Thursday, 11 February 2016

Head Teacher Update – February 2016

Head Teacher Update – February 2016

Welcome to my third official blog of the session.

Better Relationships, Better Learning, Better Behaviour Policy

As outlined in my open letter to you on 6 January 2016, Phase 2 of our Better Relationships, Better Learning, Better Behaviour Policy was launched on 11 January 2016. Our focus centred on improving levels of punctuality in the morning and after lunchtime as well as developing the House system and banning the use of Snapchat in classroom on school iPads.

Our House system is really beginning to take shape. We have Attendance and Behaviour Champions each week as well as an overall House Champion announced by the successful House Captain(s) every Monday morning. In the 4 weeks since we have started, Lewis has won twice with Skye and Tiree each winning once.

In the same 4 week period there has been a 24% reduction in late coming in the morning and a 66% reduction in late coming after lunchtime. I am absolutely delighted with this and although we still have some way to go to achieve a sustained improvement, this is a very positive step forward.

We have issued 51 detentions for late coming after lunch and all 51 students have completed it. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported the implementation of this policy, as it really is making a difference. A number of students have reflected on their late coming and have made every effort to improve – I am very pleased with their response as well as the positive impact this has had on learning in the classroom.
Improvement Planning – 5 key priorities

We continue to focus in school on our key improvement priorities:
1.       Learning and teaching
2.       Ethos
3.       Pupil Support
4.       Curriculum
5.       Self-Evaluation

We have developed a video for parents/carers which can be found by following the link below and your feedback would be very welcome.


All schools are now planning for the forthcoming session and staffing is an important part of this. Please see below for an update on staff changes in the school.
Pupil Support

We were very sorry to see Mr Rodger leave us in January but also very excited to welcome Mr Whale who will join our Pupil Support Team on Monday 22 February as Leader of Lewis House. Mrs O’Connell, Leader of Tiree House, Dr Lyon, Head of Support for Learning and Mr Winton, Support for Learning have all settled in very well.   I now look forward to a much more settled time in this area.

Mr Rafferty and Ms Mirrlees left us at the end of last term. Mr Montier has joined the Dept until the summer to replace Mr Rafferty and we are still seeking a replacement for Ms Mirrlees who had been covering Mrs Kelly’s maternity leave. Mrs Kelly will return to work for the start of the new timetable and in the meantime we are covering classes with specialist supply whilst still seeking to recruit for this short term post.
Business Education

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Mrs Spencer who will join us after Easter. Ms Taylor will also return after maternity leave in May/June. In the meantime classes continue to be covered by Ms Cargill, Mrs Mathieson and Mr Kuryluk, all of whom are very experienced Business teachers.

Home Economics

We are currently planning to recruit a full time teacher to replace Mrs Gillan who leaves us at Easter. In the meantime Miss Langley has joined us on a part time permanent basis and Miss Gayle has joined us until the summer on a part-time basis.

Social Subjects

I am delighted to say that Ms Macmillan has joined us on a full time permanent basis after her successful appointment.

I will keep you informed of any future staffing changes in my blogs.

Expressive Arts Show.

A real highlight of this term was our recent Expressive Arts Show held on Wednesday 10 February. This event showcased our students’ creative and aesthetic talents through the medium of Art, Photography, Dance, Drama and Music. A big thank you to all parents/carers and staff who attended and supported the event.  It was a fantastic display of the wonderful talents of our students. Staff who supported the students to prepare for the event worked incredibly hard and I am very grateful for their considerable input. This event certainly made me feel very proud to be part of the Gracemount High School community.

Community Action Team

Our Community Action Team, led by the Head Boy (Paul Reilly) and Head Girl (Kirsty Farmer) took part in their first initiative this session. In response to some community concerns about litter, we went out into the community and participated in a litter pick. We took the opportunity to post a letter to local residents and business leaders to inform them of our visit and highlight some of the positive work the school is trying to do in the community.

I believe that excellent schools play a central role in their local community and we will encourage all our young people to care about their local community. This is one way in which we hope to demonstrate our commitment to the Gracemount community.  We will be planning to hold similar events in the next session.
Key Dates

A list of the remaining Key Assessment and Reporting dates and plans for study leave are outlined below for information.

S1 Reporting and Parent Consultation Evening

  • 03 May                 S1 Tracking Report 2 deadline
  • 09 May                 S1 Tracking Report 2 issued
  • 18 May                 Parent Consultation Evening

S2 into S3 – Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process–Key Dates 

·         03 March                            - S2 Parent Consultation Evening
·         07 March                            - S2 Option forms return deadline
·         18 March                            - S2 interviews complete and options finalised

S3 into S4 – Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process–Key Dates

  • 29 February                        - S3 interviews to be completed and options finalised

S4 and S5 - Reporting, Parent Consultation Evening and Option Process–Key Dates

  • 22 February                        - Options form deadline.
  • 11 March                             - S4/5 interviews completed and options finalised
  • 14 March                             - Tracking Report 2 deadline
  • 21 March                             - Tracking Report 2 issued

S4-6 Formal Assessment– Key Dates

  • 24 February                        – Formal Assessment Week 3

S4 -6 – Study Leave

As of Monday 2 May students will be involved in a two week catch up/revision timetable. All students will remain in school, following their timetable, until Friday 13 May.
If a student has an external examination, they will be given three days off prior to the exam in order to revise at home for the exam. Classes will run as normal and they will be permitted to attend the subject class to revise and seek advice from the class teacher. This will however be optional.
From Monday 16 to Friday 27 May students who have more than 3 external examinations will be permitted study leave but they will also have the option to participate in Meaningful May activities. Those who do not have external examinations will participate in a Meaningful May project.
From Monday 30 May the new timetable will begin and all students will return to their new classes.

Values Focus – Aspiration

Our value of Aspiration encourages our students to strive to be the best they can be in all that they do whilst understanding that hard work and effort are key to their success.  Hard work and effort is central to our school ethos. I want all our young people to understand the importance of both and to aspire to better themselves.

I often hear our young people mention that despite their hard work and effort, they do not feel they are making any progress. The inevitable mindset “what’s the point in trying” then takes over. My response is always to encourage them to find another approach as sometimes their own one is not necessarily the most appropriate one and there is always another way– this is where good learning and teaching comes in. With effective support, every young person can find another solution with a cautionary note that we should not encourage an over reliance on teachers to “give” the answer. Some of our young people expect the teacher to provide the answers to difficult questions but a good teacher would rather guide a student and “scaffold” their learning so they arrive at the answer of their own accord. This is key to learning and key to what is happening in the classroom at Gracemount. 

Aspiring to be the best you can be is fundamental to sharing in the success of the school, but we must back this up with hard work and effort as well as the grit and determination to see it through and face up to the challenge. If we can develop this drive in our young people, it is my view that we will not only be serving their needs in school but also preparing them with lifeskills beyond school.

Ross Hunter
Head Teacher