Looking Back, Looking Forward
The weather may have been disappointing this Easter, but I hope that everyone in the Knox school community has had an enjoyable and restful break regardless. Our senior pupils will, hopefully, have managed to balance their studies with social activities and will return to school motivated and confident about the SQA exams which begin on Monday 30 April. For our junior pupils, the term ahead will be an exciting one with Activities Week in May. It was lovely to welcome pupils and staff back to school today and I wish everyone a very happy, fulfilling and successful summer term here at Knox Academy. For now, though, I’d like to share some news on events which took place in the last two weeks of the spring term and during the Easter holiday.
HMI Continuing Engagement Visit
The long-awaited follow-up visit from Her Majesty’s Inspectors took place two weeks before the end of term. The HMI team comprised four inspectors: two who had been part of the team which carried out the full inspection in Nov/Dec 2016, including the managing inspector; and two who had not visited Knox Academy before. The focus of the visit was to see how far the school had progressed in the four Areas for Improvement identified in the 2016 inspection. Activities throughout the week included: classroom observations in Knox and Meadowpark; focus group meetings with pupils, parents, teachers, support staff and principal teachers; drop-in sessions for staff; individual meetings with senior management team members; walks round school and informal chat with pupils; scrutiny of data, policies and procedures.
On the Friday afternoon, the SMT and our Quality Improvement Officer had a two-hour meeting with the HMI team to receive verbal feedback. I am delighted to say that I came out of that meeting feeling very happy and very proud indeed. The inspectors had seen significant progress in all Areas for Improvement and they are confident that the school has the capacity to continue improving. What was particularly pleasing is that the inspectors highlighted a number of strengths in the school. These include the clear strategic direction for the school and the shared values of the school community. Another strength is undoubtedly the Pupil Learning Team, which was described as ‘groundbreaking’ in the way it is enabling pupil voice to make a significant contribution to school improvement. Overall, what I am most proud about is the way that our young people came across during the week – they were fantastic! I believe that Knox Academy is now in a very good place to continue its progress towards being the best school that we can be. It’s a very exciting time to be part of our school community! The school, education authority and chair of Parent Council will shortly receive a written report – the Record of Visit - and all parents and carers will be sent a letter summarising the team’s findings.
On the last Tuesday evening of term, a sell-out audience had the pleasure of attending the Knox Academy Spring Concert, and what a wonderful evening it was! The large number of pupils involved from all year groups, the wide variety of musical genres covered, the huge amount of talent on display – all came together to make this a joyful concert. For our S6 pupils, the concert was a mix of pleasure and sadness as it is the last time they will perform on the Knox Academy stage. I would like to express my grateful thanks to all those S6s who have contributed so much to music in the school over the years. A very big thank you, too, to all the pupils who performed, to all the music staff and to everyone else who helped out on the night.
A group of our young people rose to a challenge before the end of term, when Meadowpark pupils cycled to Longniddry, supported by staff and Knox pupils. Though the weather was not great, the pupils persevered and felt a real sense of achievement. Well done to them all! Meanwhile, eight S1 pupils showed initiative, creativity and citizenship when they planned and delivered a series of healthy living activities for P3 pupils at Haddington Infants School. The group was led by Eilidh Towler, and the event was part of her work as an ambassador for the Year of Young People. The P3 pupils loved the activities and loved working with the pupils from ‘the big school’. The teaching staff, too, were really impressed with how well our pupils led the events. Indeed, it was such a success that the S1s have planned a full day of activities for another class at Haddington Infants in May. Meanwhile, some keen S3 pupils have also signed up to work with our cluster primaries, this time through the SkySports Leadership programme. Pupils are being trained to assist at, then lead, primary transition sporting and health & wellbeing events. They will also assist at Knox events such as the dance showcase. I’m sure the S3s will do us proud!
It has been very enjoyable watching the Scotland team at the Commonwealth Games over the holiday, but even more of a pleasure is hearing how well some of our Knox Academy pupils have performed in other sporting events. Our swimmers have been real stars at the Scottish National Age Group Competition: Louisa Stoddart in S1 had a phenomenal week, winning a number of medals including golds; Aidan Ballantyne in S2 reached the final in two competitions and achieved a number of personal bests. Knox Academy pupils played a big part in the success of the East Lothian team, finishing 5th overall in Scotland. I know that the team were grateful to have the support of S6 pupil Andrew McKnight as one of their coaches.
Haddington Table Tennis Club has very generously donated two brand new tables to the school. Table tennis is becoming increasing popular at Knox Academy but with tables costing around £500, it is difficult for the school to provide enough equipment to meet demand. We are very grateful, then, to the Haddington club for this much-appreciated contribution.
Show My Homework
All parents have had information about our new home learning initiative, based on Show My Homework (SMHW) software. As you know, our intention was to move to this system immediately after the Easter break. Unfortunately, however, there has been an issue with transferring data from the local authority’s management information system to the SMHW system. This means that we are not yet able to put SHMW into operation. It is very frustrating, particularly as school staff and SMHW staff have been working hard on this. We are currently awaiting the next step from the authority education IT team and I sincerely hope that SMHW will be up and running very soon.
At the end of term, we said goodbye to two members of staff in the Pupil Support faculty, Mr Raphael and Mr Muldowney, who are moving on from the school. We also said goodbye to PE teacher Mr MacDonald, who is taking up a permanent post in another school. We thank them most sincerely for all that they have done for the young people at Knox Academy and we wish them well for their future careers. Mr Gilmour-Jack has now started as a class teacher at Meadowpark and Mrs Gill has joined us at Knox as a part-time medical auxiliary. We welcome them warmly and hope that they will settle quickly into our school community. Two adverts for permanent posts at Knox Academy were placed on the myjobscotland website over the Easter holiday: Head Teacher and Principal Teacher of numeracy & technology. It is now East Lothian’s policy to include a video about the school in any head teacher recruitment campaign. Ours was filmed on the last day of term and I am very grateful to the pupils and parents who agreed to take part at very short notice.