Choices (Course choice):  There is a lot of work going on at present to ensure pupils can make informed choices.  Our S2 pupils have the chance to choose a broad ‘pathway to follow in S3 giving them some specialisation but ensuring that they are not locked into life changing decisions from a very young age.  Our S3s, having had a year on their chosen pathway, are selecting 6 courses to study in S4.  Our S4 and S5 pupils have different decisions to make – by now they are reaching an age where school is only one of the routes available to them and we do all can to help those who decide to leave us to move into what is called a ‘positive and sustained destination’.  Many pupils at this stage decide to return to school but they need to see this as a positive decision which they will sustain through to some positive results.  I do not want pupils to return because they don’t know what else to do – they should return with a clear sense of purpose and with a commitment to do all they can to achieve their ambitions.  Which leads me on to our S6s – they know they have to leave and they often have offers for what they are doing post school.  This can be a real problem because some think they can switch off from school work.  Anyone with an offer should check the ‘small print’ of their offers – almost all indicate that a drop off in S6 could result in the offer being withdrawn.  Even if that is not the case personal pride and satisfaction should be motivation to see courses through to a successful outcome.

Choices and Changes (SQA):  At the information evenings we spoke of changes being proposed by SQA for next session.  We have looked at what is being proposed and it would be fair to say we are extremely concerned at what is proposed.  The changes relate only to National 5 courses next session and they will see the removal of course units but with an increase in the length of exams.  In several cases we are looking at exams running for two and a half hours at National 5!  Youngsters with additional support needs and are entitles to extra time in exams may be almost 3 hours in the exam.  The removal of units will also make it impossible for a youngster who narrowly missed National 5 to gain a National 4 and is in my view a backward step which will impact most on the more vulnerable pupils should be trying to support the most.  We await information on how the system will cope with pupils who are taking National 5 over two years.  I know teachers, parents and pupils are concerned about all of these issues and will continue to try and seek the reassurances we all require at this time of uncertainty.

Changes (Google drive/Google Classroom):  This week we had a meeting with the Head Teachers from the 4 Primary schools linked with Harlaw Academy.  It is always good to meet our Primary colleagues and we are making really good progress on a wide range of issues which will support pupils as they move from Primary to Secondary.  What made this meeting different was that we tried to run it as a paperless meeting sharing documents within Google Drive.  We were keen to try to work in this way because we want to work this way within our schools and ultimately work like this between the schools.  A couple of education officers were at the meeting and were very impressed not only at the work we were discussing but also at the way in which we were working.  We have a lot to learn about the technology but we have made a good start and are keen to see this develop new and exciting opportunities for our pupils.