Another term and school year draws rapidly to a close and the long summer holiday beckons. As always this has been a busy year and the list of accomplishments of our pupils is as impressive as ever.
We began the year celebrating very high standards of attainment by our senior pupils. S4 and S5 registering the best ever results by those year groups in terms of N5 and Higher passes. As I said at the time this is not only a great reward for a year, and more, of hard work but also creates a fantastic platform for success this year.
Collective ambition and effort was once again in evidence at the Whole School Challenge where through sheer guts and determination, including an outstanding contribution from S6, we managed to achieve our challenge and ‘step’ our way to the tops of the highest 75 Munros. Indeed we were a good way up the 77th when the time ran out. Not only a lot of fun, some good natured competition and a bit of fitness work but also a great way to raise funds to support our chosen charity – Riding for the Disabled – to the tune of £2700. The rest of the money raised (another £2700) goes into the Opportunity Fund to assist families here at Firrhill and also to the Whole School Council who decide how best to use that money to benefit the pupil body. Your encouragement and generous support of this annual event is very much appreciated.
In February we were the first school in the UK to be awarded the unicef Silver: Rights Aware Rights Respecting School Award under the new criteria. Led by Mrs Kerr a large team of staff and pupils have worked very hard towards embedding children’s rights in the school’s policy, practice and ethos. Our young people are developing as rights respecting citizens, as well as modelling rights respecting attitudes. The visiting assessors were effusive about the warm welcome they received from staff, parent council and, in particular, our pupils. It is no exaggeration to say that a whole-school, whole-team effort is central to our success in this and so many other things.
We said a fond farewell to our ‘old’ S6 pupils at a very well attended and successful Commemoration Evening in early June and then later that same week at the S6 Prom. We wish all of our leavers this year the very best for the future. Perhaps, one day, some of them will return to be our guest speaker at Commemoration Evening. This year Jamie Borthwick, reporter for STV, gave us an entertaining account of his journey into television. It served as a useful reminder that there are many paths to achieving our goals – even if you aren’t sure what your goals are when you set off on the journey!
No sooner have the old S6 departed than the process of appointing our new Senior Student Council (SSC) moves toward its conclusion. There were 42 applications this year with a very high standard being set. Every applicant was invited to present to a House assembly and, again, the standard of presentations was very high. Confidence and a great connection with the audience were very strong is many of those speaking. That made narrowing the field to the 25 who were interviewed a tough task and the quality of interviews was very impressive. It was clear to the other staff and the pupils on the interview panel that we had a very high quality field this year. Selecting the 16 post-holders was the final and most difficult task. Throughout the whole process the margins between those going on to the next stage and those not were very small. Despite the difficulties of making those decisions it bodes well that we have such strength in depth in the year group.
The SSC post-holders are listed on the school website. Congratulations to all who participated and I hope that everyone who participated will, even if they were not selected for the SSC, look for opportunities to take on responsibilities this year. I know many have already done so.
The sponsored walk went amazingly well with a record sponsorship haul. Super-efficient organisation from our team of probationer teachers meant everyone knew where they were going, with whom and when. To paraphrase a famous news report “We counted them all out and we counted them all in again.” Perhaps a bit footsore but with big smiles and a big heart to raise so much money. One pupil, Lilli Forrest, in S1 raised over £600 alone. That is quite amazing.
Our new S1 pupils joined us for their three-day visit and a busy time was had by all. Especially our S6 ‘Helping Hands’ who did a tremendous amount of work over the three days to make our newest pupils feel so warmly welcomed. I think it is fair that by the end of Thursday they were all very tired. An eye-opener, if one was needed, into how rewarding but exhausting it is to work with young people. I think it safe to say that we are all looking forward to an enthusiastic and hard-working S1 joining us full-time in August.
This summer also sees the return of the Firrhill Expedition with an intrepid group of 13 new & old S6 pupils along with Mrs Milner and Mr Owen, accompanied by our experienced expedition leader Ms Kramer from Outlook Expeditions, off to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for a month. Every pupil has had two years of hard work that has gone into preparing for the trip and to raise the significant amount of money necessary to fund their trip. Mr Owen and Mrs Milner have been there every step of the way. The pupils will have a chance to experience these amazing countries from a very different perspective than a normal holiday. They will, at times, be staying with local people and contributing to community projects. It is an over-used phrase but I think that on this occasion it is safe to say this really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can follow their progress at https://fhsvietnam2018blog.wordpress.com/ . Planning is already underway for the 2020 Expedition.
Sporting achievements came thick and fast. Keanna MacInnes won a Bronze medal in the Junior Swimming World Championships in the USA last summer and then represented herself and her country with distinction at the Commonwealth Games in April. She was part of the 4x100m medley relay team that set a new Scottish record. Our S3 Netball team won the Scottish Silver Netball Trophy whilst in football, the Senior Team reached the final of the Lothian Cup and the S2 team reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Plate. Firrhill pupils also found success whilst playing for club sides. In football where Jack Murray was a member of the Hutchison Vale under 13s football team that won the Scottish Cup. In rugby Douglas Murray, Calum Brown and Donald Arthur were key members of the under-16 Boroughmuir rugby squad who convincingly won the BT Youth League Under-16 Cup Final.
