HEAD TEACHER'S UPDATE 15 MAY 2020

I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend last week to commemorate VE Day.  This week at school sees the last week on this session’s timetable and staff are busy preparing for the move to the new timetable on Tuesday 19 May (Monday is a holiday for pupils and an in-service day for staff).  All pupils in the new S3-S6 should have received an email with their new option choices and all pupils in the new S2-S6 should follow the Remote Timetable for their year group.  Each day is now split up in to 45 minute periods and there are five lessons in a day.  I would like to stress at this point, that this timetable can be followed flexibly and although the ideal engagement is five lessons a day, this may vary from household to household for a variety of reasons. The most important factor at this time is everyone’s health and wellbeing. The timetable should also allow for regular breaks, lunch and some outside exercise (if fit and well to do so). If your young person is in S1-S3, and you do not have ICT access at home, a hard copy of work can be picked up from the Haddington Hub (Haddington Primary School) or Tesco’s in Haddington. Please help yourself to some stationery too which will be left alongside these.  We are really keen to support all our pupils getting online and happy to arrange a loan of a school Chromebook for them if they do not have access to IT at home. Please email admin@knox.elcschool.org.uk to request this so we can arrange this for you.

New Timetable

With the closure of the school organising a new timetable has been very challenging trying to course/re-course pupils remotely. Our teaching staff have collaborated and supported each other to achieve the best outcomes for all of our young people

There is one phrase associated with timetabling and that is, ‘Anything is possible, but not everything is.’  To give you all a bit more information on timetabling it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round whole or do a 10,000 piece jigsaw with only a basic picture. Timetables are based on the number of staff we have available and the days they work.  It is also based on how many pupils can be in each class; non-practical classes such as English and Maths can have up to 33 in them in S1/S2 and in S3-S6, only 30 pupils. In practical subjects such as Art and Science, the maximum number of pupils in a class is 20 (all year groups). Across the schools there are over 200 classes a day to timetable. With nearly eight hundred pupils at our school, we have to ensure that S1 and S2 get all of their broad general education subjects and, as best as possible, aim to give everyone in S3-S6 their first choice in their course choice options. Inevitably there will be situations where we have to move to second choices for some of our young people but this is only after every variation has been exhausted to try to make first choices work for the highest percentage of pupils possible. This is why, when we asked young people to select their choices, we spent time highlighting the need for them to give their second choice some deep thought as this may become one of their options. Therefore if this has been the case for your young person, please know that every avenue was exhausted prior to this decision being taken.  We appreciate that this will come as a disappointment to you and your young person but we did try our best to make it work and only moved to a reserve choice as no other options were available.

For those in S3, S4 and S5, it is hoped that if they were unable to get any of their first choices this session that they can pick these back up in a later year e.g. if they were unable to be coursed in to Geography N5 in S4, that they can opt for this in S5 and still progress to Higher in S6 should they wish to follow this pathway through. It is important that S4-S6 is seen as a senior phase, and that qualifications are gained across three years and not just one or two.  This is why our ‘ambition’ at Knox Academy is that as many of our young people stay on to S6 as possible to maximise their range of qualifications and options. I would also like to highlight that during learner pathway reviews (or course choice) we also ask pupils what their intended career pathway is so if they are intending going to University to study e.g. Medicine/Vet Med/Law, which require  them to attain five highers in S5 (usually at all A passes (or As and Bs)) we will ensure that their learner pathways are such that they can be coursed in to five highers in S5. 

Free School Meals/Clothing Grants

We are aware that some parents/carers circumstances may have changed as a result of Covid-19 and this may mean you are now eligible for Free School Meals and/or a Clothing Grant.  If you think this may apply to you, please visit the Free School Meals and Clothing Grants area of the East Lothian Council website for further information and the relevant forms. If you need help completing these forms there is support available on the website or alternatively please contact your young person’s Pupil Support Leader (Guidance teacher) who should also be able to help you via a telephone call/email.

School Uniform for session 2020-21

Knox Academy has a long and proud tradition of wearing school uniform and not only does it look smart and professional for our learning environment, it also builds a common purpose, that of ‘Community’ – one of our school values. Please see our School Uniform letter for more details and to allow you to forward plan with purchasing this.  Please note: hooded tops are not part of our uniform and should not be worn school.  More details about the reasons for this are in the uniform letter. Thank you for your support with your young person wearing uniform and in our approaches to inclusion.

Edinburgh College

Chris Trotter, our Skills Development Scotland link, has been in touch to say there are lots of courses at Edinburgh College with spaces still available on them. Application forms can be found online at SCP Course information and application or parents/pupils can contact Chris Trotter for support with this and to talk through options. This can be done by emailing him at chris.trotter@sds.co.uk . If you would like to speak to a Careers Adviser please phone 0131 665 3120. Details of all SDS centres can be found on My World of Work

School Improvement Planning 2020-22

We normally do a yearly improvement plan but due to the unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in, we were unable to complete some of the tasks in our improvement journey this year and therefore have agreement from the Authority to put in place a two year plan.  This allows us to carry these tasks into next session at the same time as devising aspirational targets and tasks going forward over the next two years – some of which have been informed by our visit from Education Scotland in December 2019 and from the questionnaires filled out by pupils, parents/carers, staff and our community partners as part of this visit.

