March 2018

Published: 19 March 2018

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. 

Sport Relief
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. 

Pupil Achievements
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. 

Study Sessions
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. 

Course Choicing
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. 

Author Visit
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. 

Lauren Rodger
Head Teacher

Published: 12 March 2018

There has been so much happening in school this week, it’s hard to know where to begin!

Hot Chocolate Friday
This week saw our first Hot Chocolate Friday and what a delightful occasion it was for a proud heidie! Five S1 pupils came to my office for hot chocolate at interval, pupils who put in their best effort every day at school – being polite, keen, kind, well-behaved and curious. #HotChocFri is a way of acknowledging and celebrating the fact that there are so many young people in our school who give of their best as a matter of course. The pupils are chosen by staff, one nomination from each faculty; I love to think of each group of teachers sitting at a faculty meeting, discussing all our wonderful pupils and deciding which one to put forward this week. The S1 #HotChocFri pupils may have been a bit daunted at first as they arrived at the Head Teacher’s office, but it didn’t take long for them to relax and enjoy sharing tales with me and with each other. I have two favourite quotes: when I asked what were the best things about school, one pupil replied, “I just love learning.” And as they left my office, I overheard another pupil say “I thought it would be hardcore but that was really fun.” It was certainly fun for the heidie, too! Next week, it will be the turn of S2s and already I’m really looking forward to it. I have a feeling that #HotChocFri may turn out to be a highlight for me each week. 

Above and Beyond
Another initiative started this week which focuses on positivity is Praise Postcards. Every member of staff is given one Praise Postcard per week, to be issued to a pupil who has gone above and beyond in some way. On Friday, there were pupils all over the school receiving a Praise Postcard, and I hope these postcards have been proudly shared at home. I loved watching the change of expression on the face of my chosen pupil, from puzzlement to a big smile, as he read the message on the postcard. With over 70 staff giving out a Praise Postcard each week, there’s going to be a lot of positivity on Friday mornings in Knox Academy!

Home Learning Evening
This week saw the launch of Knox Academy’s Home Learning Policy, with an event for parents and carers. We were delighted that well over 100 people came along to learn more about the policy and to attend workshops on supporting young people with their learning at home. Four of the workshops – on research, reading, revision and resources - were delivered by teachers from our Learning & Teaching working group. The fifth workshop, on types of home learning tasks, was very professionally delivered by three pupils from the Pupil Learning Team: Eilidh Graham in S3, Sam Thomson in S5, and Emily Merritt in S6. During the evening, depute Mrs Falconer gave a presentation on Show My Homework, a software package that will enable more effective communication on home learning between pupil, parent and school. Parents have been sent a letter providing more information on Show My Homework, which we intend to launch after Easter. Feedback from participants on our Home Learning event has been very positive, so much so that it is likely this will become an annual event. I would like to pass on a huge thank you to the staff and pupil team for organising such an informative event. We plan to deliver the presentation on revision to all pupils in year group assemblies before the Easter holiday. It will certainly be timeous for our seniors as they prepare for their forthcoming National Qualifications.

Eco Week
We have a very active Eco Committee at Knox Academy, as well as a junior Green Team, and this week environmental issues were very much to the fore. S6s delivered an excellent presentation in assemblies, challenging us to be ambitious in respecting our school space and the wider environment. They also shared lots of practical strategies on how to do that, and prepared challenges, activities and video clips for registration each day. On Thursday, we were delighted to welcome Louise and Rab from Blooming Haddington, who worked with the Eco Committee and S1 pupils to improve the raised beds in the courtyard garden. We look forward to watching the garden bloom as spring approaches. The week culminated in everyone wearing green on Friday (or, at least, everyone who had a green item in their wardrobe), to show our support for tackling environmental issues. Well done to the Eco Committee – you really have made a positive impact in school this week. 

Trips and Activities
Some of our junior pupils had adventures in distant parts this week. On Wednesday, 40 excited pupils – and a group of just as excited staff – travelled to the Etihad Stadium to watch Manchester City play Basel in the Champions’ League. For many pupils, this was their first experience at a football match on this scale. While the game may not have been the most riveting, with the home side losing 1 – 2 to the visitors, the pupils still had a ball (excuse the pun) and loved the whole experience. There were some bleary-eyed young people in school on Thursday, as they had arrived home in the early hours of the morning. I hope they’ve now managed to catch up on their sleep! On Thursday, S2 history scholars headed in the opposite direction, north to Discovery Point in Dundee. The tour of RRS Discovery certainly helped to bring their discovery and exploration topic to life. Closer to home, our Bronze Duke of Edinburgh group enjoyed a bit of spring sunshine as they practised their navigation skills around the River Tyne. One of our S4 pupils, Leo Washington-Mackay, was also out in the community this week, volunteering with Guide Dogs Scotland in their fundraising drive at Tesco in Haddington. Leo proved to be a real credit to Knox Academy and Guide Dogs Scotland are very grateful for his help in raising over £360 for the cause. On Friday morning a familiar face delivered a presentation to our S2 pupils when Jayne Easson, formerly a Knox guidance teacher, spoke about the work of the Teenage Cancer Trust. 