There were medal successes at the Scottish Schools Athletics championships with medals for Ruby Renton (gold – hurdles), Sarah Tait (bronze 1500m), Amy Preiss (silver Javelin), Findlay Ross (bronze 1500m) and Cameron Forbes (bronze hurdles). Emma Solley and Amy Preiss just missed out on a medal coming fourth in the discus and high jump respectively. A great Firrhill performance.
In other sports, Michael Denvir is the C1 Scottish Champion (kayaking) and with his sister Claire, they are the C2 Scottish Champions. Lucia Rizza came 1st in the U16 Scottish Indoor Championships and third in the under-18s. Jeke Canakaivata was selected for Scottish U16 Scottish Rugby Squad and
Holly McKey won the U16 Scottish outdoor alpine ski championships. Hockey continues to be a mass-participation sport at Firrhill with well over 100 girls regularly involved in regular training and weekend matches.
A huge thank you to all the parents who give of their time and expertise to coach and organise so many of the sports teams. Without their dedication and support we would only be able to offer a fraction of the sports opportunities that Firrhill pupils enjoy. Thank you too to the parents who, whatever the weather, are on the sideline and cheering on the teams.
It should come as no surprise that we were awarded, for the second time, the Gold School Sport Award by Sport Scotland. We remain the only secondary school in the City to have received this award. The Award lasts for two years and we are already planning how to retain the award in 2020.
2020 is an important year for Firrhill for another reason. The school will celebrate its 60th birthday that year and although it is still some way off we will be starting to plan once the new school year starts. One way you can help is to pass on information you receive about the school to any friends or family who attended Firrhill and have dropped out of contact with the school. We will be trying to get back in touch with former pupils, staff and parents over the next couple of years so anything you can do to help with that would be much appreciated. Watch out for future announcements.
One of the most obvious features of Firrhill is the friendly attitudes of pupils, teachers and parents. That friendliness and that sense of community spirit were put to the test a few months ago and the young people of this and many other schools showed their very best qualities. When news of Kira’s need for surgery in the USA became public the pupils here swung into action and whether it was bake sales, music performances or sponsored hat-wearing they poured in their enthusiasm and in poured the donations. The campaign touched a nerve across the city and lots of schools did many daft and brilliant things to add to the funds. Best of all: the target was reached, Kira got her surgery in the USA and, at the time of writing, the prognosis is looking good. We are all looking forward to seeing Kira back in the corridors and classrooms at Firrhill.
The musical skills of our young people, so ably led and nurtured by the music teachers here at Firrhill and our amazing team of peripatetic music teachers, continues to impress. The school’s reputation not only for high quality school music but also for barnstorming and professional public performances continues to grow. In addition to performances at, what now feels like a second home, The Jazz Bar this past year has seen our musicians perform at the Queen’s Hall, at the Meadows Festival and after-party and at the Canal Festival. Feedback from those watching and listening, including professional musicians, has been quite remarkable.
None of these could happen without the tremendous commitment of a very large number of teaching and non-teaching staff. All of these activities are organised in addition to the many other duties staff have. Going the extra mile for pupils really is the default position of the staff who work at Firrhill and I am certain you will want to echo my thanks to them all for this wonderful commitment to the present and future of our young people.
It is not only the staff that go that extra mile on behalf of the young people a large number of parents and carers do too. The Parent Council and the PTA provide steadfast support to the school and are there at every event providing refreshments, organising and generally making sure that things go smoothly. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the parents in those groups who do so much to support the school.
Both the Parent Council and the PTA are keen for new members to come along, join in and get involved. The demands are not onerous and the rewards are many. See the Parent Community section of the website for how you can get involved.
Once again, the achievements of our young people have filled three full pages and there is still much more that could be said. I have not mentioned the Paris or Berlin trips, bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh, the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, Remembrance, the S5/6 ceilidh and so many other fantastic activities, trips and events.
I also haven’t mentioned the inevitable staffing changes that occur at this time of year. I will provide you with a staffing update at the start of next term. However, there is one staffing change that I will mention and that is the retirement of Pauline McClellan. After 26 years of service to Firrhill, and 36 in total as a teacher, she has certainly earned a long, healthy and happy retirement. Bon voyage!
Time to end and to wrap up another busy, action-packed, challenging, fun and successful year at Firrhill. Let us hope for the good weather to continue and I look forward to seeing everyone in August when we will do it all over again.
Until then may I wish you and your family a lovely summer. Whatever you are up to, I hope you have a chance to enjoy happy, relaxing times with family and friends.
School will finish for the summer at 12midday on Friday 29 June.
All pupils return at 8:35am on Wednesday 15th August.