A Word from Mrs Rodger, Head Teacher

Drama pupils have enjoyed being members of the audience recently, rather than performing or producing themselves. S1 – S4 pupils saw a physical, visually-stunning production of The Arabian Nights at the Lyceum Theatre, while Higher and Advanced Higher pupils saw How to Disappear at the Traverse Theatre. Both productions have inspired pupils and Ms Whitfield looks forward to seeing the impact on pupils’ work in future.

S6 psychology pupils were also in the capital recently, attending a conference at the Assembly Rooms. Lecturers and authors gave interesting and educational talks on topics such as the difference between science and pseudoscience, bad science and exploring empirical evidence. There were also live experiments and demonstrations.  You Tube sensation and magician Richard Wiseman demonstrated some magic tricks as well as giving some insight into the psychology of magic and the subject of sleep and dreams, one of the Higher topics.  The day ended with a stage hypnotist who gave a live demonstration of the power of the mind.

A group of senior pupils, led by Cole Dean and Andrew McKnight in S6, organised a very successful activity designed to encourage pupils to bond in House teams. In the sports hall, they ran a dodgeball tournament for S1, S2 and S3 year groups, with all pupils participating and aiming to win points for their House. While teachers were on hand, the event was delivered entirely by the senior pupils themselves and they certainly did a great job. Many thanks for showing such initiative and enthusiasm.

What a pleasure it was to be on duty at our Snow Ball Christmas dance on Thursday evening. While the music wasn’t always to my taste and was a bit loud (yes, I’m showing my age), our young people had a ball! The atmosphere was super, and I loved how all year groups were enjoying this event together. I’m sure it will have created a lasting memory for everyone who attended. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos taken throughout the evening by Mr Dempster as a record of a very happy occasion. Thank you to Mr Elms and Mr MacDonald who were our DJs for the night, to all the PTA members who gave up their evening to provide refreshments and run the cloakrooms and, last but not least, to Mrs Ball for organising the event so brilliantly.

Judging Duties
This week, I have been on the judging panel for three different competitions. It’s not always easy picking a winner, particularly when the quality of competition is so high. I really have been blown away by our young people this week and there are many moments when I have felt extremely proud to be the head teacher of Knox Academy.

Youth Philanthropy Initiative – All our S5 pupils have been working on a YPI project this term, with teams researching and visiting local charities in a bid to win £3000 for their chosen organisation. An aim of YPI is to grow compassionate communities by connecting youth to social issues and we certainly saw plenty of connection and awareness of social issues, as well as compassion. Following heats, six winning teams delivered their presentations in the Hall to S4 and S5 pupils and to the judges: Provost John McMillan; Gregor Booth, a member of last year’s winning team; and me. Keeping us right was George Smuga, from YPI, who emphasised that the main criteria for judging were: the quality of the presentation, the focus on the local element, the level of involvement of the young people, the level of detail in how the £3000 would be spent. The winning team persuaded us that £3000 could make a real difference to East Lothian Foodbank – I’m sure the charity will be hugely grateful for the great job that they have done.

Dragons’ Den – I’ve never been a Dragon before but I have to say I really enjoyed the experience, particularly when my offer of £30k for a 30% share of a business was accepted! This was the culmination of a unit of work for S3 business management pupils: they had to pitch their idea to the Dragons in a team presentation which included a TV advert and a prototype of the product. The teams really knew their stuff, enhancing their pitches with excellent detail about production costs, profit margins, target markets, future plans. There were various sessions throughout the week and Mr Flood, principal teacher, is very grateful to everyone who gave up their time to judge, including Ross Prentice from Prentice Coaches and Max Sykes from Canon UK. We certainly have plenty budding entrepreneurs at Knox Academy.

Cake Decorating – S3 pupils have certainly been busy recently as this is another competition involving their year group. In home economics, pupils have been baking and decorating Christmas cakes and the finished products were put before teams of judges throughout the week. The standard was exceptional: many of the cakes looked as if they had been decorated by a professional. Of course, this made judging very difficult. We were looking for originality of design, variety of techniques on display and perfect execution. Though the cakes look almost too good to eat, I’m sure they will be enjoyed hugely by families over the festive season.

Meadowpark Christmas Card Competition – Though I wasn’t on the judging panel for this competition, I was a proud member of the audience when we learnt that Max had won two bikes for the school, as well as a voucher for himself, with his Christmas card design. The competition was run by David Wilson Homes and almost all our Meadowpark pupils took part. There was wide variety in the designs and lots of creativity on display. Max’s design of a friendly Santa looked great made up into a proper card, and it will be dropping through many letterboxes over the next week. Well done, Max!

