Thursday, 16 March 2017

Headteacher Update 12 - Thursday 16th March 2017

March 2017
Dear Parent/Carer

Rights Respecting School Award
I am delighted to open my latest blog with the marvellous news that on Monday 13 March Gracemount High School was awarded the Unicef Rights Respecting School’s Award. We are only the 2nd secondary school in Edinburgh to achieve this award and feedback from our assessor suggests we are well on the way to achieve the Level 2 award.

Why become a Rights Respecting School?
There are 4 key areas which impact on the school community and we are already noticing a marked difference.

1.     Children are healthier and happier – examples of which include increased participation rates in a wide range of extra-curricular activities and extra study classes. Our ‘Get Gracemount Going’ initiative is focusing on the health and wellbeing of a selected group of S1 pupils. Bike Maintenance and Duke of Edinburgh classes have been added to the curriculum this year and is helping to focus on developing a wider range of skills in our senior cohort.

In a recent survey of over 100 pupils led by the Head Teacher, 97% indicated that they either agreed or strongly agreed that they felt happy and safe in the school.

2.     Children feel safe - we know from feedback that a significant majority of our young people feel safe in school and our approach on Rights Respecting will further improve this.

3.     Children have better relationships - Our focus on ‘Relationships for Learning’ is starting to make a difference in the school. Our policy is simple and easy to understand.   All our young people understand our expectations regarding behaviour in school and in the wider community, attendance and more recently our increased expectations on punctuality, especially at the start of the school day. Staff are fully committed to develop and sustain positive relationships and this will remain an ongoing focus in school.

4.     Children become more active in school life and the wider world - participation in after school study classes and in a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular activities is very positive. We have also seen an increase in the pupil voice influencing change within the school. The LGBT group ran a very successful Purple Friday, the Mentors in Violence Programme ensure that senior pupils are working with younger pupils to help them better understand how they can make a positive contribution to school life and our very active pupil council is running a question of the month around key school issues to ensure that the pupil voice is represented.

At Gracemount we take participation in PE very seriously and offer 2 periods per week of high quality Physical Education to every child in S1-4. This is in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment that: -
  • every school pupil in Scotland will benefit from at least two hours per week of physical education in primary school and two periods in S1 to S4 by 2014.
We recognise the positive impact Physical Education can have on a pupil's health, educational attainment and life chances and we place a high level of importance on being physically active. Our Physical Education experience provides all pupils with an opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities.
On Monday 24 April we will be changing the way we deal with pupils who do not bring PE kit to lessons. A separate letter will be sent home to explain our new approach and I very much look forward to your support in this matter.

Key Dates: 

·      20 March – Parent Council meeting in the School Library – all invited. It would be great to see you there.
·         24 March – S2 course choice interviews complete
·         27 March – Senior Tracking Report Issued
·      31 March – End of term and S4/5 Interviews completed. Please note Easter revision classes will run for senior pupils and details will follow in due course.
·         18 April – Return to school.

Staffing Update
Ms Rebecca Fox has taken up post on maternity cover for Ms Hirst.
Ms Annette Maloney has taken up post on maternity cover for Mrs Whyte.

School of Football
Mr Ruairi Nicholson was appointed as a teacher of PE and lead teacher for School of Football. Mr Nicholson will take up post on Tuesday 18 April.

School Office
Ms Patricia John joined the School Office team on Monday 6 March.

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

Pupil Equity Funding
As part of the Scottish Government’s approach to supporting all young people in Scotland, all Scottish schools, both primary and secondary, were awarded money based on pupil numbers on the roll entitled and registered for free school meals.

We are currently in the process of consulting with staff, parents and pupils regarding targeted interventions where we feel funding would make the biggest impact in our school community. I will be contacting you in due course regarding a parent engagement session. If you would like to find out more, please come along to the Parent Council meeting on Monday 20 March in the School Library. 

Celebrating Our Young People’s Successes

Young Writers
9 of our Young Writers contributed to the Busta Rhymes publication. Their writing is fantastic and this is a great achievement for all involved. Well done to Pascal Tene, Ayaa Madjid, Michelle Bahat, Shannon McNeill, Thomas Jamieson, Brooke Dickson, Eila Tether and Logan Woodhouse.

Crown Officer and Procurator Fiscal Service – Public Speaking Competition
I am delighted to say that Gracemount are represented in the final of this competition. This takes place on Wednesday 22 March. We will be represented by Craig and Nicole in S3 – good luck to both of them.

