.org/wallyfordlc/ (Please note: there is no capacity to respond to comments on the website- these should be submitted via email.)

Please do get in touch with your queries. If I can’t answer them myself, I will find someone who can! I am also in the process of developing a Frequently Asked Questions page on the website which will bring some these together for the benefit of both parents and pupils.

Another topic of discussion has been around a name for the new school, and its Houses. I’ve been in touch with a number of contacts in the community to explore ideas around honouring a place or a person that might otherwise be forgotten. I am also thinking about ways in which we might reflect aspects of the local environment. Eventually, I will pull together a list of options and ask you to vote. Schooly McSchool Face will not to be in the list! If you have any ideas you would like to share, do let me know.

Linked into this are our plans for the overall ‘look’ of the school in terms of the colours, materials and textures that will be used.  The design team are working on the central idea of beaches/coastlines, and trying to capture something of the beauty we are lucky enough to have in East Lothian. You will see some of these colours start to filter through the website and other communications.

I also met with our consultant timetabler for the first time, to look at how we do the technical side of building the new curriculum. I will be able to share progress on this within the next couple of weeks so that you have a chance to explore the curriculum rationale, then to start to see what a school day might look like for pupils in S1-S3.

Visit to Pinkie St. Peter’s Primary School 10/11/22

Pupils in P6/P7 has a special assembly to introduce them to the new head teacher and the new campus. They asked lots of very thoughtful questions about what subjects they would study and how the school day would work. In fact, there were so many questions that Ms Preston had to take some away with her for homework. There will now be an extra Google Meet arranged to answer those questions.

Pupil Voice groups at Pinkie start on Monday and will run on a weekly basis heading towards Christmas. As with all of the other Pupil Voice groups, data from the discussions will be gathered on an ongoing basis, with the collated information being published on the website before the end of this term.

Musselburgh Grammar School Pupil Voice Sessions 1 and 2

22 S1/2 MGS pupils were involved in discussions today around the two themes of Purpose and Community. They were particularly engaged in the discussion around what they need from the head teacher and other school staff to feel part of a safe and inclusive school. Comments included:

  • Teachers who care
  • Good learning facilities
  • Clear information and expectations

They also talked about what they value most in their current school including:

  • Clubs and activities
  • Friendships
  • Teachers who help you to achieve your goals

Thanks go to Mrs. Walker for her support in organising this. There will be a further two Pupil Voice sessions at MGS on the 22nd November. Pupils who live in the catchment area for Wallyford Learning Campus can speak with Mrs. Walker directly if they would like to be involved.

Wallyford Primary School Pupil Voice Session 1

16 P6/7 pupils took part in their first Pupil Voice session today, on Theme 1: What makes a good school?

They firstly worked together to remind themselves of what they already know about doing good group work. They agreed that the important words to remember were:

  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Inclusion
  • Listening
  • Focusing on the person speaking
  • Hard work

They collaborated to answer the three key questions that have also been asked of parents:

  • What is school for?
  • What does a good school look like?
  • What do you like about your current school?

Their answers will be collated along with those from the pupil voice groups across all of our associated schools, then shared via the website when all of the groups have had their first meeting.

The young people also had the chance to ask questions about the new school. These showed how important outdoor space, active learning and the arts are for this group. However, they weren’t afraid to get philosophical, with one pupil asking, ‘Why do schools exist?’ It was fascinating to hear the rest of the group try to answer!