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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Unusually for this time of year, we have a number of staffing changes. Mrs Steel in Support for Learning retires at the end of this week and is replaced by Ms MacBeath, a teacher of many years’ experience. Mrs Steel has been a huge support to pupils and staff alike since she came here after many years’ service in East Lothian schools and I wish her a long and prosperous retirement. Mrs Marshall in Business Education is moving to another school much closer to her home – many thanks for her work here and I’m sure she will settle into her new surroundings quickly. Ms Addison is soon to arrive to cover Mrs Ellis’ maternity absence in Biology, as Ms McKendrick, who was covering that absence is moving to a permanent post in another school. Ms Mitchell and Mr Calder join us in Geography as cover for Mrs Dias and Mrs Orsi who are on maternity leave. Ms Taylor, who was covering one of these posts, has also left us for a permanent post in another school. Mrs Jardine has returned to the school as a Grange Guidance teacher after maternity leave and Mrs Taylor returns to her duties as a teacher in Home Economics. Many thanks to Mrs Taylor for her support to Grange pupils in her acting PT Guidance role for most of the last year.
School session dates 2014/2015
The authority has now completed its consultation on the session dates for next year 2014/2015 and I enclose the dates for your reference. Parents of pupils in S4-6 should be aware that there is no examination resit process for SQA examinations and thus pupils should not be out of school during the examination diet.
My congratulations to Rachel Sharples of S6 who recently competed at the Sainsbury School Games in Sheffield and returned with a bronze medal, competing against people from all across Britain. Also worthy of mention is Niamh Rayfield of S2 who is now attending the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow one afternoon a week as part of their Scotland’s Transitions project– a great achievement to be selected for this and I’m sure it will be immensely enjoyable and stimulating.
Our S4 pupils are completing the second batch of placements this week. As ever, we have received some very appreciative emails, letters and telephone messages about how well our pupils have acted as ambassadors for the schools. I’m delighted to see them all do so well and return with an increased awareness of the importance of courtesy, timekeeping and personal skills in the workplace.
Reading Race S1-3
Some parents may have noted recent articles in the press about how young people are reading far less than before and are actually embarrassed about being seen reading. Not in this school they’re not! Every English class starts with pupils opening their own personal reader and the department has just recently introduced The Reading Race for S1-3, whereby pupils are encouraged to read a variety and range of texts, not just the types of book (fiction and non-fiction) that they like. This builds on the 5 minute reading period we have had for some time at the start of each period which was to encourage personal reading and enjoyment in reading. Literacy is hugely important to success in life and our pupil’s literacy must deepen and widen in their time here.
Visits and trips out of school
Even at this early point of the session, there have been a lot of curriculum visits and trips out of school.
Duke of Edinburgh Silver Pupils have completed both their practice and qualifying expeditions; an Advanced Higher Biology group have been at Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh; the S5/6 Creative Industries group have been at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh while an S3 Art group visited the Peter Doig Expedition at the National Gallery of Edinburgh.
S6 pupils have had their Dalguise weekend; another group have been away at Alton Towers; and S5/6 PE group were down in Manchester on a Tactical Awareness course and attended the Manchester City versus Bayern Munich football match.
S4 Geography pupils need to do fieldwork as part of their course and one group has been away at Innerwick Centre on the east side of the county for two days as part of this – another group will do this work later on in the year.
2 pupils (Morgan Beattie and Craig Johnston) had a wonderful experience as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust by visiting Auschwitz.
Future Dates to note
Thursday 10th October – P7 Parents’ Information Evening 6.30 pm- 8.30pm
October holiday – Monday 14th October to Monday 21st October inclusive: pupils return Tuesday 22nd October
Tuesday 29th October – S1 Parents’ Consultation Meeting 5pm- 7pm.
Wednesday 6th November – S4 Parents’ Consultation Meeting 5pm-7pm.
Thursday 28th November – S5/6 Parents’ Consultation meeting 5pm- 7pm
Welcome back after the holidays to everyone connected with the school. It was delightful to have solid sunshine for many weeks in July after the dreich weather of last summer. (I was unlucky two weeks ago to be at the Edinburgh Tattoo when it rained for 80 solid minutes, though.)
I intend to put out a fuller newsletter in the mailshot in early September, but there are a couple of general issues which I’d like to cover in this first newsletter.
I indicated in my June newsletter that I would update parents on staffing changes in August as a result of retirements and contractual changes.
