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"MGS Head Teacher's Letters" - 5 new articles

  1. Parental Newsletter June 2014
  2. Parental Newsletter May 2014
  3. 2nd Parental Newsletter April 2014
  4. April 2014 newsletter one
  5. March 2014 Parental Newsletter
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search MGS Head Teacher's Letters
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Parental Newsletter June 2014

Dear Parent

Staffing

 As ever at this time of year, we say goodbye to a number of staff.

 Mrs Wills, PT of Support for Learning, retires at the end of the term after at least 20 years in post. Hers is a very complex post: demanding a considerable knowledge of the legislation around Additional Support Needs, an ability to work closely with other agencies, an ability to work closely with parents and pupils, and an ability to advise subject staff of how best to support those pupils in class. She brings great patience and compassion to her job. I wish her a long and prosperous retirement. Ms Donoghue takes over as PT in August.
Mr Sneddon in Physics is also retiring. He was the PT Physics here from 1986 and has been a tremendous mentor to the staff who joined that department and a hugely wise and committed teacher to many generations of pupils here. I appreciated his thoughtful comments about any changes we were introducing to the school.

Mr Scott in the PE Department is also moving to Dunbar Grammar School as Head of Health and Wellbeing. He has been with us for 6 years. Nothing is too much trouble for him and I thank him for all his work here and wish him well in his new post when he starts in August.

Several staff have been with us for a year as newly qualified teachers so we say goodbye to Ms McGhee in Music, Mr McCarthy and Ms Benson in PE, Ms Robinson in English and Mr Ritchie in History. Ms Mitchell and Mr Calder finish as temporary teachers in Social Studies also.

 
The final staffing change is my own. I am going on secondment for two years to the Scottish Qualifications Authority in August as Head of Qualifications Development. This post oversees the introduction of the new National Qualifications in Higher and Advanced Higher. It is an exciting opportunity to be involved in national developments and one that I am looking forward to. However, it is my intention to retire as Head Teacher at the end of that secondment and I have agreed that the authority can advertise the post on a permanent basis. I thus will finish as Head Teacher here at the end of the term in July. The authority will appoint an Acting Head Teacher until the post has been advertised, interviewed and a preferred candidate identified. It has been a very enjoyable 11 years in post and it has been a privilege to serve this community and work with so many committed staff and supportive parents and pupils. I leave with many happy memories.

 
Change to the Mailshot arrangements

Traditionally, we have sent out a mailshot by post in September to all our parents with a booklet of details and several return forms. The cost of running off a large booklet and the postage for this is considerable and we have decided that we will now place the information on the school website, which we are reconfiguring. Parents will receive a set of forms to complete and return by pupil post. (Any parent who does not have access to the website can ask for a paper copy of the booklet.)

SQA examinations
The final examination in this year’s diet took place on Monday 2nd June, the day the seniors returned from examination leave. We were very impressed with the attitude of the pupils sitting examinations this year – National 5 for S4 and Intermediates, Higher and Advanced Higher for S5 and S6 – arriving in good time, well prepared and methodical in their use of time during each examination. The invigilators led by Mr Reeves were very complimentary.
Perhaps it would be timely to say to parents of the new S4 that last year’s S4 had to be very organised and keep on top of work right from the start of June. Several should have been presented at a higher level or had to be withdrawn from courses because their coursework was not handed in on time and they could not be passed for a course.

P7 pupils
After a number of preparatory events and transitions organised by the school and Community Learning and Development, we will welcome P7 pupils for their two day visit on Tuesday 17th and Monday 18th June. They will arrive slightly later than usual on Tuesday because of the Queen’s Baton Relay.

Queen’s Baton Relay
We have now been notified of the exact time when this will pass through Musselburgh, which is later than we expected. It starts at 9:00am at Murdoch’s Green, Musselburgh. The route follows Edinburgh Road onto Bridge Street, High Street, Linksfield Road and arrives at Ravensheugh Road at approx. 10am. Having pupils come in to school and then leave again, causing congestion as they move to the route is not a good idea, so here is what we expect:
• Pupils who do NOT want to see the relay can come to school at the normal time, but once they are here, they stay here and go to their classes.
• Pupils who DO want to see the relay can go to the vantage points straight from home and then come to school: they must arrive by 10.30 when we will take registration.

