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Head Teacher Update 28/7/21

Dear Parents and Students

I hope you are keeping well and enjoying the summer and some of the great weather we have been having. The summer holidays seemed to arrive just in the nick of time – as the toughest school year in living memory accelerated towards the end.  A huge thanks to staff, students, and parents for getting us over the line – everyone certainly deserves a well-earned break. Please find below a belated update from the end term.

Reflections on session 2020-21

In a year many people may want to forget, our staff, students and parents stepped up to meet each and every challenge. We returned full-time in August, when the COVID numbers in Edinburgh were relatively low (1.5 per 100000), to a two-week timetable rotation and double periods. Everyone settled back quickly despite the additional restrictions – staggered starts, breaks and lunchtimes; outside for break; one-way systems; outdoors for PE and dance; facing forward in lessons; and restricted practical activities. As the numbers began to rise, face coverings were introduced – first for staff and senior-phase students and then for all students. Once again, everyone adapted and the support from students and parents was outstanding.

Term 2 started with online learning. Although this was initially intended to last for just one-week, online learning was in place for the remainder of the term. Staff should be commended for the positive way they approached this challenge and for the fantastic online learning they were able to provide. Students also deserve praise for the way they engaged with their learning from home and in school (when they eventually returned).

We are most grateful to our parents for their support with home learning and also for the constant positive messages and feedback they gave us. This certainly helped to maintain momentum and kept us motivated during the toughest times.

On 22nd February, we saw the return of small numbers of senior students (you may remember, this was limited to 8% of the school population) to complete some practical work. At this time, we also introduced asymptomatic testing for staff and senior phase students.

On 15th March we began the phased return of all students to school. This was not at all straightforward, given the particularly complicated guidance we needed to apply – prioritizing senior phase students; maintaining the 2-meter physical distance; maintaining the online learning offer. All the while, continuing to provide an in-school hub for the children of key workers. This was perhaps the most difficult period of the year – teachers were working flat-out to plan face-to-face lessons as well as providing work for the two thirds of students at home. Our teachers found creative solutions to the difficulties this presented. Many even delivered live lessons from their classrooms while they taught the class in front of them.

Term 3 saw the return of all students and, for senior phase students, two weeks of final preparations before assessment and the Alternative Certification Model (ACM).

This term seemed to pass all too quickly. Restrictions meant that our normal summer activities were somewhat curtailed this year. It was really important for us to stay connected and maintain our community spirit.

Please follow the link below to a video which captures some of the great work and achievements of staff and students.

Link to video:

Cost of the school day.

In an effort to reduce the cost of the school day, and in recognition of the financial difficulties caused by COVID restrictions, we would like to suspend payments for Home Economics (HE) and Craft Design and Technology (CDT) next session. It is likely that our ability to cover these costs beyond this session will be dependent on access to external funding. However, since writing this update, the Scottish Government has announced the removal of cost for curricular activities. This may be the solution and I look forward to seeing the detail of how this will work in practice but, in the meantime, there will be no charge for HE and CDT.

Returning/starting in August

As things stand, students will return on 18th August to a similar pattern of attendance – two-week timetable, with double periods and other COVID mitigations in place. This being the case, we will stick to the timings of the school day which worked for us this session. However, as we have seen, things can change quickly, and I will share updated plans on the week beginning 9th August. I will also provide information for our new S1 students who we look forward to welcoming for the first time on 18th August.

I hope you and your families stay safe and well and that you are starting to look forward to getting back to school.

Thanks and best wishes

Stephen Rafferty

Head Teacher