Thursday, 10 September 2015

Head Teacher Update – August 2015

To all Parents and Carers

Head Teacher Update – August 2015

Welcome to my first blog of the new term. I hope to keep you updated with key issues regarding school life and I welcome any feedback regarding the content of the blog or any other school matter. This year each blog will contain a values focus and I will attempt to highlight why we have chosen each of our school values and how important they are in playing a part in supporting our young people to become safe, happy, healthy and active citizens in our community.

We are delighted that our new academic session is underway and we have welcomed all our pupils back to school.

Year Group Assemblies
The academic session began with year group assemblies when we discussed our new vision and values and what this means for our community. As Head Teacher of Gracemount I am determined that we become a values based school and that all members of our community know and understand what we stand for. Whilst this may take some time to embed I believe we have made an excellent start and will continue to make this a real focus as we strive to continuously improve in all aspects.

I also revisited the new behaviour policy for this session. Students had been informed of changes in June, however I felt it was important to reiterate these again for all pupils. An information leaflet is attached to explain the new behaviour procedures. As we continue to move towards achieving our Rights Respecting School status, we maintain our commitment to embedding restorative practice. Putting the needs of our young people first is central to who we are as a school community as is maintaining our high standards and expectations.  Should you have any questions about changes to the behaviour policy, please contact your child’s guidance teacher or any member of the school leadership team.

A dress code leaflet is also attached for information and I am delighted that the standard of dress at the start of term has been excellent. I wish to acknowledge your contribution as parents and carers for ensuring your young person adheres to our expectations regarding dress for school. Our challenge is to maintain the standards set at the start of term and your support in this is vital.

School Summer Works
A programme of summer works has taken place and a number of areas across the school have been refreshed. The school looks great and I hope, when you visit, you will notice changes to the feel and look of the school. One significant change has been the introduction of our vision and values boards. These are immediately evident when you enter the school and certainly give any visitor an immediate sense of what we stand for. I look forward to you visiting the school shortly and hearing your thoughts.

SQA Results
We are currently in the midst of extensively analysing the SQA performance of our young people in the senior phase and I will be producing, in due course, an attainment report which I will discuss with Local Authority colleagues and with members of the Parent Council. I will of course ensure that the key findings of this report are made available to you.

Initial impressions are positive with many of our young people performing very well and there have been some outstanding individual performances. It is important to recognise your contribution. A supportive home background has a significant impact on each individual’s attainment and we know that where school and parents/carers work collaboratively and collectively, improved results can be achieved.

We will be working hard across all areas and setting some very ambitious attainment targets for the years ahead to ensure that we continue to improve as a school. Nevertheless, whilst performance in SQA exams is vitally important, it is not the only measure of how young people learn and develop at Gracemount High School. I believe it is equally important to ensure young people are given wider opportunities and are encouraged to develop their character as well as achieving their full potential academically. Being a good person, being happy, and developing the skills required to make a positive contribution to their own and other lives is a very important part of who we are and we will continue to give this parity of esteem with performance in SQA examinations.

Core Priorities
Our improvement plans have been written and our Vision 2020 sets out 5 key priorities:

1.       Learning and Teaching – Deliver the highest quality learning and teaching experience for all our learners.
2.       Ethos - Work and learn in a safe, happy, inclusive, nurturing and respectful environment
3.       Student Support - Provide the highest level of personal support by knowing our students and supporting their needs.
4.       Curriculum - Develop our curriculum and ensure all our learners are on a pathway to a positive and sustainable destination.
5.       Self-Evaluation - Demonstrate a relentless commitment to self-evaluation and continuous improvement.
We will be releasing a parent information video in due course highlighting key aspects of our improvement plan. We will notify all parents and carers when this is available.

We have been delighted to welcome back Mr Macdonald after an extensive period of absence. Although he is on a phased return, he will be absent again for a short period to undergo a planned medical procedure. In the meantime supply cover is in place to cover his absence and support his phased return to work.

An appointment will be made shortly for a full time teacher of Biology. In the meantime Mrs Kane is covering all Biology classes.

An appointment will be made shortly for a full time Curriculum Leader for Health and Well-Being. In the meantime Mr Gregor is currently acting up in this role and Miss Greig has been appointed as cover in PE.

Many parents will be aware that Mrs Lowe has retired. Miss Livingston from Modern Studies has been appointed on an acting basis until a full time appointment is made.

An appointment will be made shortly for a full time Support for Learning Leader.

