Dear Parent/Carer,

                Every year I am caught out by how quickly August has turned into December. This year is no exception. As I write this there are just a few days of term left before the Christmas Holidays. Those few days will be busy, much like the rest of this long term, with both the S5/6 Ceilidh and the Christmas Concert taking place. I am sure that both will be great occasions for the pupils and, in the case of the Christmas Concert, for the very large audience of parents, family and friends who will be attending.

We started the year with a number of pupils participating in sport at international level. Blair (S1) was representing GB & NI in the World Transplant Games recording two Golds in cycling and badminton. Alexander (S5) had spent the summer playing cricket for Scotland at U15 level and the East of Scotland U16s. Lucia (S5) was competing in the British Tennis Championships and represented Scotland later in the term at the Four Nations Championships held in Wales all contributing to her No.1 ranking for U18s. Tom (S3) won Bronze in the Regional Trampolining Finals in June then went on to pick up a silver in the British finals in July.

Twenty S2 pupils spent a very busy, very focused week in their two ‘White Water Writers’ teams. Having started with a blank sheet of paper on the Monday morning they had, by Friday lunchtime, devised, written, edited and published two full-length novels. Well done to Euan, Keira, Ben, Daniel, Flyn, Jacob, Hayley, Olaya, Salma and Zelia as joint authors of The Fallen. While Caitlin, Robbie, Dylan, Rosa, Sophie, Nico, Lennon, Luke, Grace and Jay-Jay jointly created The Mix Up. If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift you can buy both books on Amazon (they are listed under the pen name T.M. Cooks).

The ski slopes have been a productive location for Firrhill pupils this term. Lewis (S2) was first in the U14 age group at the British Outdoor Skiing Championships. The Firrhill Ski Team of Holly (S5), Lewis (S2) and Zara (S1) came first in the Boyd Anderson Edinburgh Schools Skiing Competition and in doing so brought home the Boyd Anderson Trophy which, due to the large chunk of granite in it is quite possibly the heaviest school trophy I have ever lifted.

Anna (S3) continued a strong tradition of athletics success by representing Edinburgh Athletic Club at UK level in the Youth Development Athletics League where she was part of the 4 x 100 team. Ruby (also S3) was also there in a coaching capacity for younger athletes while she was recovering from an injury.

Firrhill success continued in and on the water as Owen (S6) was part of the Scotland Surfing Team training camp in Spain in mid-September. Gemma (S1) was in Stockholm competing with the Edinburgh Diving Club for the Margenalen Bank Diving Cup with a 5th place in the platform her stand-out result. Still on the water Claire (S5) finished 2nd in her age group and overall 10th (open competition) in the Scottish Kayak Championships. Rosa (S4) represented Lothian in the Scottish Junior Disability Swimming Championship winning Bronze in the butterfly.

Caitlin (S2) finished third at the World Karate Championships in Croatia and was in Mexico at the end of September for the World Ranking competition securing a fantastic 1st place. Although currently too young to represent her country Caitlin certainly has the makings of a champion. Cameron (S5) was also globe-trotting to represent Scotland in Karate in the European Wado Championships in Budapest with a very strong 3rd place. A little later in the term Callum (S2) was also in Budapest, this time as part of the U17 British Cadet Fencing Team.

Amelie (S4) has been appointed to serve on the Creative Scotland National Youth Arts Advisory Group and will bring her good sense to bear very quickly we are sure. A good choice as she has also been turning in great performances singing with the Soul Band.

Aimie (S3) competed in London in the National Follow Your Dream Dancing competition where her group finished in second place. Well done. Kaitlyn (S2) danced in a performance at Disneyland, Paris as did Caitlin and Lucie (both S3). Alice (S3), Olive (S1) and Callum (S6) were all treading the boards in the Edinburgh Gang Show in November. A group of pupils led by Mrs Bentley performed excerpts from Coraline at Colinton Church and were very ably accompanied by Sophie (S1) and Jiwon (S6) on piano.

The Soul Band belted it our again last weekend at the Jazz Bar in Chambers Street. The best yet according to Mr Courtney who leads the band so well. Had my train not been cancelled I might have been able to see it too! At the Childline concert a couple of weeks ago the Big Band received a standing ovation and well done to Lewis (S4) and Finlay (S6) who stepped in at the last minute to take over compering the evening.

Proving numbers are their thing Suyash, Nina, Caitlin and Anisha (all S4) were placed a very creditable 9th (out of 37 schools) in the Enterprising Maths in the Lothians competition.

On the back of a strong team performance by the S1-3 Girls’ Football Team Anna (S3), Mia (S2) and Lucy (S1) were all selected for the S1-3 Edinburgh Girls’ Football Academy. Three of our boys found footballing success as they were representing their club team in an international tournament in Barcelona. Well done to James (S1), David and James (both S2). Fletcher (S5) trialled for the Senior Scottish Schools football team.

