Category: Head Teacher Updates

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.

 

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.

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.

Head Teacher Update 04/11/22

I am delighted to share that our website is now live. If you are reading this, you have found it! Please take the time to have a look through previous head teacher updates which help to show the progress we have been making over the last few weeks.

There was a continued focus on staffing this week as I worked with local authority colleagues to plan roles and remits for the school’s Extended Leadership Team, who will lead in curricular subjects and in pastoral care. All school leaders will be able to join me well ahead of the school opening, in order that we have time together to plan the best learning experiences we can.

This was also the main consideration in my meeting this week with Leigh Watson, the Senior Education Officer for Curriculum Innovation at Education Scotland. As discussed with parents at our most recent engagement session, I’m committed to developing a curriculum in S1-3 that really does deliver a Broad General Education and that includes space in the timetable for important work around Learning for Sustainability, Digital Literacy and Skills for Learning, Life and Work. It’s great to have the reassurance that we are working in a way that genuinely reflects the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Pupil voice groups are now established in Wallyford Primary School and Musselburgh Grammar. They will be working through a range of topics, including the chance to take part in a consultation with our interior designer. I will be doing an introductory assembly at Pinkie St. Peter’s on the 10th November, and will form pupil groups thereafter. It’s really important to me that we are listening and responding to what matters to our young people. I will post update about their activities on the ‘Pupil Voice’ tab once we are up and running.

Partnership working is hugely important for the new campus, and I got my walking shoes on this week with one of our local youth workers, Vanda Dow, to get out and about in the catchment area and start thinking about any issue and opportunities related to our School Travel Plan.

And finally, a date for your diary. I will be hosting the first of a series of brief live Google Meets on Thursday 17th November, where I will talk through some of the themes emerging from discussions with pupils and parents thus far. You can join me here Google Meet 1

A recording of the session will also be posted to the website afterwards.

Head Teacher Update 28/10/22

As a teacher, I am used to things ‘stopping’ during the holidays. Of course, we will often end up doing some work at home, but we return to school and find it pretty much as we left it. Not so with this project. I returned from the autumn break to once again be hugely impressed at how many people are working so hard to ensure success. Most importantly, we will soon be in a position to advertise posts to join the Senior Leadership Team, which will allow us to make big moves forward in terms of finalising a curriculum structure, transition arrangements and so on.

It was a genuine pleasure to meet with parents for the first of our engagement sessions. Our theme was ‘Our school’s purpose’, and there were some great responses on the question of what makes a good school, such as:

  • Excellence is not just about the academic side but about what is best for each pupil
  • A focus on a curriculum that is enjoyable and appeals to young people
  • The opportunity to build strong relationships with both peers and staff

The second session, ‘Our school community’ will be hosted by Wallyford Primary, from 5pm-6pm on the 7th November. Parents and carers of future Wallyford Learning Campus pupils can email wlctransitions@edubuzz.org if they would like to book a space.

We are also now on Twitter. Please follow @WallyfordLC for official updates on the school’s development.

Head Teacher Update 14/10/22

It was great to be able to join the Parent Council at Pinkie St. Peter’s Primary School earlier this week, and to do a brief introduction. I also enjoyed finding out about the many ways in which parents currently support the school with a whole range of activities.

There has been a big focus on ICT, because long lead in times mean that we are already having to make some of the big decisions around how the campus can best support the East Lothian Digital Learning Strategy and the ambition we all share: to make the best use of digital devices to support equity through the inclusion, engagement, and wellbeing of our young people. We are looking carefully at what we can learn from other new build schools, both in our own local authority and beyond. This meant that architect Sam Williams and I had to get our hard hats on once again and start a very important shopping list to ensure the construction team can get everything in place for the right IT infrastructure.

I have also been finding out more about the needs and aspirations of young people in the community, with members of the community team and a visit to the Bridges project in Musselburgh. It has been hugely encouraging to find so many people who adhere to the maxim ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and their knowledge and skills are very much valued. I will continue to take time to meet with valuable partners throughout the rest of this term.