Off to Aubigny!
At Friday’s Haddington Twinning Association quiz night, S6 pupil Ailsa Wrinn was officially awarded the Aubigny Scholarship 2018. Ailsa will be spending a month in Aubigny, during which time she will carry out work experience in a local pharmacy, in preparation for her university studies. I know that Ailsa will be a great ambassador for Knox Academy and for the wider Haddington community, and I hope that she has a wonderful experience in our twin town. 

Maths Camp
This weekend, twenty S5 and S6 pupils and their teachers are attending Maths Camp near Newcastleton in the Scottish Borders - a great opportunity for our seniors who love maths and love the outdoors. I have been following their tweets over the weekend, hearing of vectors, optimisation, trig equations, calculus, creating outdoor patterns - and the zip wire. There’s plenty of maths in action, that’s for sure!

Boccia Festival
On Friday, Meadowpark pupils took part in a Boccia Festival. The event was held at Dunbar Grammar School, organised jointly by Scottish Disability Sport and East Lothian PE staff. It was such a success, and the pupils enjoyed themselves so much, that we have offered to host it here at Knox Academy next year. You can read more about it in Meadowpark’s newsletter.

Parent Council
Our Parent Council held its regular meeting and its AGM on Wednesday evening. I am delighted that our Chair, John Wrinn, has agreed to remain in post, and the PC are pleased to welcome two new members. At the meeting, topics discussed included: positive destination statistics; the school handbook for P7 pupils and parents; communication; and the prefect system. There are two further PC meetings this session, on Wednesday 25 April and Wednesday 30 May. Meetings are held in the school Library, beginning at 6.15 pm; all parents and carers are very welcome to attend. 

HMI Continuing Engagement Visit
I hope that everyone in our school community is now aware that HM Inspectors are returning to Knox Academy in the week beginning Monday 19 March. Parents and carers have been sent a text message drawing their attention to the HMI questionnaire which they have been asked to complete by 12 noon on Thursday 15 March. I would appreciate it hugely if all parents and carers would take this opportunity to share their thoughts on the school. Pupils, staff and partners have also been asked to complete questionnaires. I am really looking forward to the HMI visit, sharing with the Inspectors all that we are doing as we strive to be the best school that we can be. This is an exciting period in Knox Academy’s history and I feel very privileged indeed to be leading the school at this time.     

Lauren Rodger
Head Teacher

Published: 04 March 2018

Well, it has been a very unusual week in schools across Scotland with the closure due to the adverse weather. From the pictures on social media, it looks as if young people have had fun in the snow but I know that lots of learning has continued to happen, too. Staff made excellent use of Google classroom and Twitter to ensure that pupils had plenty of work to do, particularly seniors who are preparing for their National Qualifications - so much so that one of our S6s remarked on Twitter:

What is it about the snow that’s made every Knox Academy teacher 100 x more active on Twitter, emails and Classroom???

From the huge amount of communication that went on via email for the three days of closure, I know that staff were kept very busy, whether working from home, from Knox or from another county school that they were able to reach safely. I am very grateful for all that they did to ensure that the impact on pupils’ learning was kept to a minimum. There is no doubt that the snow looked beautiful but, having been snow-bound for four days, I have to say I was very glad when a local farmer cleared our road enough to let residents out this morning. Hopefully, all will be back to normal from Monday.

SQA Assessments
There were some National Qualification assessments timetabled for the days that school was closed last week. Pupils should be prepared to sit those assessments on their return to class. Rescheduled dates will be confirmed on our return to school.

What Matters at Knox Academy – Our Values
At assemblies recently, I shared with pupils some of the responses to our values consultation. Three things that really matter came out very strongly from pupils, parents and staff:


You will shortly find more details about these values on our website, together with a summary of responses to the consultation. Thank you to all parents and carers who took the time to respond. We are now considering how best to promote these values in our school community and I would welcome any further suggestions from parents as to how we might do so. As a starting point, every register class is considering what those values mean to them. It is all very well having shared values but what really matters is that everyone in our school community puts them into practice every day and that’s what we are aiming for.

Recently, we welcomed Mrs McDonald to the science faculty as our new biology teacher. We will shortly be welcoming Mrs Fox as our new Principal Teacher of Inclusion and Mr Gilmour as a class teacher in Meadowpark. We are also pleased to have Mrs Mulroy joining the office team. There are some vacancies (either due to staff changes or long-term absence) that, so far, we have been unable to fill despite advertising and/or trying East Lothian’s list of supply teachers. Subjects affected are: CDT, drama, geography and maths. Principal teachers are doing all they can to ensure that pupils are taught by a subject specialist as much as possible. This has resulted in some re-jigging of the timetable for classes in the affected subjects. The issues with staffing have put a considerable pressure on staff in some departments and I am hugely grateful to everyone who is going above and beyond to ensure that our pupils are supported with their learning. We currently have four student teachers with us in school, carrying out their placements in the following departments: biology, business education, English and modern studies. We are delighted to support future entrants to the teaching profession – I’m sure we will learn plenty from them, too.

