A Word from Mrs Rodger, Interim Head Teacher

What a lovely week this has been in school! A highlight for me was lunch on Tuesday in the home economics kitchen: as part of our link with Dementia Friendly East Lothian, junior pupils and members of the community spent the morning cooking lunch and then sitting down together to enjoy the delicious dishes they had made. Invited guests also enjoyed lunch, served very professionally by pupils, including a choice of soups, apple crumble and fruit salad. Tuesday was a special day for another reason, as it was European Day of Languages. Throughout the week, we had conversations and activities in a variety of languages, including S1s taking part in a Euro Quiz, while S3s held the Euro Olympics. Senior pupils studying languages had a visit from Heriot Watt students, sharing their very positive experience of studying a language at university. Towards the end of the week, our charities committee was busy organising a bake sale as part of Macmillan Cancer Support’s Big Coffee Morning. There were certainly plenty of customers for the goodies on sale, so I hope that a good amount of money was raised. Still on the theme of food, we welcomed Aniko Schuetz Bradwell, minister of Yester Parish, to our assemblies this week. Aniko spoke about food being plentiful at harvest time, and asked us to think about sharing with others who have less than ourselves – food for thought, indeed. Looking back to last weekend, it sounds as if our S6s had a great time on the residential trip to Dalguise Adventure Centre in Perthshire. There’s no doubt that many of the young people stepped outside their comfort zone at times over the two days and, as a group, they have created special memories of their last year in school.

Lovely Moments
Phil Gilholm from Pupil Support asked me to present Bikeability certificates to two pupils who had completed the course to a very high standard. It was a joy to see their huge smiles of pride at their achievement. Another lovely moment came as I stood at the front door greeting pupils with a smile and a 'Good morning.' After wishing me a 'Good morning' back, a pupil stopped and said to me, 'Seeing you here when I come into school makes me feel like I'm coming into Hogwarts.' I wonder if that's because I remind him of Professor McGonagall?

We are delighted to welcome new members of staff who have joined Knox Academy since the start of term: Mrs Malone in business education; Mrs Stewart in computing; Mr Murray in PE; Mrs Waybel in art and Mrs Davis at Meadowpark. We hope that they will settle in quickly here at Knox and we are sure they will be a real asset to the school. I am also pleased to say that Mr Redford has been appointed to the post of principal teacher of expressive arts (acting).

Dress Code
I am delighted that the vast majority of our pupils take pride in following the dress code, dressing appropriately for a place of work and identifying with the school. Indeed, visitors to the school have commented positively on this. It is disappointing, then, to see some pupils dressed very casually in ripped black jeans which I do not believe are suitable for school. I am speaking to pupils individually about this aspect of the dress code and I would very much appreciate the support of parents in ensuring that our young people are dressed appropriately. The dress code is an important aspect of our positive school ethos.

SQA Post-results Service
As part of the analysis of SQA exam results, schools compare results attained by individual pupils with their estimated grade. If a pupil has performed well below the estimate grade and the school suspects an error may have occurred in the totalling of marks, then the school can request a clerical check. If the school holds clear and compelling evidence that there is a reasonable possibility an error may have occurred with the marking, then the school may request a marking review. This would be following discussion between the teacher, principal teacher, SQA co-ordinator and head teacher. A pupil or parent may also ask the school to look into the possibility of submitting a marking review. Before a request for a marking review is submitted to SQA, the candidate should provide written confirmation that they wish this to go ahead; this is because the candidate’s mark could go down or up following a marking review. East Lothian secondary schools, in common with most other schools across Scotland, follow the SQA guidelines and the advice paper from ADES (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland) regarding the post-results service. These have been brought together in a Knox Academy policy and procedures document which can be found on the school website. This year’s marking review results were received by the school today (29 September) and candidates are being informed whether their request has resulted in a change of grade.

Advanced Higher Courses
We are very proud that we are able to offer Advanced Higher courses in many subjects at Knox Academy. Throughout the month of June and up until the September weekend, many of these classes were timetabled for five taught periods per week. Some subjects with a very small uptake for Advanced Higher have had fewer taught periods from the beginning; rather than withdraw the course due to low uptake, the decision was taken to offer the course with reduced teaching time. I am pleased that we have been able to do this as it offers more choice to our S6 pupils. Since the September weekend, we have moved to four taught periods in most Advanced Higher courses. This is common practice for courses at this level, where a proportion of the time in school should be dedicated to independent study. This may be for folio or practical work, for example, or for more in-depth study of topics covered in taught lessons. More information on Advanced Higher courses can be found on the SQA website.

The safety of our pupils is paramount and one aspect of ensuring this safety is our anomalies system. Senior members of staff check anomalies every period, picking up pupils who are not where they should be. Our main focus is period 1, first thing in the morning, and period 5, straight after lunch, as these are the times when pupils are most likely to be late to class. We always contact parents if a pupil does not appear at all during those periods. We also contact parents immediately at other periods throughout the day if the pupil is in S1, if we feel they might be vulnerable, or if we have any other concern. If the pupil has been truanting a lesson, parents will be informed and an after-school detention will be arranged so that the pupil can catch up with work missed. The House team, i.e. guidance teacher and depute head teacher, keep an overview of anomalies for all young people in their House and liaise with parents should there be any concern.

Parent Council
Our next Parent Council meeting is on Wednesday 4 October at 6.15 pm in the School Library. I hope that many parents and carers will be able to join us. The agenda includes a presentation on the school’s attainment in the 2017 SQA exam diet.

Lauren Rodger
Interim Head Teacher