End of term details

School Concert Thursday 26th June 7.30pm
Prizegiving Wednesay 2nd July 7pm
End of term Friday 4th July at 12.10pm
School reopens for pupils on Thursday 21st August at 8.45.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

    


Parental Newsletter May 2014

Dear Parent,
Musselburgh Grammar School Inspection report
The report is now published and I hope you have had the chance to read it. It praises aspects of the school and it also identifies areas that need attention. We are well placed to meet the request for improvement from the inspection team. There were positive comments about the staff’s approach to teaching and learning – “most tasks and activities in classes match the needs of most young people well and allow them to make appropriate progress in their learning” – and “their willingness …. to lead on improving aspects of young people’s experience.” There were positive comments about our pupils – “most young people are motivated and keen to do well” and they were seen as a key strength. There were positive comments about the support of our parents – “parents organised a very successful careers event which helped young people in thinking about realistic possibilities for their future beyond school.”
The grading of “weak” for improvements in performance was a disappointment to us. That rather suggests that there has been no improvement or no quality in examination performance in the school which is not the case. The Musselburgh Area Profile which is drawn up by the authority indicates that pupils in many areas of our community exceed the East Lothian average in their examination performance. We gathered a lot of extra data about the circumstances of the school and about our performance by the end of S6: for example the number of S4 pupils achieving 5 Credit passes by the end of S6 has risen from 35% to 50% in 11 years and for 3 Highers from 22% to 31% in the same period. Quality is there: our pupils achieved 436 Higher awards at Grades A-C last year. We felt this showed long-term improvement over many years, and it was the subject of very intense conversations with the inspection team. However, we now have to accept the findings of the inspectors and so we have to seek quicker improvements in performance in the number of passes at National 4 and National 5 and have more pupils pass a subject at Higher in S5 rather than a year later in S6.
The school improvement plan for 2014-15 will accordingly reflect the issues raised in the HMIe report as well as reflecting national developments such as the delivery of the new SQA qualifications. The plan will focus on the request to raise attainment in national examinations, but we also intend to extend the tracking system we use for S4-6 into S1-3 to help raise attainment and expectations in the longer term for our pupils. Teachers will continue to develop the curriculum for all years and we will continue to reflect as a school on the things we need to do to improve the educational experience of our pupils, appreciating their wider achievements and also helping them achieve skills for learning, life and work. We also intend to spend more time sharing our best practice in teaching across the different departments in the school, sharing what leads to better learning for pupils and thus better performance. The Senior Management Team and Principal Teachers will be spending more time in classes, helping class teachers raise the expectations and aspirations of some pupils and guiding staff into getting the most out of pupils. Pupils obviously have a role to play in this since teaching and learning is a two-way process. While the vast majority want to do well at school and try very hard, some pupils attend poorly, are reluctant to give their best in class, and do not yet recognise the importance of homework and producing their best work first time around. For the good of those children, we will continue to challenge those attitudes.
We already work with a number of agencies in East Lothian and further afield to help us achieve our goals and some further collaborative work has already started to achieve more for the Musselburgh community. We have a large, experienced and committed group of staff in the school; pupils who want to do well; parents who appreciate the work we do; and a community who knows the school’s value to the area.
We are, as I said at the beginning of this letter, well placed to meet the request for improvement from the inspection team and are determined to address the issues identified in the report. Many parents have commented during the session about the hard-working staff in the school. The staff appreciate the support of parents and want to work with you to bring about further improvement.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

    

2nd Parental Newsletter April 2014

Dear Parent

Update on inspection process

The school was inspected week beginning 24th February and things have been moving on behind the scenes. I was given a copy of the draft report from the Managing Inspector and had the opportunity to make suggestions to the wording, many of which have been accepted. I also asked for supplementary data to be considered in relation to one of the quality indicators. This has delayed the publication of the report. I was however told on Thursday that the date of publication will now be Tuesday 13th May. Like all schools, we will then have to put together an action plan to deal with aspects of the report. I will put out another newsletter at the time of the publication of the report explaining aspects of this.

