End of Term – June 2017
As I look out my office window towards the Pentland Hills they are shrouded in mist, a light drizzle is falling and there is a bit of a chill in the air. All of which clearly signals that the summer holidays are nearly upon us.
It seems quite remarkable that 39 school weeks have passed by since August but on looking back an awful lot has been crammed into those 39 weeks.
Most obvious, perhaps, are the changes we have made to the curriculum, including the structure of the week. We are a few weeks into the new timetable and pupils and staff seem to have settled well to the new daily routine. The earlier lunch has been, on the whole, positively received and many have commented on the days seeming to pass more quickly. We will, as promised, review the structure of the day in October with both staff and pupils to judge whether it is working well or not.
The new curriculum also seems to be settling in well with the new courses, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) proving popular. Although early days, the move to seven qualifications in S4 to give that extra time for each subject is working well for the new S4 pupils. Double periods, dreaded by some, on the whole have received a thumbs up.
The review of the curriculum also showed what we can achieve together as a whole school community. The extensive consultation with parents, staff and pupils has very much shaped the final structure. It was parental questions that led us to explore the 4:3 split of the day, pupil feedback on registration meant we retained the horizontal structure and staff feedback was instrumental in the shaping of the new, and we think much improved, mentoring system. A real example of a strong school-pupil-parent partnership in action.
The school was awarded its first Green Flag in recognition of the excellent environmental work that is undertaken in school. The eco-group, led so well by Ms Barley, and supported by the parent eco-group, led by Mrs Hargest, do a great deal of work to promote environmental awareness and a greater respect for the environment locally, nationally and internationally.
We also attained the first step on our road to becoming a Rights Respecting School with the award, by unicef, of our Recognition of Commitment. Those of you with younger children still at, or having just left, our cluster primary schools will be familiar with the concept of Rights Respecting Schools. In short, the RRS Award recognises schools where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are incorporated into not just the rules of the school but into the ethos and everyday attitudes of the school and those in it. These principles of tolerance, respect, diversity and self-discipline are ones that are already strongly woven through the fabric of Firrhill and provide a fantastic foundation on which to build. Mrs Sharp and Mrs Kerr have been fantastic leads on this initiative. Look out for more developments in this area over the next year.
At the start of this month we said farewell to our ‘old’ S6 with a fantastic Commemoration Evening, where we were all entertained by a fine speech from Former Pupil, TV and film actress, Nicola Roy.
The end of that week was the S6 Prom which was a very smartly dressed way to end their time at Firrhill. A great time was had by all.
Even as we said goodbye to the previous S6 the business of appointing the Senior Student Council for this year was getting into full swing. The quality of applications (all 37 of them!) to serve on the Council was outstanding. Selecting a shortlist for interview, let alone the final selection of the office bearers was incredibly difficult. At the end of the process of application, interview and assembly presentations 16 S6 pupils were appointed. Led by Head Boy Alan Rowan and Head Girl Mitch Wilkins I look forward to working with all sixteen office bearers throughout the year. Working alongside the Council in a myriad of supporting roles are over 100 Prefects from S5 and S6. Their applications were of a very high quality too. Well done to them all.
Sports Day also received a ‘make-over’ this year with the whole school participating in elite and fun events as well as the ‘tough mudder’. The last of those was aptly named as I am sure you will recognise from the very tired and rather muddy young people who arrived home to you that day. The organisation of the day was superb and involved pretty much the entire staff very ably led and marshalled by Ms Carmichael and her PE team. As well as being a great fun day for everyone, pupils and staff, it was a great way to launch the House competition which this year sees the addition of a fourth House, Darrach, to the existing three. The PE team even managed to organise perfect weather for the day – pretty impressive! Alongside all of that our elite athletes continue to excel in national and international competition across sports as diverse as 100m, shot putt, football, snooker, kayaking, water polo, martial arts, swimming, orienteering and surfing, to name just a few.
