Thursday, 14 December 2017

Headteacher Update 16 - Thursday 14h December 2017

Dear Parent/Carer

It has been another incredibly busy and rewarding term. It is almost impossible to keep track of all the activities/events in school. If you can, please keep up to date with all our school events via our school website

I would like to draw your attention to two very important matters which I believe really matter:-

1. Dress Code – our school dress code is well established and something which I am very proud of. Visitors to the school always compliment us on our school ethos. The positivity that surrounds our school does not happen by accident and we all work incredibly hard to develop an ethos in line with our school vision – placing young people at the heart of all we do and ensuring the school is a safe, happy and Rights Respecting environment. A significant contributor to this is our dress code.

I ask you to continue to support our dress code by purchasing the correct clothing, especially footwear. We expect all young people to be suitably dressed for school and I have attached our dress code leaflet as well as a letter from our Parent Council who very much support our approach. We will revisit our expectations with young people in the new year. Your support in making this happen is crucial and I thank you for your continued efforts.  Our uniform leaflet can be downloaded and viewed here.

Should you need any advice on where to purchase school clothing or where to access school clothing grants, please contact your child’s Guidance Teacher in the first instance.

2. Attendance – young people must attend school regularly in order to achieve and attain. A key part of our job is to support young people and their families to access education, especially those who, for various reasons, find access to education more demanding. We are absolutely committed to ensuring the best outcomes for every young person and the more they engage with the school the better the outcomes are likely to be. Please play your part by ensuring your son/daughter comes to school punctually and as prepared as possible. Liaise with us if you feel you or your son/daughter need support and be assured we will work together with you.

We have set a school target of 95% attendance this year and to date the percentage attendance is 89% which is well below the average for Edinburgh schools. It is an area we must improve on and we can only do this by making attendance a priority and working in partnership with you and our partner services.

Formal Assessments
Senior pupils who are sitting Highers have completed their first set of formal assessments and teachers are using these to ensure that pupils are receiving high quality feedback to support their learning. Our next set of formal assessments for all senior pupils in S4-6 begins on Monday 29 January and we aim to support them in ensuring they are ready for the final set of examinations next April/May 2017.

Winter Weather
To date the winter weather has been very kind to us, however, we are well 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 poor 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.

Key Dates
· Monday 18 December – Dance Show
· Tuesday 19 December - Dance Show
· Friday 22 December – last day of term (finish 12 noon)
· Monday January 8 – Inset day training for staff
· Tuesday 9 January - pupils return to school
· Wednesday 10 January – Options Evening and Careers Event
· Tuesday 16 – Thursday 18 January – S3 Personal Development Week
· Tuesday 23 January – Senior Phase Parent Consultation Evening
· Monday 29 January – Formal assessments begin

Option Evening and Careers Event for S2-5 Pupils and Parents
After a very successful evening last year, our options evening will be held on Wednesday 10 January. This is an excellent opportunity to meet with teachers and partners of the school to discuss next steps for your son/daughter. We have secured representation from over 30 local employers who will be present at the evening and will be on hand to discuss relevant career pathways for your child. We are thoroughly looking forward to this event and hope it will be very beneficial for everyone involved.

We very much look forward to welcoming you to the school and further details will follow after the Christmas break.


At the end of this term we will be saying farewell to Dr Burt who is retiring from teaching. Dr Burt has worked at Gracemount for over 5 years and during this time has taken the Science faculty from strength to strength. She will be very much missed by colleagues and pupils and we wish her well in this new phase of her life.

We have appointed Mr Robert Mackenzie to the post of Curriculum Leader for Science. Mr Mackenzie is well known to many and has just returned to Gracemount having worked during a career break at an International school in Egypt for two years. We are now subsequently looking to appoint a teacher of Biology.

Social Subjects
Ms Diana Barry will leave us at the end of term to take up a post at Ross High School. We wish her all the very best and she will be missed by many in our school community.
We are currently in the process of recruiting her replacement in the History Department.

We are in the process of recruiting for a vacancy in Maths and hope to fill the post before the end of term.

We continue to seek a replacement for Ms Flannigan

Pupil Support Officer
I am delighted to confirm that Mrs Hurd, a well established member of staff, has been appointed to our new role of Pupil Support Officer. Mrs Hurd will continue with many of her current duties, however, this role recognises the considerable input that Mrs Hurd makes to the school in supporting our staff and young people.

Last Day of Term – Friday 22 December 
Please note pupils will be dismissed from school at 12 noon.

Finally…...since taking up post 3 years ago I have always felt very privileged to work in your community and support your children. Gracemount High School is a wonderful school full of talented and ambitious young people and very committed staff. The overwhelming support we receive from our parents and carers makes a huge difference to what we do each day in the school.

I want to thank you for your continued support and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, safe and peaceful holiday.

