Dear Parent/ Guardian
I welcome you and your child back to Musselburgh Grammar School for the start of a new academic session.
I hope you find the accompanying information useful for the year ahead – parents expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the contents of the mailshot when we did an earlier consultation exercise, but we are always willing to listen to other suggestions – and some suggested a booklet would be easier to store over the year, so the format has been changed.
I have also included a new item this year for S1/ S2 only– Making the Difference: Parents’ Evenings, one of a series of publications from the Scottish Executive. We are aware that the number of parents coming to each consultation evening rose last year, and we would like that trend to continue. I hope you find the booklet helpful and look forward to seeing you.
Posting all this information home is expensive, but helps ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the expectations we have of our pupils and it lays out the important dates for the coming year. It would be advisable to keep it in a safe place.
As before, we will place all the mailshot information on the school website www.mgsonline.org.uk. Any documentation issued to a year group or the whole school population will also be posted on the website, so a regular look at the website will help parents and guardians keep abreast of school events. Many parents and members of the local community have commented very favourably on its content and layout.
Our SQA results for this year are satisfactory and in line with our projections from preliminary examinations. Last year’s results were our best ever, and while we found it difficult to match that, they are broadly comparable to those of the last 3-year period – this was a year of consolidation.
At Standard Grade, many pupils picked up Credit passes and the percentage of pupils passing five or more S Grades at Credit level was 28%, our second highest ever score. While the number of pupils gaining 5 passes at Grades 1-4 dipped slightly to 70%, the percentage of pupils gaining 5 or more Standard Grades at grades 1-6 increased to 87%. As teachers, we all believe that these figures can rise further – there is still capacity for improvement. For example, the results of the boys this year lags behind that of the girls. One major factor inhibiting pupil performance is the poor attendance rates of many pupils – if you are not here, you are not learning. I hope that the pilot project of automated contact with parents on the day of absence will help us work together with parents to reduce casual non-attendance.
Support was offered once more in the mentoring of S4 and S5 pupils, and I would wish to thank all the staff involved for giving up time voluntarily to support these pupils.
15 pupils passed 5 Higher examinations in a single sitting, an increase on last year. However, slightly fewer of our pupils managed to pass 3 Higher examinations, though we hope that the appeals system may assist some pupils to reach this national benchmark. It is clear many pupils find the shift from the two-year Standard Grade course to the single year Higher grade demanding. Many other pupils in S5 made progress by sitting examinations at Intermediate 1 and 2 levels, in preparation for taking the Higher course in S6.
As many of you will know from previous newsletters, the bulk of the building work carried out through the PPP project is now complete, and the school is a far more pleasant building in which to work. The summer works programme was subject to delay and will now be rescheduled to weekend and holiday working. Steps however have been taken to reduce the temperatures in rooms which face the sun for most of the day, which has been a concern for some time now.
Our school roll has stabilised at 1322, and I welcome 16 permanent and temporary staff to the school, including 8 trainee teachers in a variety of subjects:
Art and Design – Ms Main, Ms Walker
Biology – Ms McGregor
CDT – Ms Armstrong, Mr Dewar
Chemistry – Ms Moonie
English – Mrs Sweetnam, Mr O’Connor
French – Ms Cairns, Ms Cakal
Geography – Ms Young
History – Mrs Anderson
Home Economics – Mr McLaughlin
Mathematics – Mr Schmitz
Modern Studies – Mr Nicholson
Office – Mrs Laidlaw
Mrs Wilkinson returns as PT Guidance for Caird House, with Mr Bowers moving to Moray House as Acting PT Guidance for Mr McNaught.
I spoke to all pupils at a series of assemblies on the first day. As well as reminding them about the importance of attendance, good timekeeping, good organisation and the like, I spent a little time talking about the need for pupils to take responsibility for their own learning and work hard with their teachers to achieve their potential. Success in school is not just down to native intelligence – hard work, application and persistence are also important: qualities which are carried forward to adult life. My other theme for the day was respect – for oneself, for one’s fellow pupils, for all adults connected with the school, and respect for the local community as they travel to school and mingle at lunchtime – good citizenship begins in one’s own neighbourhood.
R I Summers
MUSSELBURGH GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Attendance and Attainment
For the last three years, the school has been monitoring the performance of pupils with poor attendance. It is now quite clear to us that poor attendance seriously affects the attainment of pupils in national examinations – which in turn affects their employability and future life chances.
The average attendance rate in Scottish schools is 93% - but this aggregate figure hides wide variation between schools: we stand at 89%. Our statistics show that attendance below 85% sharply increases underachievement and this applies to both girls and boys. Bear in mind that 80% attendance means a pupil is off on average one day a week: an employer would not accept this figure as acceptable, and neither will we.
Quantity of passes
Virtually all our S4 pupils are presented for a total of 8 Standard Grade or National Qualification examinations at the start of S4. Some pupils had to be withdrawn from one or more examinations because they had not completed coursework – largely due to absence. Only 3 pupils above 85% attendance had to be withdrawn from examinations. An employer will ask why a child does not have 8 results on their certificate.
Quality of passes
The school is increasing the number of passes at Grade 1 and Grade 2, on a ratio of one Credit pass to every 3 presentations. The group of 44 pupils below 80% in 2004/5 had only 16 Credit passes between them out of a total of 352 possible presentations, a ratio of 1 Credit pass to every 22 presentations. This poorly attending group almost exactly matched those who did not pass 5 examinations at Grades 1-6.
Non-appearance for examinations
Every year, we have a group of pupils who simply do not turn up for all of their examinations. That group is almost exclusively drawn from those below 85% attendance – because they have got out of the habit of coming to school every day.
The conclusions from this are very simple: my staff cannot teach children who are not in school, and such children underachieve at school and leave themselves disadvantaged in the employment market. I would urge every parent and guardian to ensure their child is at school as frequently as possible. As a school, we must improve our attendance rates.
R I Summers