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Headmaster's Headlines 08-01-2020

Welcome back to the Lent Term and I wish you all a very happy new year. I started the Whole School Assembly this week with an additional warm welcome to our new pupils who joined us this term.
As we embark on a new term, and a new year, it is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the key improvement points we have established as a school for this academic year. We can then all play our part in helping to make everyone’s experience more fulfilling. Mr Johnston joined me in addressing the School, and we began with the School Improvement Plan Headlines. We are all part of the team who can hit these targets.

We want to ensure that every lesson is used as an opportunity for positive learning through our attitude and commitment.

Having successfully achieved our Bronze Award in June we are pushing forward with our aim to achieve Silver this year. There will be opportunities coming up for some of the pupils in this area, as well as in our drive to improve our focus on sustainability as a school. This term we are beginning a project with Zero Waste Scotland and your feedback and support will be necessary as we look at food waste as a starting point.

Later this term you will hear about our planned improvements, but many of you will already have seen that the construction work on the new Tennis Dome is under way. 

In November, the pupils completed a Wellbeing Survey, and we communicated the results and key action points to the school at the Start of Term Assembly.
Here are some of the key questions and answers:
* I am happy being a pupil at this school – 97% Strongly Agree or Agree
* I feel safe and protected from bullying when I am in the House – 96% Strongly Agree or Agree
* I feel safe and protected from bullying when I am in my classes – 96% Strongly Agree or Agree
* I feel safe and protected from bullying when I am in Games and Activities – 95% Strongly Agree or Agree
* Pupils speak to each other in a supportive and positive way – 89% Strongly Agree or Agree
Wellbeing Indicators (% rated 10-7)
* Safe 96%
* Healthy 94%
* Achieving 93%
* Nurtured 95%
* Active 96%
* Respected 94%
* Responsible 94%
* Included 94%

Our initial target is to achieve 90% or higher in Strongly Agree/Agree answers. You will see that, whilst we have achieved more than 90%, the numbers of individuals who do not agree still gives us cause to reflect on what we are doing. Much more detailed work will be done by individual Housemasters with each year group.
Many thanks to all the pupils for doing this, because the results help us to identify key action points. We always ask about bullying, as a good school is one which never relaxes its efforts to ensure that negative behaviour is challenged and discouraged. Merchiston is a very happy school, but we must all continue to ensure that we act with kindness in our interactions with others.
So, at this point in the assembly, it was a good opportunity to remind the School of the staff who take leadership of the Child Protection Team. However, it is important to note that all members of staff are trained in our Child Protection procedures so pupils can speak to anyone with whom you feel more comfortable.

As I mentioned a little earlier, we are renewing our focus on making the most of every learning opportunity. The Pupils’ Charter, which a group of students updated last year, continues to be a strong set of reminders for us all. Next week, Senior Prefects will speak to the School about their interpretation of these 7 values in their Merchiston journeys.
We have updated the presentation of our Behaviour Management Staged Intervention Model so that pupils can see more clearly how the decisions they take about their behaviour impact on their experience here. This has been shared with all pupils so they can fee confident in understanding the importance of making positive decisions about behaviour.
We are also asking a group of pupils to re-word the Behaviour for Learning Policy, as it is currently written very much from a teacher point of view. We will share the results of that exercise a little later in term. However, the key principles are the same and we expect all pupils to follow these easy guidelines for a positive experience. 

* Punctuality and Preparation
* Good manners (Hold doors open, Say “Hello/Good Morning”, Stand when an adult enters any room)
* Correct uniform and dress for all activities (Uniform Lists)
* Positive language to others (other pupils and all staff)
* Consideration of others
* Positive commitment in lessons and beyond
* No mobile phone use around School
* No chewing gum in School
* Appropriate use of iPad/technology
* Follow the Pupils’ Charter
We have picked out 10 easy-win targets for us all, and I ask everyone in the School to make every effort to achieve these, starting now. These are not points just for today or this week; we all need to focus on keeping our standards high and making the most of every opportunity we have here.

So, 2020, a new decade – the 20s. The 1920s were known as the “Roaring 20s”. I wonder what we might end up describing the 2020s as? I suppose our pupils might have a part to play in shaping that label. It will be the decade when they leave here and make their mark on the world – It’s an exciting thought.
Last year in this assembly, our first of the new calendar year and the Lent Term, I talked about New Year’s resolutions – those commitments we make to ourselves to be better. Last year I recall setting the challenge of eating the alphabet of fruit and vegetables. The greater challenge was actually naming 26 pieces of fruit and veg that start with the different letters!
This year, a different resolution – a new challenge – and it has already been laid out in front of the School. The Captain of School talked about academic rigour and preparation, and Mr Johnston talked about pupils creating the right learning culture around the School. That will be our focus this term – if we are to genuinely pursue excellence in all we do, we must have the right mindset.
When I addressed the School, I made no apology for telling them that they will be challenged if they don’t get it right. They know what good behaviour looks like; if they are unsure, they should ask. If something feels like it is not the right thing to do, it most probably is not the right thing to do. Our pupils need to be positive in their approaches. Their teachers will continue this term to support and challenge them, but they will expect the pupils to bring the right mindset.
Good luck to everyone in the School this term. Work hard, and get it right across the board.

We closed the first Whole School Assembly of 2020 with our traditional handshaking – an affirmation of our community bond and our commitment to supporting one another.

Jonathan Anderson