Kind Regards,

Ross Hunter
Head Teacher

Monday, 20 November 2017

Headteacher Update 15 - Monday 20th November 2017

November 2017

Dear Parent/Carer

We are now well into the school term and pupils have returned and settled in after the October break. We have a very busy schedule right up to the Christmas break and I hope you find the information detailed below useful and informative.

Staffing Update
Ms Purdie continues to be absent and until last week, Mrs Ustun was covering her classes. Mrs Ustun has now begun her maternity leave. We secured short-term supply cover which has now ended and we continue to seek more supply cover. To ensure pupils get as much access to subject specialists as possible there will be some changes to Maths classes. Further details will follow.

We have successfully appointed Mr Chasomeris to replace Mr Nugent who left us last month.

We have successfully appointed Ms Vidotto who will take up the 2 day-a –week vacancy that has existed since the start of term. The start date is yet to be confirmed.

We have successfully appointed Ms Saez-Martinez who will cover for Ms Shannon’s continued absence. We are hopeful that she will be able to take up post very shortly. In the meantime, classes and timetables have been altered to ensure that senior classes are getting as much access to subject specialists as possible.

Ms Flannigan has left us to take up a full-time permanent post as Pupil Support Leader at Forrester High School. We wish her well and thank her for all the hard work over the last three years at Gracemount High School. We are currently in the process of recruiting her replacement.

Mr Swan continues to be absent and in the meantime, Mrs Morrison is working on a supply basis to support the English faculty.

Social Subjects
Mrs Corsar has taken up a fixed-term post as Pupil Support Leader at Castlebrae High School. Mr Nolan has been appointed to fill the vacancy.

Pupil Support Assistants
We welcome Ms Devine and Ms Laing into post.

School Support Assistants
We welcome Ms Donaldson and Ms Galbraith into post as School Support Assistants.

Supporting the School Dress Code
Recently we have witnessed a decline in the standard of dress. A small number of pupils are not wearing the correct footwear and/or a school tie. There is also concern with some girls who are not wearing leggings with skirts as per school policy.

We are very proud of our school and our dress code contributes to a positive and safe ethos. We ask again for your support in ensuring your child is suitably dressed for school and is adhering to the school dress code.

Opportunity Fund - Financial Assistance
The school is committed to ensuring that no pupil misses out due to poverty related issues. Our opportunity fund is designed to support young people and their families and we ask that parents contact their child’s Pupil Support Leader in the first instance should they have an issue regarding purchasing items for school.

It is important to note that school clothing grants are now paid directly into the parent’s bank account, which gives the family greater choice about where they shop and the school has pre-loved uniform that can be purchased at a significantly reduced cost.

We will continue to do all we can to support all our young people and ensure an equitable provision of education across the school.

Sponsored Walk
Our very first sponsored walk took place on Friday 6 October. This was a hugely successful event and almost all of the school participated in the 12km walk around Edinburgh. The pupils and staff were fantastic as were the parent helpers who came along with us. We were very well supported by local businesses who provided food and water for our walkers.

To date we have raised just over £1600, which is an incredible effort from our young people and our community. We are so thankful for all the support we received and delighted that we were able to have so many young people positively contribute to the school community. We very much hope this will become an annual event.

Rights Respecting Schools
We continue to promote our Rights Respecting Ethos and our aim to achieve the Rights Respecting School level 2 award is on track. Our Rights Respecting School Ethos is promoted across all levels of the school and permeates all our work within and beyond the classroom. Part of this includes our Respect Week initiative detailed below.

Respect Week
Our annual Respect Week takes place week beginning Monday 13 November. A number of activities are planned during the week which will help to promote our Rights Respecting School Ethos.

We will be launching our updated and revised anti-bullying policy. We decided to focus on this for the coming session in light of pupil feedback from last year. Please look out for the new policy which will go live on the school website. Leaflets will be available to collect from the School Office and pupils will be informed during assemblies.

We are holding a staff training event on Friday 17 November to familiarise the new policy.

Latecoming (mornings)
A revised approach to promoting punctuality and skills for life, work and learning has been launched this week and all parents/carers should have received information about this.

We are asking for your support in ensuring that all young people arrive to school on time.  This helps them get a positive start to the school day.

There are 3 bells in the morning as follows:-

1.     8.27am - (Warning Bell) – we encourage all pupils to be in the vicinity of the school building at this time.

2.     8.30am – This bell indicates the start of the school day. All pupils should make their way to registration or assembly.

3.     8.32am- This is our late bell. Any pupil who arrives after this bell will be recorded as late to school.

Any pupil who is late twice in one week without a reason will receive a below expectation detention. This will be completed at lunchtime on the day they are late for the second time. Pupils who are late more than twice in a week will receive a detention each time they are late in that week.