Easter Revision Classes
School staff were asked if they were willing to run revision classes over Easter again this year and Mr Mackinnon put together a programme covering most subjects in a total of 40 sessions. There was a good take-up from pupils who are obviously anxious to do well in the forthcoming examinations, which start on Tuesday 29th April.
I am sure all staff in the school join me in wishing our S4-S6 good luck in their forthcoming examinations and qualifications.

Queen’s Baton Relay for Commonwealth Games
We have been notified that the baton will pass through Musselburgh on Tuesday 17th June between 8.15 until 9.20. Following a discussion at the Senior Management meeting, we have decided to adopt the same procedure as we did for the Olympic Torch in 2012. We think that many pupils will want to see the baton, so we will give them the chance to do so if they wish. The school will open at the usual time and pupils will go to registration as normal if they do not want to see the baton. Those attending the event should reach the school by 9.30 and go to their period 1 class. We will remind pupils of the arrangements nearer the time. I would also remind parents of how congested the roads became when the Olympic Flame came through Musselburgh and the east of Edinburgh and it might be better to have children walk to school that day rather than drop them off.
Just as importantly, three of our pupils will be baton-bearers: Sean McCann, Alex Muir and Rachel Cameron. It is a great honour for them and I am delighted for them and their families.
Electoral Registration
The referendum on Scottish Independence draws nearer and we are keen that our pupils who are eligible to vote – i.e. over the age of 16 on the day of the referendum – have registered. We were approached by the Youth Parliament to make it easier for our pupils to register and we did this one day in March.
Tell Them from Me
This is a project run by Edinburgh University where school leavers can log on to a website and talk about their experience of school. The project last ran in 1979 and was very influential on policy makers at Scottish Government and other agencies. We arranged for S6 pupils to complete it at their PSE period last week or do it in their own study time. It can be completed by all leavers in the school from S4 and S5 too – Mrs Scott the Librarian has the details and pupils can log on to the website and complete the online questionnaire there – it takes about 10 minutes. The on-line survey is being designed, hosted and analysed by the research team at the University of Edinburgh. Young people taking part in the survey will not be asked to give their names. Responses will be anonymous, and will be electronically submitted directly to the survey database at the University. The school will get anonymised feedback from the project team summarising what our own pupils have said.
Extra in-service day in August 2014
Scottish Government announced some time ago that there would be an extra in-service day for secondary staff only in session 2014-15 to help teachers with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence – the new Higher is introduced this year.
Following consultation with schools and stakeholders, East Lothian Council has announced that this day will be added to the 2 August in-service days, so that staff are in Monday Tuesday and now Wednesday 18-20th August, with pupils returning to school on Thursday 21st August.
If you have a child at an East Lothian primary school, he or she will still start school on Wednesday 20th August.
Dates for your diary

Monday 5th May – May Day holiday
Tuesday 6th May – In-service Day for staff
Wednesday 7th May – Pupils return
Friday 16th May – S1 reports issued
Monday 19th May – Victoria Day holiday
Tuesday 20th May – Pupils and staff resume
Friday 30th May – S3 reports issued
Monday 2nd June – start of new timetable for S2-S6.
Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th June – P7 visits
Thursday 26th June – Summer Concert
Wednesday 2nd July – Prizegiving
Friday 4th July – close for summer at 12.10

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

    


April 2014 newsletter one

Dear Parent

S4 reports and Easter Revision

I spent quite a long time over a weekend reading through the S4 reports. The vast majority of our pupils have clearly been working hard since August to try to reach the correct level of presentation with many pupils getting “excellents” across the board for effort, behaviour and homework in almost all their subjects. I have issued a number of letters in recognition of this with some advice on revision and examination preparation too. I will place the revision information on the school website.

Parents of pupils in S4 might also find the Parentzone website helpful:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/parentzone/learningathome/helpingprepareforexams/prepare.asp

There are a number of revision classes running during the school term and also over the Easter holiday and I would encourage pupils to sign up for these to support their own individual revision. S4 – S6 have this information already but we will try to add it to the school website.

SAFE event
My thanks to Mr O’Connor and various other external agencies, including Community Learning and Development, for running the SAFE event last week. Parents of P7 pupils due to arrive in August were shown how to access the new my MERIT account, PC Smith spoke about safety in the community, and various tips were given to parents on dealing with setting boundaries with children and dealing with internet safety.