Mr MacDonald has taken over as PT Health and Wellbeing with responsibility for the PE and Home Economics Departments. There are three changes in the English Department: Mrs Neill returns after maternity leave; Ms Thomas is a new member of staff and Ms Johnstone will join that department in a week or so also, both as permanent appointments. Mrs Mair joins the Mathematics Department. Mr Wright joins the Physics Department. Mr Nicolson returns to the Modern Studies Department after his secondment with Education Scotland. Mr Court will join the Biology Department very soon as maternity cover for Mrs Robertson – Ms Archibald covering temporarily. Mr Tully joins the Support for Learning Department. Several staff join us on temporary contracts for their training year – Ms Benson and Mr McCarthy in PE, Ms Robinson in English, Ms Henderson in Modern Languages, Ms McGhee in Music and Mr Ritchie in History.
Ms Ramsay who was our Active Sports co-ordinator leaves at the end of the week to take up a post in Cheltenham as Head of Girls’ Sports – she has been a great asset to the school and involved many children in the sports programmes we run and I wish her well.
I will go into more details about the results for S4-S6 pupils in my September mailshot, but I wish to mention some excellent performances by a number of pupils – in S4, Nathan Russell and Jennifer Scott achieved a Grade 1 pass in all 9 subjects; in S5 19 pupils passed all 5 Highers they sat, with John Archer and Andrew Gibson passing all 5 at Grade A and at Band 1, Greig McLay and Beth Slight also had 5 Grade A passes, while Callum Hunter achieved 5 Grade Higher passes and picked up an Advanced Higher in Music too. Rachel Foley sat an extra Higher and had 6 Higher passes in total. From S6, Marei Binnie, last year’s Head Girl, achieved 4 Advanced Higher passes with Rhona McLay, Rosemary McLister, Kerry Morris, and Rebecca Tonner all achieving 3 AH passes. 3 S6 pupils passed 5 Highers in S6 – Lucie Hill, Verena Kimpel, and Rachel Stewart.
All pupils have been given an individual timetable and we advise them to copy it into their planner. If it is lost, they can see their Guidance teacher for a replacement initially.
S4 timetables have an indication N3, N4 or N5. This is purely an administrative code at present to generate timetables. It does not indicate the course level (National 3, National 4 or National 5) a pupil will be presented for at the end of the year. As I explained in June, decisions on presentation are not taken until much later on in the session. I will hold a meeting on Monday 9th September for S4 parents – a letter will be issued Friday 30th August about this.
A reminder that we ask parents not to park at 3.50 in the turning circle outside the school if they are collecting a child – it obstructs the school bus and service bus from parking properly so that our pupils can get on safely. The whole area is double yellow lined for this reason. We also ask parents not to come in to the school car park at the beginning and end of the school day as we have the potential for accidents with people coming both in and out – pupils are perfectly capable of walking out of the school to be collected nearby. I also have pupils who must be picked up by taxi each day and they must be able to come in and park.
If you have business in the school between 9.00 and 3.15 you are of course welcome to park in the visitor spaces provided in the bottom car park, as it is safe to do so during the school day. If you are in the car park for any reason, there is a one-way system which must be followed – whereby you enter by the middle gate and exit by the gates in the top playground. I would also encourage parents to have their child walk to school – we are in an urban area with broad well-lit pavements: it gives children exercise. Pupils can also cycle – there is an area outside the main reception where bikes can be securely chained.
Attendance and Timekeeping
If you know your child is going to be absent, please telephone the school absence line 0131 653 1390 to leave a message. If your child is absent and we do not receive a message, you will be contacted by Group Call, our device to reduce truancy and ensure pupil safety. The main number 0131 665 4278 is for all other enquiries – the school switchboard is manned from 8.15.
Pupils who miss registration MUST sign in at the front door and give a reason for lateness: if it is not a good reason, a 10 minute detention is set at 1.05 in the Assembly Hall. (There have been occasions when pupils have not signed in and we have sent out a Group Call causing anxiety to parents who know their child has left for school – hence this protocol is very important.)
Morning break and lunchtime
All pupils have been issued with smartcards which they can load up with money to buy food in the dining hall at break and lunchtime. Pupils are not allowed to leave the school at morning break time. The Parent Council and the school are keen that pupils use the dining hall to eat a healthy lunch rather than go to fast food outlets down the street with older pupils. S1 pupils will be brought down to the Dining Hall early for the first month to encourage them to get to know the facilities and become familiar with the different menus. Pupils can order lunch using the Grab and Go system which speeds up the lunch queues. As a parent, you can load money onto the card remotely – see the council website for details. Senior staff are present in the Dining Hall to ensure good order and we note that almost all pupils are served 15 minutes into lunch.