Home Learning Event, Tuesday 6 March
The Home Learning Policy, produced by the Learning and Teaching working group, is launched at our Home Learning evening on Tuesday next week. At the event, you will have an opportunity to learn about the kind of home learning tasks your child might be set and how you can support them with that home learning. A new system of monitoring homework will also be shared with parents and carers at this event. Show My Homework software will be easily accessible to parents, enabling you to have an overview of your child’s homework. I hope that many parents and carers will be able to attend our Home Learning Event.

Parent Council Meeting and AGM, Wednesday 7 March
Another event for parents and carers this week is our March Parent Council meeting and AGM. The meeting starts at 6.15 pm and all are very welcome to attend. The partnership between school and the Parent Council is a strong, supportive one and it would be lovely to see some new faces coming along. A good example of that partnership working took place recently, when a group of PC members looked at some of the action points in our 4 Key Priorities document. As well as evaluating how successful we are in achieving these actions so far, the group made suggestions for taking things forward. It is an exciting time for Knox Academy and I am very grateful for the support of our Parent Council, and of our other parent group, the Parent Teacher Association.

HMI Follow-up Visit
As you know, Knox Academy was inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate in November 2016, with the inspection report being published in March 2017. One year later, an HMI team will be returning for a follow-up visit to the school. This takes place the week beginning Monday 19 March. The team will be observing lessons, meeting with the senior management team and talking to pupils, parents and staff in focus groups. In addition, questionnaires are sent out to members of our school community. If you are one of the randomly-selected parents and carers sent a questionnaire, I would be very grateful if you would take the time to send in a response and share your thoughts on the work of the school. We are really looking forward to welcome the inspection team and sharing with them the very positive things that are happening in our school.

Pupils’ Sporting Achievements 
We are proud of the recent achievements of two of our pupils in their chosen sports. Dylan Pearman in S1 has been selected to play squash for Scotland in the Under-13 Five Nations championship which will be held in Nantes, France in April. This follows his wonderful achievement as runner-up in the Nationals. Well done to Dylan, and we wish him the best of luck in April. At the other end of the school, S6 pupil Harry Rogan had a very exciting trip to Pinehurst, Carolina with the East Lothian Junior Golf League team. As well as playing Pinehurst, the team played a number of other courses and took part in the Winternationals Junior Series event. There was even a write-up by a local journalist, with a quote from Harry:  

“Those greens,” Rogan says in a trailing, wistful Scottish lilt native to his hometown of Haddington. A slight nod and a shake of the head brings him back a bit, his eyes, though, still radiant. “It’s an extremely historical place,” Rogan says. “Being designed by Donald Ross, with U.S. Opens and a Ryder Cup having been here, and all the famous names who have played here, when I go home, whether I’ve played bad or good, it will have been a memorable experience because it’s Pinehurst.”

Having spoken to Harry on his return, there is no doubt it has been a very memorable trip for him and we wish him continued success with his golf.

If your child has achieved success in any activity outwith school, sporting or otherwise, please do share it with us. We would love to know about it!

Lovely Message
Recently, I received a lovely email from a member of the public which I would like to share with parents and carers:

Good afternoon,

I’d just like to pass on my gratitude to pupils, staff and families for making Haddington such a lovely place to live. I walk past Knox daily and often pass groups of pupils gathered outside on their break. They always step aside and make room for me with my pushchair, every time. I have lived in many areas where this doesn’t happen and it’s impossible to get by without being bumped or stepping into the road (including a very nice area of Edinburgh!). We moved here last summer and I have always had such a positive experience with your pupils. There’s often too much criticism of children nowadays and so I wanted to pass on my thanks.

Thank you!

This is the kind of behaviour that staff see every day from our young people in Knox Academy and it’s lovely to have it appreciated by someone from outwith the school.

Free School Meals Eligibility
I have been asked to pass on the following message regarding uptake of free school meals:

Is your child eligible for free school meals, and if so, have you registered?

Schools receive additional funding of £1,200 from the Scottish Government for every pupil in P1 to S3 who is registered for free school meals. This is called Pupil Equity Funding, and schools use this additional money to help fund a wide range of initiatives to support achievement and provide the best possible opportunities for children’s learning. 

How do I know if my child is eligible for free school meals?

Please visit our website  to check your eligibility and download an application form.

Even if your child does not wish to take up the option of having a free school meal every day, we would encourage you to register so that your child’s school will receive the Pupil Equity Funding allowance to support their learning.

Lauren Rodger
Head Teacher
4 March 2018