Celebrating Success
27 pupils, from S1 through to S6, sat Trinity Music College Graded Music Examinations in February with great success, from Grade 1 through to Grade 7. I am delighted to see them do so well – many will be the next generation of performers in school concerts and in the East Lothian Showcase event each March. The certificates were awarded at House Assemblies.
S1 – Rebecca Addie (Grade 3), Leylah Campbell (G2), Blair Hay (G3), Gabriel Neill (G3), Finn Ritchie (G3), Rachel Stevenson (G4)
S2 – Joy Archer (G5), Eleanor Ellis (G1), Ross Hunter (G2), Aimee Wilkinson (G4)
S3 – Simon Archer (G7), Chloe Briggs (G2) , Alisdair Colver (G4), Sophie Robertson (G3), Nicole Wilkinson (G4)
S4 – Seth Allen (G4), Cameron Dunlop (G4) Peter McNeill (G5), Greg Miller (G4)
S5 – Maria Addie (G7), Zoe Maxwell (G5), Emily Page (G5), Hazel Pike (G5), Nathan Russell (G5), Eilidh Walter (G5)
S6 – Katy Mackale (G5), Laura Stevenson (G6)
Simon Archer and Peter McNeill of the pupils above also auditioned for and were accepted into the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra – this is a real feather in their cap because of the high standard of entry, number of applicants and because we have never had anyone accepted before. They have also auditioned for the Junior Conservatoire at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow and we await news regarding this.
Karate
Daniel Simpson of S1 has been selected to be part of the JKA Karate Scotland team and will compete in the European Championships in Prague in May.
Badminton
The Mid and East Lothian Schools Badminton Championships took place during February and I’m delighted to report that Rachel Cameron S1 represented Musselburgh Grammar for the Under 14 girls singles (reaching the quarter-finals). Her brother Jason in S4 and Rachel Cameron represented Musselburgh Grammar in the Under 16 Mixed Doubles at the Scottish National Schools Championships in Perth on 8/9 March. Jason then went on to play in the under -16 singles at that tournament, reaching the third round. Rachel was in the top 4 for under-13 singles, semi-finals for mixed doubles and second for doubles. She is now part of the National Junior Squad.
Football success
Mr Scott’s senior football team have won the East division of the Edinburgh and Lothian’s league. They won it with a dramatic 3-2 victory last week. They will play the winners of the West division on Friday the 8th of May in a match to decide the overall Edinburgh and Lothian’s champions, a title that Musselburgh have not won for a significant time (maybe ever?). Mr Scott, who manages the team, says that their attitude, commitment and maturity have been outstanding for the whole year.

Mr Semple’s team, the U14s, won the Lothian League. They were unbeaten having played 8, won 7 and drawn 1(against Ross HS – a thrilling 4-4 draw).

Mr Forrest’s team, the under-13s, lost to preston Lodge in the opening game of the season but have been unbeaten since. They play Preston Lodge again on Tuesday this week and if they win, will have to play them again in a play off for the title. One of our Under-13 sevens teams has won through to the SSFA Cashback 7’s regional final. This will be played in Edinburgh on 7th May with the Scottish Finals provisionally held at Celtic Park in Glasgow.
S4 qualifications arrangements

SQA qualifications change this year and our current S4 will be presented for the new National 3, 4 and 5 qualifications. As National 3 and 4 courses have no external examination at the end of the course, there is no need for all pupils to be given examination leave in April and May. Mrs Mackie distributed material last week to pupils who are sitting examinations and Mr Fruish spoke to the others last weekend. All pupils should now be clear about the arrangements.

Fundraising
Pupils, staff and parents are very generous in this school thinking of others. Here is the work we have done in this area this year so far: Total donated: £3941.36
Make a wish £350
Vine Trust £150
Rag Bag £23 + £27.20 – £50.20
McMillan £435.27
Wear It Pink £224.14
Poppies £738.34
Poppy Wristbands £312.00
CHAS £94.94
British Heart £1017.16
Action Aid £180.00
Syria Oxfam £45.00
Mirco Tyco £274.31
Oxfam £ 70.00

Dates for your diary

Friday 4th April at 12.10 – finish for Easter holiday
Tuesday 23rd April at 8.45 – Staff and pupils return
Monday 5th May – May Day holiday
Tuesday 6th May – In-service Day for staff
Wednesday 7th May – Pupils return
Friday 16th May – S1 reports issued
Monday 19th May – Victoria Day holiday
Tuesday 20th May – Pupils and staff resume
Friday 30th May – S3 reports issued
Monday 2nd June – start of new timetable for S2-S6.