MGS Parent Council AGM
The Parent Council is always pleased to welcome parents of new pupils onto the Parent Council. Our constitution is flexible enough to admit many members and we are not full. The AGM is on Wednesday 25th September at 6.30 p.m. Any proposed amendments to the constitution have to be submitted to Mrs Allen the Chair of the Parent Council two weeks before the AGM – so by Wednesday 11th September. They can reach her in a sealed envelope given to the school office which will be placed in the Parent Council folder for her to collect.
Bus passes are arranged by the authority not by the school. All pupils are expected to behave well on the buses, especially when they are sharing the service with the general public. The school has removed passes from pupils in the past as both a short-term and permanent sanction after bad behaviour. If a pupil going to Whitecraig misses the dedicated school bus, they should return to the school for arrangements to be made to get him or her home safely. No Whitecraig pupil should be walking home, since it involves crossing the road at several points.
All pupils must carry their pass each day and show it to the driver if asked – the company has the right to ask for payment if it is not carried. The pass is non-transferable. If it is lost, you must make arrangements for a replacement. We can issue paper passes for a short period, but we will not do so long-term and it is the responsibility of a parent to complete a new application form and pay for another pass.
All pupils in the school are being given a planner to record homework. I would like to stress to parents that we would encourage you to monitor this planner – it is not a personal diary for pupils and you are quite entitled to see what homework is being set by staff and take an interest in when your child is doing their homework. We expect the planner to be carried in a bag along with other materials every day.
I held an assembly for every yeargroup on Thursday to welcome them back and remind them about the standards of work and behaviour we expect of them in the school. I was pleased to see almost everyone in uniform on their return. We also welcomed back very many senior pupils – over 340. Many were absolutely delighted at having done so well in their SQA examinations – but also know how hard they will have to work to get the very best results they can in the current difficult economic climate. Our Head Boy and Head Girl interviews will be held next Thursday.
I wish every pupil success in the coming year and we look forward to establishing positive working relationships with parents of our new pupils in S1 and continuing positive relationships with those in S2-S6.
Celebrating Success – congratulations to Ben Forsyth in S5, champion cyclist. He travelled down to Blackpool during the summer to compete against the 80 best riders in Britain in his age group, won the race, and is the British Youth Circuit Under-16 Champion. Also nice to see Lewis White in S5 continue to be an international footballer, as he has been picked again for the Under-16 squad to play against Italy on 4th September.
Ladies and gentlemen, Chief Executive, guests, pupils and staff of Musselburgh Grammar School, I’m delighted to have the chance to talk to you tonight about the last twelve months in the school and also about my experience as Head Teacher in that time. It does not feel like 365 days have passed since I stood on this stage last year for the same purpose – a school year passes faster and faster since I first came here in August 2003.
As in other years, my address to you falls into four sections which do overlap at times – an overview of Scottish education, an indication of my involvement in Scottish education beyond headship of this school, an appreciation of retiring staff and an overview of events in the school this year, illustrating how education is far more than events in the classroom for 27 periods per week for 40 weeks of the year. We offer a rich and varied education and our pupils learn to value our values and seize the opportunities open to them.
Allow me then to elaborate on that overview of Scottish education first of all. We are fortunate to see education appear regularly in both print and other media like radio and television. We are unfortunate that on too many occasions the story is written from a negative standpoint – probably because good news doesn’t make the headlines and complex changes and soundbite journalism are not easy bedfellows. We also now have to deal with social media – where it is too easy to offer up speculation as fact either through misunderstanding or malice – which require a speedy response to avoid damage to the reputation of the school.
I read too often about perceived problems in Scottish education and do not recognise that picture in my own school. One reason for my monthly newsletter to you is to share the good things that happen and to explain changes to you. I have also been very prepared to take the time to have extra parental meetings for Curriculum for Excellence and I will do so again for the parents of those pupils who have just started their new S4 timetable. That meeting will occur in early September and will explain the new qualification arrangements and what will occur for pupils this year. Staff here work very hard and go the extra mile: pupils here work hard and take advantage of the opportunities opened up to them. I spoke a week past on Monday to the new S4 pupils in a series of workshops about the challenges which will face them this year and how they can be successful.