Christmas Boxes – On Monday, I will be taking up judging duties again, this time for the Christmas Boxes competition. Every register class has designed and decorated a box which will be filled with goodies to deliver to members of our local community. The boxes will all be on display in the Hall ready for judging, and I’m sure it’s going to be another tough job to pick a winner! In a way, of course, every box is a winner, as it is going to bring a bit of extra Christmas cheer to someone who deserves it. Thank you to all parents and carers who have given their child an item to donate to the box. Do look out for pictures on Twitter of the many colourful boxes.

I am happy to tell  you that my contract at Knox Academy has been extended until Easter, in the first instance. Two more acting posts have also been extended until Easter: Mrs MacLeod, depute head teacher, and Mr Redford, principal teacher of expressive arts, continue in their acting roles. We have two new teachers joining us in January, in biology and RME, and I will introduce them to you in a briefing in the new year. Returning to Knox on 8 January following her maternity leave is Mrs Machen, principal teacher of communication and literacy. She will be returning on a part-time basis and will be sharing the PT post with Mrs Rankine, who has been acting in post covering the maternity leave. We look forward to welcoming Mrs Machen back to Knox Academy.

Knox Academy Values Consultation
Many thanks to those of you who have responded to our school values consultation. This will help to inform our thinking on the way ahead for Knox Academy and I am really grateful that so many people have taken the time to answer the three questions, often in quite a bit of depth. If you haven’t yet responded, there is still time to do so by following the link on the text that was sent to parents and carers.

East Lothian Parental Engagement Strategy
Parents and education staff in East Lothian worked together over recent months to produce the Parental Engagement Strategy, which gives a clear way forward for increased parental involvement in our schools. All pupils have been given a copy of a leaflet outlining the Strategy. Do ask your child about it if they have not yet passed it on to you.

School Magazine
The latest edition of the school magazine has been produced in paper copy form, as well as in the usual online version. I would highly recommend it to you. Under the leadership of Amy McKinnon, the editorial team have produced an excellent read – informative, thought-provoking and amusing by turns. Copies will be available at the Christmas concert, or you can ask your child to bring a copy home. In order to raise funds to produce the paper edition, at very short notice the team planned and ran an enjoyable and successful evening event – a quiz for all ages. Amy and her team should feel very proud of their achievements with the magazine and it’s lovely that they have this high quality paper edition to keep for posterity. I was editor of the school magazine in my S6 year, and I still have a copy that I bring out on occasion when meeting up with old school friends!

Upcoming Events
It’s going to be a busy final week in school. Learning will be carrying on until the last day, but there are also quite a few Christmas activities during the week. As well as the Christmas boxes being delivered, we have our concerts on Tuesday afternoon and evening. I have heard some of the ensembles rehearsing as I’ve walked along the music corridor or past the Hall and I know that we are in for a treat. School concerts are always a highlight of the school year for me and I am really looking forward to my first Knox concert. In the afternoon, we will be welcoming P7 pupils from our cluster schools, as well as parents and friends. The evening concert, too, will have a very appreciative audience and is likely to be a sell-out. I’m sure we’ll all be in the Christmas spirit by the time we leave the concert hall, singing Christmas music in our heads!

Another Christmas event open to family and friends is the S6 Panto, which will be performed on Thursday evening, as well as to all year groups on Friday morning. Based on Shrek, the production is directed by Emily Merritt and choreographed by Arran Marsh, aided by their S6 colleagues. The lighting has been designed for both the Panto and the Christmas concerts by staff and pupils in the drama department. (Watch out for the odd cameo role, too.) I’m certainly looking forward to many laughs on the night, perhaps not all of them planned! The audience on the Thursday evening have an extra treat in the form of the pre-show entertainment by the Junior Drama Club, guaranteed to get the fun started.

On the last day of term, we will all be in our Christmas jumpers in aid of Save the Children; pupils are asked to bring a suggested donation of £1 if they can. The timetable will look a little different on Friday morning, with panto-viewing in the Hall, social dancing in PE and Christmas activities in classrooms. The morning is rounded off with a whole-school singalong of The Twelve Days of Christmas, a Knox Christmas tradition. What a great way to end the term!

I can hardly believe that we are almost at the end of term. I have loved this first term at Knox Academy, in particular getting to know the wonderful staff, pupils and families in our school community. Thank you for the warm welcome that you have given me. I have to admit, though, that I am looking forward to a restful two weeks with family and friends. As this will be my last head teacher’s update of 2017, I wish you all a very happy, relaxing festive season and I look forward to welcoming pupils and staff back to Knox Academy on Monday 8 January 2018. Let’s hope 2018 proves to be a great year for the school and all members of our community!

With warmest Christmas wishes,
Lauren Rodger
Head Teacher