As you can see from the dates above, we close on Friday for the Easter holiday and I hope everyone enjoys their break – although S4-S6 pupils need to find the right balance between recharging their batteries and making time to revise for the forthcoming SQA examinations which begin on Tuesday 29th April. There is very little time left for pupils before the examinations start so pupils should already have drawn up a revision plan and be working through the Easter holiday period.
Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

    

March 2014 Parental Newsletter

Dear Parent

Inspection
The inspection took place as planned week beginning 24th February. There were 8 people on the team including a Lay Inspector and a Food and Nutrition Inspector, so it was a very intense week, where they observed a large number of lessons, though they usually only stayed for half the period and moved on to another class. The Senior Management team were given verbal feedback on Friday 28th February for over 2 hours and we have very extensive notes. Unfortunately, we are not able to share all of this information with the staff and with parents at this point, which is frustrating for all concerned.

I am able to share the strengths of the school which they identified as high quality support to pupils; friendly and mannerly young people; steps taken to broaden and stretch the curriculum; and staff willingness to lead on improving aspects of the school. The action points will be around improving approaches to joint self-evaluation with parents, pupils and stakeholders; improving attainment; and continuing to improve the curriculum.
The Managing Inspector now writes a draft report (which is shared with the Head Teacher, the authority and the co-chairs of the Parent Council) on which we can comment. That draft report should reach us this week. Once our comments are received and considered, the final report is drafted and should be published online around about the end of April. (I am aware that our S4-6 pupils might be on exam leave at this point so I will issue them with a note to let you know when it is finally published.)
Members of the inspection team had a large number of meetings with the senior management team, with groups of staff and with groups of pupils. They also met a number of parents. The Managing Inspector had clearly read the parental and pupil questionnaire returns in great detail and was able to give me good feedback on this aspect of the school.
I am very aware as head teacher just how seriously staff regarded the inspection. Many people were in the school well after the end of the school day on many occasions and we had 25 staff in the school on the Saturday morning before the inspection – my thanks to them for their continuing hard work in preparing for the inspection and indeed for their hard work in implementing Curriculum for Excellence.
I was very proud of the pupils during the week of the inspection as they were a credit to us all, speaking well about their learning and what they do in school and outside and generally giving the inspectors very positive messages. You will be able to see what they said once the final report is published.
Over 100 parents posted off the questionnaire, so thanks to all who responded. I will be better able to elaborate on this once the final report is out, but I appreciate people taking the time to do this.
Beyond the inspection….
The school, of course, does not stop simply because we have visitors. This is an exceptionally busy term in any year, and of course we are in the first year of the new SQA qualifications. In this week alone we have SQA Music performances on Monday and Tuesday, S5/6 photographs on Tuesday, course choice forms due for return, HPV vaccinations for S2 girls on Thursday and the S4 reports will be out at the end of this week. The S5/6 reports will be issued on Wednesday 26th March.
Mr MacKinnon is currently finding out from staff about revision courses which we will run over Easter for S4-6. Details on this will follow soon. In the meantime, I would remind parents that a number of our staff run revision classes after school already and that it would be well worth a pupil’s time to attend if they are struggling with a subject.

Dates to note:
Tuesday 11th March – S4/5 course choice forms returned
Friday 14th March – S4 reports issued
Friday 21st March – Performance Show
Tuesday 25th March – P7 SAFE event
Friday 4th April – Easter Service and close for holiday at 12.10pm.
Tuesday 22nd April – School restarts for pupils and staff

Summary of 2012-2013 School Improvement Plan
It has been pointed out to me that parents should receive a summary of the previous year’s improvement plan. Although I generally have commented on the school’s work through the various newsletters and by posting my Prizegiving speech on the website, it is only right that this should be pulled together formally – my apologies for not doing so earlier. It is enclosed with this newsletter (with pupil post only)

Yours sincerely,

Ronnie Summers
Head Teacher

    


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