We are now in the fifth year of seven years of change as part of the Curriculum for Excellence programme. By this time, schools across Scotland have delivered changed courses for pupils in S1-S3; have written informative reports for each year; and have now delivered the S3 profile as required. Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualification Authority have arranged briefing meetings for subject staff, for verifiers of the new qualifications, and for SQA co-ordinators and senior staff including head teachers. We have had 11 Briefing Papers on curriculum matters – and in fact one might argue that the volume of paperwork to read and internalise is contributing to the pressure staff are feeling.
I was amused at Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell’s assertion at a recent education conference that head teachers are adding to the bureaucracy for teachers. The reality is the opposite – I sift out piles of material that comes to me and decide what is essential for all and only necessary for some. I use the round file extensively – i.e. the waste bin both virtually and in reality –and on a daily basis. Mr MacKinnon and I have a very good system because of our backgrounds as English and Mathematics teachers: if it’s words, it’s mine; if it’s figures, it’s his. I do think he has the better deal!
What is not in doubt from any quarter is that staff are working extremely hard to make the new qualifications a reality while continuing to prepare older pupils in S4-6 for the current examinations.
You will be aware that this process of change is taking place against a backdrop of increasing financial austerity. Local authorities have to take very hard decisions about their priorities and corporate responsibilities. You would expect me as Head Teacher of this school to argue for the importance of education and indeed I will. I am personally opposed to asking all parts of the council to shoulder cuts to budgets on an equal basis since I believe some things are more important than others. Education cannot consider itself immune from requests for savings but there has, however, to be a clear understanding that education has high fixed costs (primarily salaries) which make up a very large proportion of our budget. We have already made savings in each of the last 5 years and it will be difficult to make further savings without that impacting on the education of pupils. We will continue to work with officers of the council to deliver the best service we can on the budget available to us.
Education in East Lothian does not work in a vacuum and we were notified in January – as a late Christmas present – that we and our cluster nursery and primary schools were to receive a Professional Engagement visit from Education Scotland staff the next month on the topic of health and wellbeing. These engagement visits are quite new and we were not sure what to expect – but they were, we discovered, more of a fact-finding visit by Inspectorate staff to identify good practice. It was gratifying to find out just how well our staff had understood that they were all responsible for pupil health and wellbeing – diet, exercise, mental wellbeing – and the feedback to us all was good.
Our Parent Council, one of the most active in East Lothian, approached us with a view to holding a Careers Fair for all pupils on Friday 7th June. That was a huge success involving a tremendous amount of preparation and we have received very positive feedback from the exhibitors who came that day and from the pupils themselves. It is a very good example of parental partnership with the school for the benefit of pupils.
You will be aware that Don Ledingham Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services will leave the authority in late July. It would be inappropriate for me to omit reference to this especially since my son attended Dunbar Grammar School when he was Head Teacher. I am sorry to see him depart the authority: he gave East Lothian national prominence because of the suggestions he made on how education should be arranged for the benefit of pupils. He was one of the prime movers in the development of the Hospitality and Tourism Academy, of which more later. His phrase “unconditional positive regard” reminds us that children make mistakes and it is important for teachers both to accept this without qualification and not to give up on any child. His educational view was inclusive not elitist. I know he was hugely appreciative of the work staff did in dealing with challenging children here and elsewhere. I also know how hard he worked in recent years to find savings at the centre rather than cut into school budgets. I wish him well in his new role as Director of Innovative Ideas and hope that he continues to have contact with schools in East Lothian.
In November, I became President of School Leaders Scotland and it has been hugely helpful for me to be involved in high-level discussions with the significant players in Scottish education such as Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell, Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualification Authority, Universities Scotland and the General Teaching Council. It has helped me steer the school in the right direction and share that information quietly and advantageously – and sometimes in confidence – with education colleagues in the local authority and in other schools. Sometimes those significant players, because they are divorced from the day to day reality of a school, can make suggestions that look ideal on paper but which would not add value to the experience of pupils ore even send us in unproductive directions. It is important that I am empowered to raise legitimate objections on behalf of pupils, parents and staff to such organisations. In such company you learn how to phrase your concerns – and also to offer solutions too. I thus act as a figurehead for the school on that national stage and you would be surprised to hear how often people quietly praise the work we do here.
