Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Gracemount Parent Bulletin Monday 12th January 2015

To all Parents and Carers

Head Teacher Update – January 2015

Vision, Values and Aims - Vision 2020
Staff at Gracemount High School have been considering what type of school we want to be in 5 years’ time – we term this our Vision 2020. On Monday 5 January all school staff, teaching and non-teaching, met to consider the following:-

1.       A school vision statement
2.       A set of core values for the school
3.       What our core priorities should be

The Senior Leadership Team are now in the process of looking at the responses. Our next step will be to consult parents, partners and pupils with a view to relaunching our vision, values and aims in June this year. I will be contacting all stakeholders in due course and explain ways in which you can have your say in shaping the future of Gracemount High School.

A Whole School Focus on RESPECT.
As I mentioned in my December blog, ‘Respect’ will be a key whole school focus in January. This focus has emerged further to discussions with pupils, parents and staff and listening to their views on the school. It is also a result of my own observations in school in the short time I have been in post.

I firmly believe that the starting point for effective learning is a positive ethos and a climate of mutual respect and trust based on shared values across the whole school community. It is imperative that we focus on developing an exceptionally positive environment for learning so that all our young people can develop their skills, knowledge and talents and exceed their potential. In order to achieve this we will make respect for ourselves and each other a school priority. During the first week of term I met all staff to discuss this and shared with them 10 key principles for Better Relationships, Better Learning and Better Behaviour, as follows:-

    1. So that learning can flourish.
    2. A belief that every student is capable of meeting our High Expectations – albeit with support for some. Never expect less of a student, we do them no favours. Challenges in their lives do not mean we must lower expectations.
    3. Characterised by unconditional positive regard and assertive authority. We model the behaviour we want to see.
    4. Never say anything which actively harms a student’s self-esteem and seek to resolve conflict and repair relationships where they breakdown.
    5. All staff are involved – regardless of position. Staff must work as a team and support each other.
    6. Consistency is paramount.
    7. Professional development – we all have a responsibility to develop skills in classroom management – first line enforcement.
    8. Relentless focus to build positive relationships and establish firm boundaries.
    9. System must support teachers and students and if teachers or students need support they will get this without prejudice.
    10. We need a strong system with strong teachers so our students can learn.

During the week beginning 5 January I led assemblies for each House Group and outlined how the school will take this agenda forward. A new positive behaviour group has been formed in the school and will begin work immediately on a review of our behaviour policy. There will be a greater focus on positive referrals and reward for students who continually “get it right”. We will continue to offer the highest level of support to our young people who need this, but at the same time we will not lower our expectations of them and what we believe they can achieve. We will also take a strong line with students who continually disrupt the learning of others and who fail to adhere to the school’s high expectations.

Two immediate changes in how we will deal with negative behaviour are highlighted below and both these systems will be piloted in school and reviewed this session.

1    Respect Referral – where a teacher deems that a pupil has shown a significant lack of respect towards them or others in the school, they will complete a ‘respect referral’ and send this directly to me.  The student will then be seen by me and we will discuss how to avoid similar incidents. Should a student be referred for a second time, the student will be seen again and a letter sent home to inform parents/carers of our concerns. In the case of a third referral, the student will be internally excluded (see below) and will not be able to return to any classes until a meeting with their parent/carer has taken place and expectations have been revisited. If we have continued concerns, other sanctions/alternatives will be discussed with the student and their parent/carer.

Internal Exclusion - We believe every student matters and we have the “Highest Expectations” of every individual in our school community. Internal Exclusion will be applied in response to instances of unacceptable behaviour.  It serves as an alternative to temporary exclusion and will hopefully prevent the need to formally exclude a student from school. We recognise that in many instances exclusion leads to little or no change in the behaviour of a young person. We feel it is important to keep those who are at risk of exclusion included in our school community and to work with them to share and instil Gracemount values and principles. This is more desirable than excluding them and denying them continued access to learning. We aim to be an inclusive and restorative school and as such the use of internal exclusion will allow for more effective work to take place, hopefully resulting in positive and sustainable changes in the behaviour of young people.  This approach should enable effective working partnerships between school staff, partner agencies and parents/carers. The reflective and restorative work which will take place during internal exclusion aims to develop in students and parents/carers a deeper understanding of school expectations and practices and explore the young person’s response to these.

Internal Exclusion provides an opportunity for the student to be supported in reflecting on his/her behaviour and to consider the impact that it has on others including classmates, teachers and family members. Crucially the process enables learning to continue, thus avoiding the problem of falling behind with class work and additionally reduces the risk of offending in the community.  Internal exclusion will last between one and three days, depending on the circumstances.  Breaks and lunchtimes will be supervised separately from other students. A period of re-integration in the Inspire Base may also follow an Internal Exclusion again depending on the circumstances. Should a student fail to adhere to the terms of the Internal Exclusion they, and their parents, will be informed that there is a significant risk of formal exclusion. If a formal exclusion takes place, a period of re-integration must be agreed upon. This will take the format similar to that of an internal exclusion and students will be made aware of this before an exclusion is finalised.

The Internal Exclusion will take place in the Reflective Room located between my room and Mr MacKenzie’s office. The room will provide ICT access and a working area for up to two pupils and will be supervised by volunteer members of staff. Where appropriate the teacher may support learning but the key purpose is to provide supervision.

What’s ahead?
January is a very busy time for all students and staff. Tracking Reports will be issued for S2 and S3 students and Parent Consultation Evenings will follow for both these year groups. Our senior school prelims begin on Monday 12 January and Mr Hutchison has met with all S4-6 students to explain our expectations of them during this very important time. S3, S4 and S5 students will shortly be involved in deciding their course choices for the next academic session and Parent Consultation Evenings will form a significant part of this process (dates to be advised in due course). We very much hope you will support your child and the school by engaging in these evenings.

Finally, the winter weather has been relatively kind to us, however, we are only too aware that Scotland can experience all seasons in one day and we do have procedures in place if the weather takes a turn for the worst. As always the safety of our staff and students is at the heart of all our decisions and we will keep parents and students fully informed about our ability to open during adverse weather via Radio Forth, our website and text alerts. Please help us to keep in touch by ensuring we have up to date contact details, particularly mobile numbers and email addresses, so that we can contact you at all times.

Kind regards,

Ross Hunter
Head Teacher