Duke of Edinburgh
Bronze Duke of Edinburgh pupils completed their practice expedition, walking through the Pentlands and camping overnight at Bonaly. Pupils involved were: Gregor McRae, Julia Sanderson, Esme Page, Lauryn Anderson and Iliana Ortiz. They will be completing their final expedition in April on the 21st, 22nd. Good luck.

The Silver Duke of Edinburgh pupils – (Miriam Castano Viera, Jessica Simpson, Cara Wood Conway and Lucy Hunter) are about to embark on their Silver Practice Expedition at the start of Easter (2nd, 3rd, 4th April) – when they will be canoeing and camping overnight.  They have been attending Bridge 8 Hub for the last 4 Wednesdays to improve their canoeing and camping skills. What an achievement this will be. Good luck to all involved.

Go4SET Competition Winners (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) STEM
Congratulations to Janett Ghulam, Callum Mitchell, Aisha Olaide, Jennifer Ross, Jonathan Tennant and Nicole Ferguson on winning the Pupil’s choice award at the Go4SET celebration day. They all represented the school brilliantly and received a well-deserved award.  The team’s brilliant pitch and fantastic wearable technology idea was praised by the assessors and proved popular with the other competitors. They all demonstrated great teamwork and dynamic presentation skills. What a result! Well done all.

David Harrold, S6, performed in the Queens Hall on Thursday 16 March as a member of the Edinburgh Schools Classical Guitar Ensemble. This recital forms part of the CEC Instrumental Music Service “Resonate “concert series. Congratulations David.

Princes Trust
Colin McKinnon, S3 graduated from the Princes Trust Achieve Programme on Wednesday 14 March – a great achievement. Well done Colin, we are so proud of you. 

Kieran Kay S1 recently won the age 8-16 Paul Hunter Foundation Scottish Snooker Championship. What an outstanding achievement. The Crucible awaits. Well done Kieran.
Our global partnership with Ogwini High School in Umlazi, South Africa goes from strength to strength.  In September we hosted a visit of two learners and two educators.  They had an amazing time, experiencing life at Gracemount, attending classes and getting around the sites of Edinburgh (including the NHS emergency dentist for Andile), meeting many new friends along the way.

In February nine pupils and three teachers from Gracemount visited Ogwini for a week.  They experienced a whole day in the school life of their ‘buddy’, which is very different to their own at Gracemount.  With their buddies, the group looked at The Right of the Month for March, the right to have clean water (in light of a water crisis in the Umlazi/Durban area). Their discussions have been turned into a display in the dining area.  They had a tour of the Umlazi township and visited Durban. They went on Safari to the Tala Game Reserve and experienced the excitement of the slides at Ushaka Marine Water Park.  Overall they embraced the diversity of our two cultures, whilst making friends and finding shared interests.  The essence of the visit was captured on BBC Radio Scotland, when Ben Ferguson was interviewed by Stephen Jardine.  The group will be talking about their trip at assemblies this week.  They will also be speaking to S1 pupils as an introduction to their South Africa Information Skills Project.

Assessing Children’s Progress  
From August 2017 new national standardised assessments will be introduced in all schools in Scotland. These assessments will provide an additional source of nationally consistent evidence for teachers to use when assessing children’s progress

Teachers remain best placed to know how the children are progressing in their class. Their professional judgement will continue to be the most important way of assessing individual progress in school.

What you need to know:
·      Every child in P1, P4, P7 and S3 will undertake national standardised assessments covering some aspects of reading, writing and working with numbers.
         Assessments will be completed online and will be automatically marked by the online system giving teachers immediate feedback to help children progress.
        The assessments will be used to help teachers understand how well each child is progressing with his or her learning and to plan next steps. There will be no pass or fail. The system will be designed so that if a child is struggling with the questions they will get easier, and if a child is doing well the questions will become more challenging.
          The standardised assessments will be as short as possible and will be age and stage appropriate. A time limit of 50 minutes for each assessment has been set. This is an absolute maximum to ensure that no child feels under unnecessary time pressure when undertaking the assessments. We expect the majority of children will not require the full 50 minutes.
         Your child will not be expected to take assessments covering reading, writing and working with numbers in one sitting.

There will be no set day or period of time during which the national standardised assessments must be taken. Individual teachers and schools will decide the most appropriate time during the school year for your child to take the national standardised assessments. 

The assessments will, as far as possible, accommodate the needs of children who require additional support.

As you can see from the above there is so much going on at Gracemount High School and so much to be proud of. We are continually focused on how we can improve and our partnership with our parents/carers has never been as important.

Thank you for your continued support of the school.

Kind regards

Ross Hunter
Head Teacher