East Lothian Events
There have been three recent East Lothian events where Knox Academy pupils have shone. Last week, East Lothian held its first ever Youth Summit, at the Brunton in Musselburgh, and by all accounts it was a great success. Knox was represented by two pupils from each year group and one pupil from Meadowpark. The very positive contribution by our pupils was remarked upon: the young people from Knox were enthusiastic and insightful in discussions and held their own well in the debates. The next step is for the participants to share the messages of the day with their fellow pupils back in school. Another event at the Brunton was the East Lothian Showcase Concert. I loved being a member of the audience, especially seeing so many Knox pupils performing in the ensembles and orchestras. They were wonderful! There will be a further opportunity to hear our pupils perform at our own spring concert on Tuesday 27 March and I would say this is an event not to be missed. This week, fourteen of our junior pupils took part in the East Lothian Schools Swimming Competition and they did very well indeed. Despite being the smallest school in the county, the Knox team came a very creditable second.
This week has seen a number of matches between senior pupils and staff, as part of the Sport Relief initiative. Netball, football, rugby and hockey matches were hotly contested – sometimes, experience won the day, whereas in other matches the energy of youth triumphed. Whatever the result, a great deal of fun was had by all. Thanks to our S6s for organising the event and to staff for being such great sports.
We had a large group of very proud S2 pupils in assembly this week, when they were presented with their Saltire Award certificates for carrying out ten hours of volunteering. The pupils were trained as peer supporters under the DECIPHer-ASSIST programme, which aims to reduce adolescent smoking prevalence. Their volunteering has the potential to make a very positive impact on the health of themselves and their peers.
This week, we have been looking to the future at Knox Academy as we have been interviewing for a number of posts due to start in August - in biology, geography, home economics and physics. We have more interviews to follow in the coming weeks and I am very grateful to the members of the Parent Council who give up their time to join the interview team, observing candidates teaching. It is not an easy task, and I really appreciate the insight and professionalism they bring to the task. It has been a pleasure to see so many passionate, committed teachers keen to work here at Knox and I know they will be a great asset to the school once they begin in August.
From the time I arrived at Knox Academy, I have been hugely impressed with the number of lunchtime and after-school study sessions offered to our pupils by teachers in every faculty. This is just one example of how staff go above and beyond to support pupils in their learning. If you have a child in the senior school who has not yet taken advantage of these study sessions, please do encourage them to go along if they feel they need a bit of extra support with their learning. There are programmes on display in every faculty giving times of the sessions. There will not be any Easter revision classes during the holiday: the number of pupils attending these classes has dwindled in recent years, meaning it is not financially viable to run the sessions. There will certainly be plenty for our senior pupils to work on over the Easter break, though. Before the end of term, teachers will be suggesting revision tasks and exam practice to be carried out over the holiday. On our return, there are two weeks of lessons before study leave, giving senior pupils plenty of opportunity to discuss any queries or concerns with their teachers.
We are currently part-way through our course choicing process – an exciting time for our young people in S2, S3, S4 and S5 as they look to the future, considering their pathway both here in school and beyond. Despite the snow days forcing us to postpone some appointments and rearrange others, all pupils will have a course choicing interview with their guidance teacher. I am delighted that so many parents have been able to come into school to join in with the discussion and I’m sure it is of benefit to every young person to see school and home working together to support and encourage them in their learning.
The final course choices have to be made from the column choice sheet. Staff have given a great deal of thought to the structure of these columns in an effort to ensure that the maximum number of young people are able to get their first choice of subjects. However, there will always be some clashes and some combinations that do not work and guidance staff keep a note of these. Likewise, if a subject which a pupil is interested in does not appear on the column choice sheet, the guidance teacher will also note that. We can then look into further possibilities before finalising the timetable. I am delighted that our offer of courses for the Senior Phase is so broad and, in particular, that the offer for S5 is wider than it has been in the past. There are also many opportunities for pupils to opt for courses delivered outwith the school, and which are fitted into the timetable so they will not have a negative impact on the pupil’s other subjects. This is an East Lothian-wide initiative which will benefit pupils across the county. As always with course choicing, I would ask pupils and parents to note that we may not be able to run every course as we have to take account of budgetary and staff capacity constraints, as well as pupil uptake. I would like to pass on my appreciation to our guidance team, who do a wonderful job meeting with every single pupil in their House in four year groups, in a very limited timeframe.
Some of our junior pupils had the pleasure of meeting ‘The Bloke of Steel’ this week – not a name you hear in school very often. Also know as Paul Register, The Bloke of Steel spoke to Knox Academy and Ross High School pupils about comics and graphic novels. There is no doubt he fired the imagination of our young people with his lively and engaging presentation. Thank you to Mr Plain, our librarian, for organising the event. Reading will certainly have received a boost from this event.
HMI Continuing Engagement Visit
I would like to pass on a sincere thank you to all parents and carers who took the time to respond to the HMI questionnaire. We look forward to welcoming the Inspectors to school from Monday 19 March and sharing with them how we have progressed since the inspection in November/December 2016.
Lovely Moment of the Week
This week, it was a tweet that caught my eye. A visitor to the school had taken a picture of the ‘Provide Leadership Opportunities for All’ section of our 4 Key Priorities noticeboard. He then posted it on Twitter with the message: “When you just know a school values leadership.” As head teacher, I am hugely proud to see so many of our young people and our staff confidently stepping up as leaders. It’s one thing to provide the opportunities, but what really matters is whether people take up those opportunities. They certainly do so in Knox Academy, hence my simple reply to the tweet: #proudheidie.