A Word from Mrs Rodger, Head Teacher

19 November 2017

Last Sunday, many Knox Academy pupils participated in Haddington’s Remembrance parade and service at St Mary’s Church. Cole Dean, Head Pupil, laid a wreath at the cenotaph on behalf of the school community. I was certainly very proud of all our young people, who conducted themselves with dignity and respect on the day. Recently, the Hall seemed more like a crime scene for our S3 pupils, who were attending a forensic science event run by the science faculty. Activities included a CSI whodunit, with white-suited S3s in full kit playing the part of Scene of Crime Officers. The pupils took on the task with enthusiasm, and this may just be the first career step for forensic investigators of the future. You may have seen on Twitter that a team of Knox pupils have done a great job supporting Haddington in Bloom, doing their bit to keep our town looking attractive. The pupils were praised for their hard work, their willingness to take on any task, and their good humour. Yet another reason for us to feel proud of Knox pupils! Our Community Development Officer, Doug Haig, is full of awe for another group of Knox young people: S2s have been taking part in a Decipher Assist programme in the community and Doug describes them as “a pleasure to work with.” The week ended on a fun note, with a dress down day and bake sale in aid of Children in Need. As I drove into school in the morning, it felt a bit surreal to see Batman at the gate reading a newspaper, but that was just a hint of the sights to come: instead of dressing down on the day, the S6s showed their creative side by dressing up. Amidst all the fun, I am sure that our school community will have raised a significant sum for the Children in Need appeal.

This week, I would like to single out an individual pupil for outstanding achievement: Andrew McKnight has been awarded the highly-prized Active East Lothian Award in the Volunteer Spotlight Awards. There is no doubt that Andrew is an inspiring volunteer - as a swim coach, a Young Ambassador, a Community Sports Leader, and an East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme helper. In the supporting statement for his nomination, Andrew is described as: “a committed and passionate individual...clearly focused on making the best for all the individuals he works with.” Andrew was presented with his Award at assembly this week and, judging by the prolonged applause he received, there is no doubt his peers hold him in high esteem. Andrew is a wonderful role model for our younger pupils, and we are all extremely proud that his achievement had been acknowledged in this way.

In recent weeks, we have said goodbye to four staff who are moving on from Knox: Ms Brannigan in RME, Ms Kirkwood in biology, and Mrs Freeman in Pupil Support. We wish them well and thank them for all that they have done for pupils of Knox Academy. We will shortly be interviewing for an RME teacher. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to recruit a biology teacher, despite re-advertising the post. Classes are being taught by a subject specialist as much as possible, either a supply teacher or other members of the department. We are currently reviewing the structure of Pupil Support and hope to advertise a post shortly. Another staff change has occurred in the maths department. Mr Blair is teaching four periods on a Tuesday at North Berwick High School, helping out the maths department which has been unable to recruit. This has resulted in a change of maths teacher for a small number of classes here at Knox.

Family Learning
This week saw the last session of our Family Learning Programme, held over four consecutive Thursday evenings and open to parents of S1 pupils. The sessions were run by a team of teachers, led by DHT Mrs Falconer. Topics included: the meaning of education, social learning, resilience, target setting and reporting, and study skills. Feedback from the parents who attended has been very positive and we intend to offer the programme again, to targeted year groups. I am very grateful to all the staff who worked so hard to ensure the programme was such a success.

4 Key Priorities
In this week’s assemblies, I have been sharing the school’s 4 Key Priorities with pupils. Every school in Scotland has to produce a School Improvement Plan which details actions the school will take as part of the on-going improvement process. At Knox Academy, we have streamlined our SIP into 4 Key Priorities, together with the actions which we believe will ensure these priorities are addressed. Our 4 Key Priorities are:

  • Deliver high quality teaching and learning
  • Support the needs of all learners
  • Foster an ethos of ambition
  • Provide leadership opportunities for all.

Our aim is for every member of the school community to be aware of these 4 Key Priorities, and to play their part in helping us achieve them. They can be found on the school website and we will keep everyone updated of progress, including through a display on the noticeboard at reception. I am excited about the way ahead for Knox Academy and I do believe our 4 Key Priorities will help us to be the best school that we can be!

Home Learning
One of our Key Priorities is to deliver high quality teaching and learning, and an action within that is to implement a home learning policy. We have now consulted with pupils, parents and staff and we are currently analysing the responses to questionnaires sent out to all these groups. The responses will inform the creation of our Home Learning Policy. In the policy, there will be a particular focus on home learning in the Broad General Education, especially in S3. We will also be aiming for consistency of experience across subjects. Thank you to all parents who responded to the survey.

Meadowpark, our communication provision, has produced a 4 Key Priorities document which complements that of Knox Academy. DHT Ms Prime, who leads Meadowpark, is working with her staff on an action plan to take forward these priorities. We have appreciated the support of local authority education staff in the development of this plan. This week, we also welcomed Liz Angus from Education Scotland, on a support visit to the provision.

Targeted Interventions
Following the recent tracking reports sent home to parents of pupils in the Senior Phase, we are carrying out targeted interventions with some pupils. These interventions are based on the original target grade agreed by pupil and teacher in September. If a pupil’s current working grade is three bands below the target grade in three or more subjects, then the pupil met with their guidance teacher or DHT Head of House to discuss their overall progress and to look at strategies for improvement. We hope that pupils find these interventions helpful and supportive. A minute of the meeting is sent home to parents/carers; this may be helpful with providing appropriate support at home.

Lauren Rodger
Interim Head Teacher
17 November 2017