The creative efforts of our young people have been firmly on display too with concerts, the joint fashion show with Braidburn, the fantastic creativity evening, drama showcases, pupils performing in regional ensembles and in professional theatre productions. The level of musical skill continues to impress all who hear it and the quality of performances throughout the year has been outstanding. One to particularly note was the performance of the Jazz Quartet, Soul Band and Big Band at the Jazz Bar on Chamber’s Street. It would be fair to say they well and truly rocked the joint and not surprisingly have an invitation for a repeat performance. Mrs Innes, Mr Courtney and Miss Bennett along with all our visiting music instructors do a sterling job in encouraging and teaching these fantastic musicians.
Our S1 art pupils have designed a brand new mural for Spylaw Park. Pupils created panels for the mural which were whittled down to a final selection presented by the pupils who designed them to representatives from the Colinton Village Events Group. The five winning panels have been painted, by the pupils, full size onto the wall in the park and we had a grand opening ceremony (just dodging the rain) in May. Miss Kirkwood was a great lead on that project.
As I write this we have two overseas trips away. One to Iceland and the Sports Tour to Holland. These are just two of the many trips that pupils participate in over the course of the year. Trips to Berlin, to Paris and to London top the list of city destinations whilst the Duke of Edinburgh pupils have been out and about enjoying the wild(er) places of Scotland. The Duke of Edinburgh programme continue to be a real strength at Firrhill and is superbly well led by Mr Boyd and the team of dedicated staff who go above and beyond on a regular basis to give pupils such wonderful, character-building opportunities. The Ethos day activities are taking place today which sees pupils across all years off to locations near and far to enjoy a wide variety of activities. As you might imagine the organisation of this is a huge task and thanks go to Ms Howells for leading on this.
The end of the school year is also the time when staff move on from Firrhill, whether to new jobs or into retirement. This year is no exception. Mrs Frew in Business, Mrs Scott in Maths and Mrs Dickson, our librarian, are all retiring at the end of this term. They have each given long service to Firrhill and to education more generally and I am sure you will want to join me in wishing them all a long and happy retirement. I should say that Mrs Frew will not disappear completely from Firrhill as she will be coming in for one day a week next year.
Mr Edwards, in History, has secured a temporary promoted post at Liberton High School which will start in August. We may well see Mr Edwards back at Firrhill when the post ends at Easter and we wish him all the best as a faculty leader. In the same faculty Ms Hester will be leaving us at the end of her temporary post and she too goes with our thanks and best wishes.
Most of our probationer teachers will also be moving on at the end of term. So we say farewell to Miss Bennett (Music), Miss Eadie (Biology), Miss Ganarin (Geography), Miss Jones (English), Miss Kirkwood (Art) and Miss McCaig (PE) who are all moving on. Most to teaching jobs in the UK but a couple are headed overseas. Miss Liggett will be staying on at Firrhill having been appointed to a permanent Maths post here.
Ms Sharp, in English, will be starting her maternity leave at the end of the term and we all wish her well with the impending arrival of her baby. She will return to Firrhill following her maternity leave. Mrs McGinnis who has been acting one day per week as Support for Learning Leader also comes to the end of her acting post and we wish her well as she takes up a promoted post at Forrester High School.
That, of course, means new staff will be starting at Firrhill in August and I will introduce them when I write to you at the start of next term.
I feel as if I have only just scratched the surface of all that has happened this year. I haven’t mentioned Whole School Challenge, IDL week, the sponsored walk, Remembrance Day, the three-day visit, the hockey tour, the S1 Christmas Party, the S5/6 ceilidh and so much more and yet I am already on page 3 of this letter!
We want as many people as possible to know about the great work that goes on here at Firrhill day in, day out so please feel free to forward this letter on to friends and family, especially if they have any sort of past connection with Firrhill.
I had better draw things to a close here. It has been a fantastic year at Firrhill and we will all return in August to do it all over again, and probably a bit more. 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 tomorrow, Friday 30 June.
All pupils return at 8:35am on Wednesday 16th August.