Key Dates
S1 Reporting and Parent Consultation Evening
  • 30 September        Settling in Parent Information Evening
  • 1 Dec                     1st Report with elective subject choices for confirmation
  • 9 May                    2nd S1 tracking Report issued
  • 18 May                  Parent Consultation Evening

S2 into S3 – Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process – Key dates
·         30 October                        – 1st S2 Tracking report issued
·         11 January                         - Option booklet available via school website
·         19 January                         - Options evening
·         8 February                         - 2nd S2 Tracking report issued
·         11 February                       - S2 option form issued
·         3 March                              - S2 Parent Consultation Evening
·         7 March                               - S2 Option form return deadline
·         18 March                            - S2 interviews complete and options finalised

S3 into S4 – Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process – Key dates
  • 16 November                    - 1st S3 Tracking Report issued
  • 11 January                           - Option booklet available via school website
  • 18 January                           - Option form issued to S2 students
  • 19 January                           - Options Evening
  • 28 January                           - 2nd S3 tracking report issued
  • 28 January                           - S3 Parent Consultation Evening
  • 5 February                          - Options forms deadline for return
  • 29 February                        - S2 interviews to be completed and options finalised

S4/S5/6 - Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process – Key dates
  • 5 October                            - 1st Tracking report issued
  • 11 January                           - Full reports completed and checked
  • 11 January                           - Option booklet available via school website
  • 18 January                           - Full reports issued
  • 18 January                           - Option form issued for S3-5 students
  • 19 January                           - Options Evening
  • 4 February                          - Parent Consultation Evening
  • 22 February                        - Options form deadline for return
  • 11 March                             - S3-55 student interviews completed and options finalised
  • 21 March                             - 2nd Tracking report issued

S4-6 Formal Assessment– Key Dates
  • 23 November                                    – Formal Assessment Week 1
  • 30 November                                    – Formal Assessment Week 2
  • 24 February                                        – Formal Assessment Week 3 (Optional)

S4 -6 – Study Leave
There will be no formal study leave for formal assessments in weeks 1, 2 and 3.
From week beginning 2 May students will be involved in a two week catch up/revision timetable. All students will remain timetabled in school until Friday 13 May.

Where a student has an external examination, they will be given three days off timetable prior to the exam in order to revise at home. Classes will run as normal and they will be permitted to attend the relevant class both to revise and seek advice from the class teacher. This will however be optional.

From 16 to 27 May students who have more than 3 external examinations will be permitted study leave but will also have the option of opting in to Meaningful May activities. Those without external examinations will participate in a Meaningful May Project.

From Monday 30 May the new timetable will begin and all students will start their new classes.

Time for Reflection Programme
The time for reflection programme is designed to develop every learner as an individual. This means helping them to grow and develop their own sense of self, to be confident in expressing their own beliefs and values and to develop and understand empathy towards others. They will use this time for reflection to celebrate the shared values of the school community and recognise the wide range of social and cultural beliefs which exist in our community. Please refer to our school website for further details regarding the time for reflection programme.

Values Focus - Instilling Resilience
All our new S1 students are involved in our Instilling Resilience Programme. This will be ongoing throughout the session, led by Mrs Sinclair and other key staff across the school. We look forward to telling you more about the programme and of course instilling resilience in all our learners.

What do we mean by resilience?
Resilience is about ‘bouncing back’ from what life throws at us. It is about being internally strong and able to adapt well to changes and challenges. It is about flourishing in life, despite circumstances.
If children are resilient they will be able to cope better with problems, they will enjoy good health and they will be happier and more fulfilled. They will also be less likely to develop emotional problems like depression or anxiety.

But resilience is not just something you have or do not have. The good news is that all children can become more resilient. We cannot protect children from all the things which may cause them distress but we can help children become more resilient so that they are more able to cope with life’s uncertainties and problems. All children, no matter what their background, will have to face problems and challenges in their lives. So support in school is really important in helping them to develop a resilient spirit.
Research has shown that resilient children:
  • Have good relationships because they are caring, flexible, can understand others’ feelings and can laugh at themselves and situations.
  • Are independent, active and confident that they can get things done.
  • Have a sense of purpose and hope for the future.
  • Feel that they are worthwhile and can make a difference.
  • Have support from their families and communities.
  • Are expected to do well by their families and communities.
For information on how to help your child become more resilient please visit the website here.

Kind regards
Ross Hunter
Head Teacher