Let me move on then to describe some of that work that has occurred in the last year in the third section of my address to you. The most important thing we do is our maintenance agenda – delivering education for 27 periods a week for all our pupils, to meet their needs, to respond to what is in front of the teacher and to have the professional confidence to deviate from the lesson plan if required. Education is not a sprint but a marathon – with relays of teachers from nursery to S6 passing on the baton with each child. Success generally comes from persistence and resilience, not just innate talent. That doesn’t make for good newspaper headlines, alluding to an earlier point I made – but it’s the core of what we do and we do it well.
Bearing in mind that pupils might not recall trigonometry on a wet Wednesday afternoon in March – what might pupils and staff recall from their year if they were asked?
In Mathematics, they might recall the Enterprising Mathematics competition earlier this month where one of our two teams came 7th out of 30 Lothian schools, and we were the first East Lothian school – so we move on to national finals in Glasgow – that team composed on Seth Allen, Keir Convey, Amelia Stott, James Allison. Liam Carlyle, Alisdair Colver, Kyle Irvine and Beth Orr. In the UK Mathematics Challenge we were awarded 6 Gold, 9 Silver and 17 Bronze certificates: a Gold means you are in the top 6% of the UK. Simon Archer in S2 scored so highly in the Junior section that he was invited to participate in the Junior Mathematics Olympiad earlier this month. Two S3 pupils were invited to a mathematics masterclass at Edinburgh University. Our success is not limited to younger pupils though. As part of their Higher Mathematics course, pupils have to sit and pass interim assessments called NABs. Four pupils got 100% in each of the 3 NABS they had to sit – outstanding for Greg McLay, Beth Slight, Andrew Gibson and Moray Cumming.
In Expressive Arts subjects like Art and Music, younger pupils were working on a graffiti boards project with the Parent Council while older pupils did a Performance Show in association with other departments and we had our first Art and Design trip to London last September. 43 pupils in Music have just returned from a tour to Germany and gave us a lovely outdoor concert just before they left. That group also went busking in Asda the week before Christmas. We were heavily represented at the authority Showcase Concert for all schools in March at the Brunton Hall. We had 6 pupils at the Rotary Club Young Musician of the Year – Simon Archer taking 3rd place for Juniors and Rebecca Traynor won the senior vocal section and then progressed to the semi-finals held at Heriot-Watt University.
In Business Education and Computing, pupils attended the Christmas Cyber Lecture at Napier University and S3 Business pupils were involved in an Enterprise event in December, with S2 pupils involved in a Financial Awareness and Money Management programme in March.
S6 pupils are likely to remember the Dalguise Leadership weekend in September and their Show in December in this Hall as well as the Senior Ceilidh on Burns Night.
The Support for Learning Department has had its usual busy year – dealing with the Scottish Disability Sport Association for two wheelchair pupils and others, visiting the Scottish Museum, a Ceramics Experience, East Links Farm, participating in various inter-school events, various indoor and outdoor athletics on a regional basis too. Alex Muir was awarded Young Sick Kids Fundraiser of the Year and Seam McCann played Boccia for Scotland and was selected for trials for the Paralympic Boccia team.
Sport remains an important part of what we do here – Miss Ramsay working as our Active School Co-ordinator whipping up enthusiasm for our new P7 pupils on their visit and getting them to sign up for various clubs, for example. I have just found out today that she has been successful in her application to be Head of Girls Sports at a school down in England. I am sorry to lose her – I will miss her can-do attitude and willingness to throw herself into the life of the school. Mrs McSherry has been working with a group of girls and a professional choreographer to prepare a dance to promote the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year – you have probably seen photographs from this in various newspapers. The piece will be danced publicly in August. Our Badminton Group flourishes with more and more pupils involved each year and with increasing success. Morgan Naples, Calum Ferguson and Jason Cameron all won medals in the East and Mid Lothian competition, with Jason selected for the East and Mid Team in the Scottish Championships. We came third in the inter-schools golf event with Jack Valentine runner-up in the scratch event and Declan Henderson runner up in the handicap event. Lewis Bain was selected to represent East Lothian in the Scottish Schools Championship and for the Lothians in the Scottish Boys Team Championship. Stuart Blair qualified for the knock-out stages of the Lothian Men’s Championship for the 3rd year running. Sophie Bain won Monktonhall Ladies Golf Club Championship, the youngest ever to win this. Various pupils also were supported in their pursuit of junior and senior sports leadership qualification. Finally, Ross Muir in S5 has finally achieved his dream of becoming a professional snooker player. I’m awaiting my personal invitation to the Crucible Theatre
More generally, we received huge support from local groups like the Rotary Club, the Red House Trust, East Lothian Education Trust and the Jimmy Harrison Trust Fund and to allow Mr Forrest to take away a group of pupils to the Camas project on the Isle of Mull. Pupils were astonished when they arrived – to find that they could not get a signal on mobile phones – shock horror to have to talk to people face to face!