We are highly aware that when we do resume, the school will be in a very different place from when we finished up. The first few months (and possibly a lot longer) will be focusing very much on ensuring the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.  We will continue our focus on building positive relationships and our use of nurturing approaches to support our young people’s health and wellbeing and resilience. Further to this we will be focusing on ensuring high quality learning and teaching and establishing a good work ethic from all of our young people.  Our aim is to ensure that our young people have an inclusive and supportive environment, which allows them to thrive, and ensures they achieve and attain their potential. A Parental Overview of our School Improvement Plan Priorities for Sessions 2020-22, and the detailed School Improvement Plan for Session 2020-22 can be viewed within the School Improvement section of the website.  If you would like to comment on any of our targets, or feel we have missed any which could better support our young people, please email llambert@knox.elcschool.org.uk , with the email heading, ‘School Improvement Plan,’ so we can consider your comments/additions.  Thank you.

 

In terms of the 2019-20 School Improvement Plan, the progress made in the four key priorities can also be found on our website. We made a lot of progress in our Learning, Teaching and Assessment, as commented on by Education Scotland.  They highlighted the real sense of our school values of Ambition, Respect and Community informing the life and work of the school. This was an area we had focused greatly on with our young people over the last year and a half so it was good that this was evident during their visit. Many parents/carers and guests visiting the school have also commented on the positive ethos of Knox Academy in both the corridors and classrooms. We have also worked collaborative with pupils, parents/carers, staff and our community partners to develop a new school vision, which articulates with our school values. After months of consultation, our new vision statement was agreed in November 2019, and is ‘Always to choose kindness and create a respectful environment where staff and pupils can inspire each other to achieve their goals and become life-long learners.’  This coming session we will continue to embed this vision in all we do at the school to enable our young people to achieve their potential.

Our own Faculty Reviews, involve Senior Leaders, visiting Head Teachers, Quality Improvement Officers, Associate Assessors from Education Scotland and our Curriculum Leaders visiting classes to review the quality of learning and teaching and our young people’s learning experiences. These visits showed that there is an increasing consistency of approach in learning and teaching across classes and subjects and that there is a calm and purposeful approach evident, by our pupils, in their learning and engagement. Education Scotland noted significant improvements, from previous visits, in behaviour/positive relationships in classrooms which have resulted in an improved learning and teaching environment for all of our young people. This will continue to be a focus over coming years.  Our focus on improving relationships across the school, both between young people and their peers and between staff and pupils, has ensured that we place a high value on respectful and restorative relationships when learning and teaching becomes challenging. High expectations from both staff and pupils ensures a much better environment for learning across the school and in helping to raise both achievement and attainment.

In our school improvement priority of promoting and ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion, we worked collaboratively with staff, pupils and parents/carers to devise our new Equality and Diversity Policy, which incorporates our new Inclusion Statement. The school’s Pupil Support Base was also reviewed and modified to create three separate support areas with a defined focus (1) Learning Zone (2) Outdoor Learning (3) Bespoke individual and group work provision. We will continue to develop the use of these spaces to further enhance these provisions.  We will use the principles of nurture to reconnect pupils with their school community and address issues arising from Covid-19.

In terms of raising attainment and achievement, we introduced termly Diligence Awards (although due to the Coronavirus we only managed to award these to pupils for their first term’s work). These were well received by pupils and staff and whilst only a small number of pupils got a diligence award in all of their subjects, they act as a catalyst to encourage all of our young people to attain awards in all subject areas which further embeds our value of raising ‘ambition.’ We encourage our young people to give of their best every day, be aspirational and inspired to achieve.  At Knox Academy, we also introduced Achievement Ties. We awarded thirteen pupils with these for wider achievement and commitment in a variety of areas such as sport, enterprise and the arts; these achievements were at a school, local and national level. Although we were due to award more Achievement Ties this term, we will ensure that this forms part of our return to school celebrations.

Over and above the Achievement Ties and Diligence awards we also devised a new whole school spreadsheet to monitor and track pupils’ attainment and this allowed us to ensure a whole school overview which allows us to provide support or interventions as needed to promote individual achievement. East Lothian Council has been devising a new tracking, monitoring and reporting system and this will launch in August, with all schools across the South East of Scotland using it.  This will ensure a standardised approach of tracking attainment across all schools and will have lots of detailed information about a pupils’ individual support needs to allow staff to best support them in their learning. More detail about this new system will follow once we return to school and features as part of our School Improvement Plan for this coming session and embedded over 2020-22.

Stay safe, stay home and enjoy as much daily exercise as you are able to.  Best wishes to you and your young people from all the staff at Knox Academy. 

Sue Cook