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    Headmaster's Headlines 15-05-2020
    Jonathan Anderson

    Welcome to this week’s edition of Headmaster’s Headlines. I hope that this finds you well.

    We have been reflecting on our distance learning programme since the start of term, using the feedback we have received from pupils, staff, parents and guardians. Our main aim is to ensure that the teaching and learning continues to be as engaging and educationally valid as possible, whilst being mindful of the variety of pressures which our students, parental body and staff are experiencing at this time.
    Traditionally, the summer term is a little disrupted with pupils revising and sitting examinations, and enjoying a busy programme of trips and activities. In the absence of these distractions, it gives us a wonderful opportunity to properly prepare the pupils for the next academic year and the next stage of their education or life beyond school. After all, education is not just about grades and certificates, but also the development of skills that are difficult to measure like self-motivation, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

    So, after half term, the Fifth Form will begin “bridging courses” in each of their intended A Level and SQA subjects, with the aim of ensuring that the transition from GCSE is underpinned as thoroughly as possible.  The Upper Sixth Form will be encouraged and supported to focus on a topic of further study that interests them – this should be a stimulating end to Sixth Form studies, and a worthwhile stepping stone to a range of post-school destinations. The Lower Sixth and Shell will continue with their learning for their A Level and GCSE courses, and the First to Fourth Forms will take part in extended learning opportunities in the form of week-long projects.

    We believe that the above changes to our distance learning programme will provide our pupils with a learning environment that has a little more mental space to allow them to respond to the challenges they are facing and develop important life skills. Of course, we will still be listening to feedback, and certain details will be refined as we progress through the term. I am, however, positive that this approach will have real benefit for pupils, staff, parents, guardians and families.
    I cannot thank the Merchiston community enough for keeping up with the changing situation and approaching all the different aspects of school life so positively. Stay safe and well, and I look forward to seeing everyone again when it is safe to do so.

    Last Friday, the Merchiston Juniors had their Great Virtual Pringle Camp Out. I enjoyed seeing the photos that were shared @merchijuniors – it looks like it was a lot of fun! @MerchiCocurric shared with us an amazing music performance by Finlay on the drum kit. It was also a pleasure and a privilege to hear from some professional sports players: The Tennis Academy had Zoom calls with Kyle Edmund and Merchistonian Matthew Hollingworth; all our pupils had the opportunity of a Zoom call with Stafford McDowall (Merchistonian and Glasgow Warriors); and then there was our first large-scale webinar with Merchistonians Stafford McDowall, Paddy Kelly (Glasgow Warriors and Scotland 7s) and Tom Sole (Northamptonshire CCC and Cricket Scotland International). These were great opportunities to pick up some tips and advice.

    We have now had the official handover of the prefect teams, so I would just like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to the outgoing 2019-2020 prefects. They have risen to the challenge of what has proven to be a difficult year. We look forward to seeing them again soon, and fully involve them and all the Upper Sixth in our plans for our End of Term celebrations.

    This week’s podcast is a catch-up with Merchistonian James McKie, all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee. The podcast also includes short introduction on how Merchiston supports applications to American universities.

    Housemasters have been hugely impressed by the engagement and enthusiasm of all pupils at daily virtual House Meetings and we aim to keep these updates going throughout our term time apart. The time zone differences have led to some smaller and separate online meetings, but the feedback and good humour shown by all our pupils has been truly wonderful.