If you made it along to the very successful Christmas Fair you may have picked up some of our 2019 Christmas cards, as designed by Katie, Lucy (both S1), Kathryn, Zach and James (all S2). The Fair is organised by the PTA and they do a tremendous amount of work, often behind the scenes, to make sure that school events go smoothly and that a cup of tea or similar is available. Thank you to everyone who is involved with and contributes to the work of the PTA. Both the PTA and the Parent Council are always open to new members so if you would like to lend a hand and get involved you can find contact details on the school website under the Parent Community menu.

You may have seen on the BBC news website a story about the mural that now decorates the Colinton Railway Tunnel. The mural depicts scenes inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson poem ‘From a Railway Carriage’. What the BBC story failed to mention is that a large section of the mural was created by our S3 pupils during a hectic week of designing, drawing and painting. Certainly worth a look if you are passing by the tunnel.

More S3 pupils, this time the 16 pupils of the fashion class, were also busy in the community. This time working with a group of adults with learning difficulties and/or visual impairment. The pupils showed real leadership and care for their ‘pupils’ and it is clear from the feedback we received that the adults all had a fantastic time. Our S2 Makerspace class, led by Mr Coyle, spent some time at Braidburn School helping to assemble new furniture in their activity space.

Our Edinburgh Mini-Trials team of Tom, Georgia, Rebecca, Murron, Zara, Conal, Jessica, Emma, Ishbel and Anisha clearly have a future as barristers as despite being the youngest team in the competition they won both their trials. One of the Sheriffs involved in the competition described the pupils as “well-prepared, persuasive and clear” while one of the defence lawyers participating offered our pupils the chance of work experience at their firm. Not a bad weekend’s work.

The Youth Philanthropy Initiative was run with S3 pupils this year and culminated in a fantastic final where the winning team from each S3 register class presented to a hall full of S2 pupils and a rather stern looking judging panel. Each group presented on a charity they had chosen to support and the group judged to give the best presentation wins £3000 for their charity. The charities are small and local so that kind of money can make a huge difference. The quality of the presentations was very high and it was a close run thing but the team of Niamh, Chloe and Ailsa (3B2) just pipped it and Young At Heart, a group that runs a lunch and activity club for older people won the money. It was great that some of the ladies that run the group were in the hall to accept the cheque. Very happy they were too!

As in every term we have some staffing changes. Ms Gilruth has joined the Physics staff on a permanent basis. Ms Morton, who was already here on a temporary basis, is now a permanent member of the English staff and Ms Walker, also in English, will be joining us as a new permanent member of staff from January. Mrs Fish has joined us permanently in Social Subjects to teach both History and Modern Studies.

Long-serving English teacher Ms Cooper said farewell to Firrhill and teaching and moved on to take a new post with the Scottish Parliament (not as a MSP) where she will continue to utilise her literary skills and perhaps find more time to continue her own writing career.

Another long-serving member of staff, this time in Physics, Mr McDonald also moved on to a new teaching post nearer to home and family. Ms Archibald, English, secured a promoted post in East Lothian and started there in October. In the school office Ms Thomson has left to take up a new role with the University of Edinburgh. Mr Cameron moved on from the Social Subjects faculty to a new post in Glasgow to be near home.

I am sure you will join me in welcoming all our new staff to Firrhill and to wish all those staff moving on to new challenges, all the very best for the future.

One of the nicest parts of my job is when I receive messages from parents, pupils and those in the wider school community recognising the fantastic hard work, dedication and commitment of staff at the school. I have said many times that ‘going the extra mile’ is the normal operating mode for staff here at Firrhill. On that note if there is a teacher you feel deserves recognition for their efforts you may wish to have a look at the Scottish Education Awards website (https://www.scottisheducationawards.co.uk/) and nominate them.

Our Festive Foodbank Collection was, once again, a great success. Thank you to everyone who made a donation. Thank you too to Captain Richard Begg, the Padre for 3 Rifles for organising transport for all the collected foodstuffs and other goods to the South West Foodbank. The Community Programme Coordinator at the foodbank sent this message: “Please pass on our huge thanks to everybody for the very generous donation to our foodbank. You can rest assured that your donations will be put to good use and will help the needy to have a better day than they would otherwise have had without it.”

I think that sentence rather neatly summarises the fantastic community spirit that characterises Firrhill. Not just at Christmas but right through the year.

As I say every year, I hope that Santa is kind to you and that you can spend time with those who are nearest and dearest to you. I wish you all the best for a happy and successful 2020 and I hope the new year will bring everything you wish.

As is tradition, the last day of term will be our non-uniform Christmas Jumper day and school will finish for the holiday at 12noon on Friday 20December. School resumes for pupils on Thursday 9 January 2020 at the normal time of 0835.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Graham Hamilton


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