Magic Breakfast - TOA5T
We are delighted to announce a forthcoming partnership with Magic Breakfast, which will enable us to provide food and snacks for pupils across the school in the morning. This is not your typical breakfast club and we aim to make it as inclusive as possible so all pupils will have some form of access.

In the meantime, we continue to provide a breakfast option in our HE departments (TOA5T club) and any pupil can attend and access a range of breakfast food and drinks.

On the back of national advice from Education Scotland this session, we have launched a new style of report which we hope is easier to understand. Our aim is to report more frequently on the progress of all our young people and the new style of report is the start of this process. Reports have gone home for both senior and S2 pupils and as I write this blog S3 reports are due to be issued on Friday 17 November.

Mentoring (Senior School)
This session we have 2 forms of mentoring taking place as follows:-

1.     Positive Intervention Programme (PIP) is aimed at S5/6 pupils who are studying 3 Highers. The Senior Leadership Team is leading this initiative and a range of pupils have been allocated a mentor from the Senior Team who will meet up to 4 times per session with the pupils. Two meetings have already taken place in preparation for the forthcoming formal assessments.

2.     Learning to Learn Mentors – this programme is aimed at S4 pupils. 10 staff have been assigned a mentor role and will mentor 5 targeted pupils each throughout the session. A parent engagement session is planned for Wednesday 15 November and we very much hope parents can make it along. All parents invited will have received a text message and email from the school.

Pupil Achievements
Congratulations to Abigail Hunter (S1) who has been playing for Hearts ladies under 13s. She has been playing an age banding above her own because she was shining in her own age group. Abigail's league recently finished and they achieved a second place finish.

Abigail was spotted by scouts and has recently participated in trials for the Scotland girls under 13 team. We will find out if she has been successful in the next fortnight. Good luck Abigail.

Brandyn Bain (S3) has been on trial at Hearts under 15s. Brandyn played five games on trial with some strong performances in goals - most notably Brandyn saved a penalty in a victory over Rangers. After these strong performances, Brandyn is set to put pen to paper and join the team.
Brandyn also successfully trialled for the Edinburgh under 15 select squad and has played in two of the qualifying fixtures in the nationwide competition.

Our Senior Football team remain unbeaten in the league and are top of the Lothian’s Under 16’s league. This is a great effort and the boys are now playing in the new strips funded by Gilmerton Grocers. A huge thank you to them for supporting the school and helping us to purchase the strips for the boys.

Active Schools - Girls Day Out
4 girls from S3, Anna Munro, Nicole Gilroy, Rachel Forbes and Erin Neave took part in 6 workshops; dance, step, boot camp, yoga, health and wellbeing and clubbing.

Sports Ambassadors
Maja Majerowicz and Amy Dickson from S4 have been appointed as our sports ambassadors and they are working hard to promote participation in a range of sports across the school.

Princes Trust Programme
Congratulations to Mitch Mitchell and Brandon Bova who completed the Achieve Level 4 Programme at the Princes Trust programme. Both boys demonstrated real commitment to achieve the overall award and we are very proud of them.

Robert Burns World Federation
Congratulations to Luke Alexander who received a certificate of distinction for his work, which was entered in the RBWF writing competition.  Luke received his certificate at assembly on 7 November.

Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble
Congratulations to Jamie Aquino who has been selected to sing a solo as part of the Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble concert.

Lessons from Auschwitz
Samantha Foggo and Cara Wood Conway both visited Auschwitz as part of the lessons from Auschwitz programme.

Winter Windows Competition 2017
Congratulation to Amie Cowan who has won the Winter Windows Competition. Amie will attend a celebration event at the National Gallery on Friday 24 November.

Future Chef
Congratulations to Meryn Parsons and Gary Watson who won the school heats in the future chef programme and will now compete in the local final at Edinburgh College on 4 December. Good luck to both pupils.

Important Forthcoming Dates for your Diary
13 November                Respect Week
16 November                Gracemount does strictly
20 November                Formal assessments (Higher Pupils Only)
20 November                Parent Council (6.30pm School Library)
1 December                  S1 Tracking Report issued
12 December                S2 Parent Consultation Evening
15 December                Senior Tracking Report 2 issued
18/19 December            Gracemount High School Dance Academy Show
22nd December            School term ends

Please note the school will be holding its very first Burns Supper Event in Partnership with Edinburgh Food and Wine. The event will take place on Thursday 25 January. A number of tickets will be made available to parents and communication regarding this event will follow in due course. We hope to see you there. 

Kind regards

Ross Hunter
Head Teacher

Monday, 18 September 2017

Headteacher Update 14 - Monday 18th September 2017

September 2017

Dear Parent/Carer

It has been a pleasure to welcome our students back to school after the summer break. The significant majority are smartly dressed, punctual and working hard in class. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support in these matters.

