Head Teacher Update 29/11/20

Dear Parents and Students

It has been a busy few weeks since my last update and although staff and students continue to work hard to keep each other safe, we have now started to see positive cases in school, resulting in students and staff having to self-isolate. As I write this update, the Scottish Government are in ongoing discussions about a potential move to blended learning for the final week of term and we will need to get ready to respond to whatever decision is made to ensure students are not disadvantaged.

In recent weeks, we have taken additional steps to keep students and staff safe. Everyone is now wearing face coverings in senior classes, as well as during movement around the school. We have also asked senior students to study from home at certain points in the week where they do not have timetabled classes. This reduces the risk of infection for all and also, importantly, the risk of having to self-isolate unnecessarily.

Thank you to parents for continuing to support us by ensuring that young people bring face coverings – your support for this has been exceptional. Going outside for break and lunchtime, wherever possible, continues to be an important mitigation against the risk of infection and we ask students to come equipped with warm clothes and a jacket as the weather gets increasingly colder.

Lanyards

Next week, we will issue lanyards to students who are unable to wear face coverings. This will allow us to quickly identify students who are exempt and who may need additional measures to keep them safe – such as holding back in class or outside, after breaks, until the corridors are clear.

Staff absence

Inevitably, given current circumstances, we are having to respond to increased staff absence as well as teacher shortages. External delays in the recruitment process  and the limited availability of supply staff has made things all the more challenging. This has impacted Drama and Dance, in particular. We are still awaiting the arrival of our new Drama teacher, after interviews some weeks ago, and hope to have cover for Dance starting next week. A vacancy in English remains unfilled and will be re-advertised with a view to making a suitable appointment.

Closing the Gap Recovery Teachers

We are very grateful to have been supported over the last two weeks by three Closing the Gap Recovery Teachers, deployed by the City of Edinburgh council. We are also grateful to our Quality Improvement Officer, Michelle Moore, who came into school to help out when we were most in need.  This support enabled the school to remain fully open and function as normally as possible.

SQA Timetable

The SQA have now released the timetable for Higher and Advanced Higher exams. This can be found at the following link: https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/files_ccc/exam-timetable-2021.pdf

The intention is still for these exams to go ahead, but we know that this decision will be reviewed in February. The current uncertainty and the possibility of exams not going ahead reinforces the need for teachers to gather evidence as they go and for students to give their best effort in every lesson.

Higher and Advanced Higher Prelims

We are planning for Higher and Advanced Higher prelims early in the New Year – 7th to 22nd January – although the start date may shift depending on any changes to term dates made by the Scottish Government. These prelims will give students a chance to test themselves under exam conditions, as well as provide enough time to respond to feedback and make any necessary improvements.

National 4 and 5

SQA have only now published updated assessment arrangements for subjects and our teachers are planning the distribution of assessment across the year. The advice from SQA is that there should be no prelim for National 5 but that formal assessment opportunities, towards the end of courses, should be used to gather evidence of students’ levels. In some subjects, assignments will continue to contribute to overall awards. However, there will be no external assessment at National 4 and 5. We are currently gathering assessment dates and information for each subject so that we can share this with you and avoid overburdening students, as much as possible.

Study Support

Study support is now underway in some subjects, having had permission to go-ahead with this from the City of Edinburgh Council.

Live Video Lessons

In the next week, I will issue information and user agreements which will allow the school to turn on two-way video, within Microsoft Teams. This will enable staff to work with students remotely, for example, for instrumental music instruction, one-to-one work in support for learning, counselling, Careers Support, and mentoring within the Young Edinburgh Talent programme. Teachers will also have the option to utilise two-way video with classes, which may prove useful, should we move to blended learning.

Consortia Students (Students doing subjects at other schools)

Students are now being allowed to travel to other schools for subjects, once per week. This is a welcome change which impacts a small group of students who do subjects elsewhere. We will advise students of their individual arrangements.

Inform Inspire Hire programme

As part of the Inform Inspire Hire programme S5 students are following in Personal Development, we have 30 spaces on offer for virtual mock interviews with Scottish employers. These interviews will be held on 9th December during the school day and will be held via Microsoft Teams. Some benefits of taking part in mock interviews are listed below:

  • Mock interviews help reduce stress and anxiety about interviewing
  • Mock interviews help boost confidence
  • Mock interviews provide constructive feedback in a low-stress environment
  • Mock interviews can help with preparation for future interviews for jobs, college or university.

Students who would like to participate in a mock interview should register interest with their Guidance teacher or through the S5 PD Teams page.

Foodbank Collections

We now have a permanent foodbank collection to support the work of the Broomhouse One-stop Shop and would be very  grateful for any donations which can be popped into the basket at the school reception desk. 

Anyone who is experiencing a shortage of food or toiletries is invited to speak confidently to our Pupil Support Officer, Mrs Ross. 

Social Mobility Foundation: 2021 Aspiring Professionals Programme

The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) supports ambitious young people from low-income backgrounds to access top universities and careers. They run programmes which are completely free of charge and feature mentoring, internships with top companies, university application support, and professional development and skills workshops for high achieving young people across the UK. Applications are open to S5 students at the following link: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5377083/APP2021/

Applications will close on Wednesday 16th December.

Finally, with three full weeks left of term, next week is week 2 in our rotation.

Thanks and best wishes

Stephen Rafferty

Head Teacher

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