Head Teacher Update 7/10/22

On Monday, it was my pleasure to host colleagues from Moray House at the University of Edinburgh. Rosemary Grady and Kevin Brack are involved in a number of programmes related to Leadership and Learning, and have supported me through various stages of studying for my Masters in Education.

My focus this year is on growing professional learning, and how we ensure that we have the highly skilled staff that young people deserve.

I introduced myself to Wallyford Primary School Parent Council members at their meeting this week, and enjoyed listening to the rich discussion around plans in place to continue to support attainment for all. I offered an introductory presentation which explored where I have come from and what themes are important to me as a leader. The presentation is included here to give a flavour of the themes that were discussed with families.

I really appreciated the opportunity to be part of the review team at Musselburgh Grammar school. It has been a genuine pleasure to engage with staff, pupils and parents in a busy and vibrant school community. It also gave me the chance to work with a number of school leaders from across East Lothian Council, all of whom collaborated effectively to build a clear picture of Musselburgh’s strengths and next steps.

This morning has been a real mixture, which perfectly illustrates very different demands of this job. I began with the second of two Pupil Voice groups I’ve convened this week, beginning with a look at the plans from the architect and interior designer. The most common exclamation was, ‘Wow!’ and they had lots of really thoughtful questions.

I then moved on to begin to develop a staffing structure that will support the sort of curriculum I want to deliver at Wallyford- one which includes all learners and which appreciates the learning that goes on outside as well as within formal classroom structures. Getting the right staff in place takes time to get right, so we’ll be getting started on the first steps of recruitment processes in the coming weeks.

Head Teacher Update 30/09/22

I really valued a session held this week for all secondary head teachers, which was facilitated by Dr Dee Torrance, of the University of Glasgow. This gave space and time for all of us to think deeply about how we can best support our young people in navigating the challenging world in which they currently find themselves. There is no doubt that we all continue to see and to feel the impact of the pandemic, both in positive ways and in new challenges. All of us were in agreement as to our desire to lead schools in which young people’s wellbeing is a constant focus of the conversation.

I also caught up with Bruce Murray, the head teacher of Letham Primary. It was great to be able to benefit from his experience on building a school community from scratch, and to learn more about the key questions to ask contractors involved with the build! The school itself is very impressive, and I really appreciated its focus on ensuring safety and security.

The week ended on a high when I was able to get my hard hat on and visit site for the first time. Huge thanks are due to Graeme Lang, the Morisson construction site manager, who took time out to show (service manager) Neil Craik-Collins and I the story so far. It’s impossible to be anything other than inspired by the scope and ambition of the build. Hopefully seeing it without all of its walls and doors will actually help me to find my way around!

Head Teacher Update 23/09/22

Welcome to the first in a series of head teacher weekly updates.

This week I moved from Midlothian to East Lothian, and have received the warmest of welcomes from colleagues and young people.

As anyone who has moved from one large organisation to another will know, there is a lot to take in. This week has been full of new people, new places, and new things to learn about. I have found it helpful to compare it to times I have been on holiday to other English speaking countries; we have a shared language with which we communicate effectively, but we use varying terminology and there are small cultural differences that you just need to learn!

It’s heartening, however, to see just how much expertise has gone into getting the Wallyford Learning Campus this far. There are many highly skilled individuals and teams with an important role to play in making the strategic vision an operational reality. We are already at a crucial decision making stage when it comes e.g. finalising interior plans, and ensuring that the building has the right IT provided. My key focus has been on asking the question: will that work for our young people? It was great to speak with the architect and to begin to get a feel for how the space can be used most effectively.

One of my week one priorities was to meet with the chairs of the Parent Councils at Wallyford Primary School and Pinkie St. Peter’s. We had an informal and wide ranging discussion around school identity, the wider community, and how we can work together to ensure a positive transition experience. I look forward to also engaging with parents from Musselburgh Grammar school too. Their children may have already made the key move to secondary school, but they will now have all the challenges and opportunities of a second transition. I am currently working on a plan for a number of parental engagement throughout the year, to ensure that we are able to work positively together from the earliest stage.