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:
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
21st November 2013
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.