My first task is to welcome everyone back to session 2017/18 and to wish those seniors who have moved on from all the best in the future.
Our new S1 intake have settled in very well and this is in no small part down to the work we did all last session to help them become familiar with the school. We had 7 half day curriculum visits and a 3 day induction week so the building and routines were very familiar to those who attended one of our 4 associated primary schools. It was a lot of work to set up and I hope it will ensure we get off to a good start in terms of settling in and a fast start in terms of the work. If we are to get these S1s to outperform the seniors who have just left we need them to set a high pace and high standards from day and through their time at Harlaw Academy. We want them to enjoy school but as in any aspect of life enjoyment is linked to feelings of success.
I have attached a set of slides used at the assemblies I held for all pupils on the first day back. They are intended to tell pupils the story of their school; what their badge means, the origins of their school, our agreed vision/values/behaviours, their rights and hopes for their future. I would encourage parents and families to chat about this at home because if we can get staff, pupils, families and the wider community all working together for the best of the young people we will increase the chances of success.
I was very impressed to see almost all pupils turning up to school on time and in uniform. We will keep working with those who are late or not properly turned out for school not only because it is linked to the story of the assemblies but also because these are ways we try to keep our young people safe. All staff and visitors who are in the building should have an ID badge and all pupils should have their school uniform. We have a variety of suppliers and the basic information is contained on the attached leaflet. There is also an optional PE top available from Thistle Sports. It costs a fraction of a football top, is durable and really smart.
I appreciate there are some families who may find uniform expensive and for that reason we have a range of suppliers and have changed to a colour that offers more options. We are also keen to support families who may be entitled to support through either clothing grants or free school meals. I attach the forms again here for you to consider. I know some families do not like to make a claim and if this is the case please try to think of it from the point of view of helping your son/daughter. In addition to any entitlement the family might receive the school also gets around £1,200 for each pupil who is entitled to Free School Meals. If you are entitled please claim it because it helps draw down other funds which I can use to help them do better in their studies.
If you need help with these leaflets or forms please ask us to help with them – again please do not be shy it is our jobs to help you and we are certainly helping several others eg where their first language is not English.
In closing this blog I want to concentrate on the ‘well done’ aspect. Well done to those who completed National 3 and National 4 courses. These are internally assessed and do not require pupils to sit an exam – so we knew before summer who had passed. At National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher levels most courses require pupils to sit exams then wait until early August to hear their results. In the case of Harlaw Academy just over 1230 exams were sat in and summary terms this is how our pupils got on:
– 90% led to an award in that course (grades A-D)
– around 85% led to a pass (grades A-C)
– almost 30% led to an A pass
The new courses demand a great deal from staff and pupils as they often require successful completion of both internal unit assessments and the final external exam. To have the levels of success described above is something we should all be proud of and something we need to acknowledge/celebrate. I highlighted these numbers at our staff meeting on the Monday at the Assemblies on the Tuesday and again with Parents and local Councillors on the Thursday and now here in this first blog of the session. Schools aspire to do many things; look after young people, help them to develop as social beings, encourage them to take part in new opportunities and learn new skills etc. But one of our main jobs it to prepare youngsters for National Qualifications and give them the skills/knowledge/confidence to sit and pass them. I am delighted at the 1230 times pupils sat at an exam desk and gave the paper their best shot – for some it did not work out but they have tried and they can choose to try again or move on to something else. But for around 85% it led to a successful outcome and in 305 of the cases it led to an A pass. That is certainly something we should all be very be proud of.