In my last two blogs I highlighted two big events – both which took place this week.  In this blog I shall share with you the success of both events:

The first was an event we called #secureyourfuture.  This was intended to be much more than a standard careers event.  It was an opportunity for Harlaw Academy to sign off on a formal partnership with one of the biggest and most secure employers in the area at this time – Aberdeen City Council.  This partnership is intended to offer our pupils an employment pipeline to the wide and diverse range of employment opportunities within the City council.  The event at the school on Wednesday evening also brought in a range of partner agencies who the City council work with to deliver their services to the public.  The link also brought in the part of the Council who are taking forward the City Centre Master Plan.  For those who do not know about the masterplan it is a 20 year city centre regeneration project which it is hoped will deliver 50 infrastructure projects and create over 5,000 new jobs.  In short we have positioned Harlaw Academy alongside this activity so that our youngsters can be involved in shaping their City and well placed to benefit form the employment opportunities this will generate.  Our other partner in planning the event was DYW NE – this is short for Developing Young Workforce North East.  This is an organisation leading work on linking education and employers.  The challenge we set the DYW team was to bring local employers into the school and they did not disappoint – on the evening we had just over 50 local companies ready to offer our pupils and parents real jobs on the doorstep of the school.  I was pleased we saw between 100 and 200 families take advantage of the well opportunity and I spoke to quite a few adults and young people who picked up contacts and/or work.  We will try to find other ways to follow up this event and may well repeat something similar later in the session.  We will also keep working with pupils to identify the skills they are learning and applying in school – skills which would be valued by employers.  The link below is to a useful item on skills developed by parents for parents nutshells_skills_e-1

The second ‘event’ was a visit by assessors from UNICEF UK to see if our school met the criteria to be awarded level 1 of the Rights Respecting Schools Award.  A team of 5 assessors spent the morning in school meeting staff, pupils, parents, visiting classes and learning about our work around the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.  It was a very thorough investigation of our work and I am delighted to report that Harlaw Academy not only gained the award but has the accolade of being the first secondary school in Aberdeen City to gain the level 1 award.  I hope the award and these 12 extracts from the report offer pride and encouragement to all associated with our school community:

  • the school vision value and ethos were developed in consultation with young people, staff and parents. It underpins the improvement plan and is based on respect for people, learning and community
  • Pupils have a pride in their school, and there are positive relationships between staff and pupils
  • the school actively encourages and supports pupils to take part in consultation and participation events in the school and wider community
  • the school has worked hard to promote inclusive approaches to all children. A partner of the school commented that ’it is a very nurturing school’
  • The school has ensured that there are opportunities for staff and young people to learn about the UNCRC through lessons, assemblies and staff CPD.
  • Displays throughout the school highlight opportunities and achievements of young people and are linked to the UNCRC
  • It was evident that language of rights was established in most classrooms, with staff creating positive and supportive learning environments
  • The school has made significant progress in improving positive attitudes of young people, and recent surveys indicate that almost all pupils feel safe in school. Work on bullying has been explicitly linked to children’s rights and relevant Scottish legislation – The ‘Harlaw Defenders’ have actively supported pupils to feel safe and included
  • Pupils feel confident to express their beliefs and opinions, and the language of respect is used to deal with challenging behaviour – restorative practices are increasingly being used. The DHT noted that ‘the language of respect has changed the approach to discipline in the school
  • There has been a sustained effort to improve the ways in which the voices of young people can be heard, both in the classroom and across the school. Pupils say that they feel valued and listened to – this view was also supported by parents, who commented that ‘pupils are more aware of what is happening in the school and are able to share their views’
  • There is a wide range of pupil groups and leadership opportunities from S1-S6 . Some S6 pupils have become the first in the city to become ‘My World of Work’ ambassadors, and actively promote employer engagement
  • Fundraising is led by pupils and readily linked to the UNCRC by the young people. They appreciate that by learning about rights and supporting charities, they are also developing skills and knowledge which will help them

The links with City Centre employers and the work on Rights Respecting Schools offer a very solid base from which we hope to raise the attainment of all pupils and in particular overcome barriers some individuals face as they seek to do their best at school.  We still have a lot of work ahead of us but this has been a very successful week in which a lot of our hard work has led to positive outcomes for the school and its pupils.  I wish to thank all pupils, staff, parents and others who have worked with us in delivering these successes.