Other trips went near to Edinburgh like the Royal Highland Show and a Genetics workshop in the Botanic Gardens and far on to France with the Battlefields Trip and Watersports trips, two trips to London and even over to America with the Modern Studies Department.
All of this does not cover various visitors coming to the school, Geography field trips, the Christmas Show and Marketplace and Christmas Concert, fundraising events, Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition, competitions entered, revision classes taking place during the year and at Easter, a Mathematics project using receipts from Tesco to identify pupil eating habits with the primary schools, debates, the S1 Health Day, PSE recycling projects and liaison with the outside community such as St Anne’s Care Home….. and many more. Far more than chalk and talk.
But I’m going to pause to mention finally here one particular project in more depth because it has been the most rewarding professional initiative I have ever been involved in. Three schools – Ross HS, Preston Lodge and ourselves – have been working with Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh College and employers to develop the Hospitality and Tourism Academy. The academy seeks to combine academic knowledge and practical skills to raise the profile of the tourism industry and develop transferable skills. Mr Forgan in Home Economics has been closely involved for us and done a wonderful job in helping the pupils. Parents, pupils and partners stood in the Scottish Parliament last September where Lauren Cain addressed over 150 people from the staircase of the Parliament and fittingly last night the pupils involved received their course certificates for Intermediate 2 Skills for Work at the university. The initiative has generated huge interest from outside and the academy programme is now extending into creative industries, health and social care and food science. All 10 pupils have now graduated from their course with several moving into Year 2.
Finally, staffing changes 2012- 2013. Since there are so many changes in staff in over the year, I gave you this in writing on a separate sheet on your chair, but there are several staff retiring whom I will mention in more detail in the fourth and final section of this report.
Mrs Howarth has been PT Home Economics here since 1987 and latterly took up the post of PT Health and Wellbeing. Often the first member of staff in the car park in the morning, she has run a very effective and important department in the school and her careful management of resources has resulted in the best-appointed set of kitchens and work areas in the whole authority. Congratutions on such a successful career and enjoy your retirement. Mrs Souness was PT Biology here for many years – in fact from 1998 but a teacher from 1979 and a Senior Teacher in 1990 – and has seen her department increase in size and have many more pupils in the department from S3 onward, with many continuing with the subject to Higher and indeed to Advanced Higher with a number of pupils continuing with it at university. She also introduced Higher Human Biology into the senior curriculum. I thank her for her work here and for her encouragement to colleagues in her department over the years. Mr Parker has been a presence in the Mathematics Department since 1986 moving from a school in Edinburgh, although he moved to being part-time a couple of years ago to the betterment of his golf handicap. He has run the Badminton Club for pupils for many years and been our organiser for participating in East Lothian golf competitions. He has been a dedicated and hardworking colleague and I wish him well in his retirement. Mrs Storey in Support for Learning came to us last August having spent many years in a different support role in the authority. She very quickly established herself here as a caring and supportive teacher for pupils in her care and a great help to Mrs Wills. She too has now decided to retire and I’m sure staff across the authority who know her will join our own staff in hoping she has a long and prosperous retirement. Mrs Steele has been our Librarian here since 1976 sharing the post with Mrs Scott now for some years and she too has decided to retire. The Library for all schools is an important learning hub – it encourages pupils in their own personal reading of fiction, it is an important resource for boys who have a large stock of non-fiction to get their teeth into, it has computer access for those who do not have this facility and home, and here it also holds a very well stocked Careers Library. Mrs Steele has always been an encouraging presence in the Library for both staff and pupils and I hope she enjoys her retirement.
As I said at the beginning, I came here in 2003 – it feels paradoxically like a long time ago and yet the years have gone in very quickly. Is it still rewarding being Head Teacher of Musselburgh Grammar? – yes indeed. I still get up in the morning knowing I make a difference to the lives of pupils who attend this school, just like every member of staff in this establishment. Thank you to all parents here for your support over the year and my thanks to other colleagues in East Lothian here tonight for your assistance over the last 12 months. To my pupils, well done and you will soon receive tangible reward for your hard work from the table on my right.
26th June 2013