Staffing Update
I wanted to update you on our staffing, as we have had a number of new staff who have joined us since the start of term. Details are as follows: -

       Moira Wilson (Support for Learning Leader)
       Rachel Patterson (Support for Learning Teacher)
       Beata Kilkiewicz (Maths)
       Rachel Jones (Modern Studies)
       Mazhar Yusaf (Maths)
       Iain Nugent (Physics)
       Alan Wilkins (Drama on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)
       Daniel Davis (Music)
       Rory Wallis (Equity in STEM)
       Angela Verity (Equity in literacy and assistive technology)
       Anne Young (Education Welfare Officer)

Due to staff absence in the Art Department, some classes may be taken by different teachers since we allocate our experienced staff to senior classes. We have been able to source a subject specialist supply teacher so classes will always be taught by an Art teacher during this time. 

We are still seeking to recruit a Drama teacher for Mondays and Tuesdays to support Mr Wilkins. 

We are still actively seeking a suitable supply teacher with subject specialism in English and Media to cover staff absence in the English Department. In the meantime, and with effect Tuesday 5 September: -

      S1 classes have moved from 5 to 4 sets. Class sizes will be approximately at 27.
·       S2 classes will access the library for personal reading development. These classes will continue. Please note that classes on Monday P5 and Friday P2 will be allocated non-subject specialists but will however be supported by the School Librarian for personal reading.
·      S3 classes will move from 5 to 4 classes. Class sizes will be approximately 28.
·      S4 – Miss Flannigan will assume an additional N5 class and Mr MacDonald will assume an additional N4 class.
·      S/6 (Higher) – Mrs Gordon will assume full responsibility for this class.
·      S3 Media – Mr Foley will take 2 periods of the allocated 4. The other periods will be allocated to cover teachers.

Please be assured that we are doing all we can to address these staffing issues. Please do not hesitate to contact your child’s Pupil Support Leader (Guidance Teacher) if you have any concerns.

SQA Examination Results
We continue to review our performance in SQA examinations.
    Our S4 performance was strong with 19% of our cohort achieving a minimum of 5 qualifications at level 5 or above. This was a 9% improvement on last year.
·     Our S5 results showed a slight dip in the number of pupils achieving 1, 3 and 5 Highers by the end of S5.
·     Our S6 results showed improvements in the number of pupils achieving 1 and 5 Highers by the end of S6. We maintained the number of pupils achieving 3 Highers by the end of S6.
·    Our Advanced Higher results also improved with 11% of the cohort achieving at least 1 Advanced Higher, the highest since 2013.

SQA Update – Changes to National Qualifications
We are continuing to liaise with colleagues in the SQA over changes to national qualifications. We have finalised our SQA policy which is now available to all parents via the school website.

You can keep up to date with the proposed SQA changes to by visiting

We continue to invest heavily in our 1:1 approach to give all our pupils in S3-S6 equal opportunity of access to technology. We continue to ask for your support in ensuring that the device including the cable and charger are looked after. It is only with your support that we will be able to continue to implement this policy which includes the safe return of the device and its accessories when a pupil leaves school.

Please note that all pupils intending to leave school should ensure that they return their iPad, cable and charger, otherwise they will incur a charge.

School Funding Success
I am delighted to announce that we have made a bid for and successfully received funding in the following areas: -

Food for Thought Programme - The Food for Thought Education Fund gives financial support to develop Food and Health as a context for learning. The fund aims to improve practitioner confidence in providing progressive, high quality learning experiences which help to embed food education into the ethos of the establishment. Ms Bird successfully bid and received over £1000 to take forward initiatives relating to Food and Health in school.

Cycle Scotland On the back of our very successful first year in delivering Bike Maintenance, Mr King made a bid to Cycle Scotland to enable us to continue to develop this cycle friendly award. We have received £2,285 funding which will be used to purchase bikes and secure access to this equipment for pupils across the school.

Trips Policy
We intend to devise a policy which will make the funding process transparent and clarify how the school will support fundraising for trips to support young people who may experience financial hardship. Further details will follow.

Gracemount High School and Primary School Parents Big Night Out
You may be aware that our parents are organising a fundraising event for both the primary and secondary school. The event is to be help on Friday 15 September at Gilmerton Miners Club. Tickets can be purchased from the school reception at a cost of £7.50 each.

We really hope you can make it along and support both our schools.
Key Dates for this term
·         Monday 11 September – Parent Council Meeting – 6.30pm in the School Library.
·         Friday 15 September – Parents Big Night Out – Gilmerton Miners Club - 7.00pm
·         Monday 18 September – school closed (Holiday)
·         Wednesday 20 September - S1 Settling in Parents Evening from 4.30 6.30pm
·         Friday 6 October – Senior tracking issued
·         Friday 6 October – whole school sponsored walk.