Sticky Header Container

In this week’s Headmaster’s Headlines, I bring you some staffing news, as well as updates from around the School.


Dr Cartwright standing in the Chemistry lab

I am delighted to announce that Dr Dale Cartwright has been appointed Deputy Head Learning and Teaching. Having studied Chemistry at The University of Edinburgh, Dale went on to complete a PhD at the same university in Organic Synthetic Chemistry. After five years in the pharmaceutical industry, he completed his PGDE and joined Merchiston in 2006. He has been involved in many areas of the School since that point, most recently in his role of Assistant Head Academic which he began in January 2015.

In his new role as Deputy Head Learning and Teaching, he will ensure that we have a renewed focus on the process of learning in the context of Merchiston’s mission, aims, and values. He wants to engage the whole school community in both the fostering of a culture of enjoying the process of learning and the development of a toolkit of techniques to facilitate this: I am sure he will seek to have conversations with many of you on these matters as this gets underway.

We are also pleased to welcome Flora McPhail as our resident Housemother in Chalmers East. She will spend the next two weeks settling in and getting to know the boys, staff and our systems and structures. She has many years’ experience of working with young people with a special focus on the wellbeing of those she has had in her care. Her experience also includes teaching English as an Additional Language and she has additional skills as a senior sailing instructor, outdoor education specialist, mountain biking leader and ski instructor. We hope that she will be very happy at Merchiston and we know that everyone will make her very welcome.

Mrs Carol Sharp joins us as a Primary Teacher in the Pringle Centre. She joins us from ESMS, but she was previously employed here for the Lent Term 2017, so we already have first-hand experience of her excellent teaching in this junior age group. Having coached some of Scotland’s top athletes, we are also excited that Mrs Sharp will contribute to the athletics coaching at Merchiston.


Green tents pitched on the green grass at Merchiston

The whole of Shell have been camping in the School grounds and did their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh qualifying expedition over the weekend of 3 and 4 October. The Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh practise expeditions went well, and the boys are now raring to go for their qualifying expedition.

The Food Forum 2020-21 has been recently formed with a group of Upper Sixth pupils who will engage with Mr Johnston and the Catering Managers as well as the chefs to discuss any feedback from pupils across the school. These student leaders will be tasked with collating points and discussing with the key staff. This group has been very successful in the past, and it has allowed the Students’ Forum to discuss other development ideas and new pupil initiatives. The Student Forum 2020-21 will be established in the coming weeks once House Forum reps have been selected. The Food Forum has already given ideas, and amendments have been put in place to senior portions and meal timings.

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week, and you will see some posters around the School. We will be working on this theme with the boys in Support for Learning and encourage engagement across the subject areas. Here are some interesting facts for you:

5 Facts for Dyslexia Awareness Week

  1. Britain’s favourite foodie, Jamie Oliver, is dyslexic. Rather than seeing this as a negative, Jamie is proud of his dyslexia. He believes this enables him to see the world from a different perspective. Dyslexia has not held him back, and you don’t have to look far to see the evidence. As of 2020, he has a net worth of an estimated £230 million.
  2. 50% of people with dyslexia are left-handed, whereas only 11% of the total UK population is left-handed.
  3. The dyslexic brain is typically larger than the average-sized brain and often more creative.
  4. The most common cause of dyslexia is genetics and the way the brain neurologically develops.
  5. Dyslexia can also be acquired later in life, due to a brain injury from trauma or disease.


Senior pupils training with weights in the school sports hall

It has been a busy and very active first month of school sport. Boys have had the opportunity to play a number of summer sports alongside a staggered start to the rugby programme in line with SRU guidelines. They have also enjoyed a Saturday afternoon activity programme which has been very well attended by both day pupils and boarders.

As the nights start to draw in a little earlier towards half term, we now move towards Phase 2 of our re-integration to sport for 2020-21. This moves away from most (not all) of our summer sports offering and is replaced with a fuller winter sports and more organised internal competition. We have had a couple of cricket fixtures so far, and we hope to have some further tennis, golf and hockey fixtures over the next couple of weeks. For rugby, we are currently monitoring the SRU Return to Rugby updates, which are under review following recent Government announcements. We will update you with detailed plans as soon as confirmed.

With regards to the Senior Sports Programme (Fifth-Upper Sixth Form), tennis will continue until Half Term, but athletics and cricket will stop. A health-related fitness activity in the School Gym, Padel Tennis Club and a Hill Running Club will replace these. The swimming pool is due to open soon. The golf activity at Swanston GC (non-Golf Academy boys) will be available from after Half Term.

Pupils getting ready for running club in the school grounds

There will be Clan sports events in football, touch rugby and cross country during the Tuesday and Friday slots up until Half Term for Chalmers West and below. Chalmers East will have a Clan touch rugby tournament on Friday 9 October. The boys so far have been superb and seem to be thoroughly enjoying being outside.

More details will follow with regards to our co-curricular provision for the second half of term.

Congratulations to all our winter sports captains who have been rewarded for their dedication and commitment to their specific sports for 2020-21. As well as being talented performers, these leaders represent the SOLID CASTLE values which underpin the behaviour of every boy who represents the School. 

Rugby –Ben and Teddy
Football- Rafael and Matthew
Hockey- Max
Basketball- Thomas
Fives- Marcus
Shooting- Bertie
Badminton- Jamie

A group photo of the Winter Sports Captains


Jonathan Anderson