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    In this final week of term we organise Christmas meals for the Juniors, Middle Years and Sixth form, and we also don our Christmas jumpers to raise money for Save the Children. We were delighted to welcome Francesca from Save The Children to speak to us at assembly.

    CHRISTMAS JUMPER DAY (presented by Francesca from Save the Children)
    I’m delighted to be here on such an important day – Human Rights Day – and speak about our work in Scotland and across the world to promote and defend children’s rights.
    I also wanted to say how great it is to see you all today in your fantastic festive knits for Christmas Jumper Day. From all of us at Save the Children, thank you so much for getting involved in our biggest fundraising campaign of the year. Your fundraising is helping children all over the world access the support they need, and enabling us to continue our vital work right here in Scotland and in the 120 countries around the world where we work. Just the £2 that you are donating today can pay for the antibiotics to treat five children suffering from pneumonia, which kills more children around the world than any other illness.
    If as a school today you raise £650, this donation can fund the rehabilitation of a classroom in Syria to ensure it is fit for children who have been affected by the conflict, and provide a safe, warm space for children to learn in.
    So as I mentioned earlier, we are all gathered today to mark Human Rights Day. I hear that you are on your journey to becoming a Rights Respecting School, which is very exciting news! The Award recognises a school’s achievement in putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into practice within the school and beyond.
    Save the Children was founded 100 years by Eglantyne Jebb. She had a vision – one that continues to guide our work today – to achieve and protect the rights of children worldwide. Her concern was for children – children in conflict, children in poverty, children who were unsafe, at risk or uncared for. She was driven by the belief that all children – whoever they are, wherever they are – have the right to a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.
    In 1919, Eglantyne was arrested for publicising images of starving children in Trafalgar Square and calling for an end to the blockades that prevented food and medical supplies reaching them. She was found guilty and fined for that protest. But the judge was so impressed with Eglantyne’s commitment to children, he paid her fine. That was the first ever donation to Save the Children.
    She wrote and presented her Declaration of the Rights of the Child to leaders around the world at the League of Nations convention. The declaration was adopted a year later. This inspired what became the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that turned 30 this year.
    At Save the Children today, we are working tirelessly to ensure that governments all over the world prioritise and promote children’s rights, especially the rights of children affected by conflict and living in the worst forms of poverty and deprivation.
    Earlier on I mentioned how poverty is a cause and a consequence of child rights violations. The UK is the fifth richest economy in the world. Yet child poverty in Scotland is high with one in four children growing up in poverty. Many children, including in Edinburgh, have to go without a warm winter coat and heating in their home because their family does not have enough money.
    Families we speak to tell us they miss out on the things their children need to fully participate at school, they don’t get the food they need throughout the day, they miss out on opportunities to socialise and take part in activities, and that they have a poorer quality of life and wellbeing. Children and young people in Scotland are therefore missing out on their most basic human rights being met, such as food, shelter and health needs.
    At Save the Children, we are working hard to help end child poverty in Scotland once and for all and to end the stubborn link between the money families have and children’s outcomes. We will continue to find ways to tackle poverty and support parents to help their children learn and develop. But it is a difficult challenge, with child poverty in Scotland set to rise further.
    I wanted to end today on a note of optimism. As you know, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC. It comprises 42 articles that set out the human rights to which all children are entitled. It was ratified by nearly every country in the world, including the UK. However, although it is ratified it was not incorporated into law, which means that children’s rights in the UK have no legal power. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has recently committed to incorporating children’s rights, as set out in the UNCRC, by spring 2021. This is a development which we can all be very proud of. We hope having children’s rights in Scots law will make a real difference to the lives of children across Scotland, particularly those living in poverty. All children have the right to live free from poverty.
    Thank you so much for ensuring that as a school you are promoting these rights and upholding the values of the UNCRC. And thank you for listening today! At Save the Children, we are so grateful for all your support and the money you will raise today as part of Christmas Jumper Day to help children in Scotland and around the globe.

    At assembly, we began our awards and recognitions with one which we could not award earlier in the term.
    Academic Exhibitioner Tie
    Congratulations to Isaac, who was awarded his Academic Exhibitioner for English.
    Congratulations to all of those involved in putting together the Drama Production this year, which was a great success. Although one or two have already started their journeys home for Christmas we recognised everyone by name at assembly. So, well done to the cast of “A Christmas Carol”: Robert, Alex, Sebastian, Oscar, Max, James, Dougal, Nikita, Michael, Alec, Aongus.
    Well done too to the pupils who participated in the St George’s production of “Little Women”: Freddie, Matthew, John, Adam and Hector.

    KOINONIA CHRISTMAS PARTIES (presented by Toby and Henry)
    Every Wednesday this term the Lower Sixth have been working hard in the wider community as part of the Koinonia programme. On Wednesday 4 December we had the annual Christmas party with the Longstone Primary School children coming to Merchiston for an afternoon of party games and fun. The mentoring programme involves Lower Sixth pupils offering one to one support to our most vulnerable young people across the authority. The party this year was particularly good fun as we had a gingerbread making competition. A special thanks goes to chef Sean who made over 50 gingerbread men and provided a whole host of edible decorating materials. When asked to give the party a score out of ten, the group were unanimous in saying it was “a million out of ten”! Mrs Pearson, the Headteacher, reported that the children had loved the party but had complained that it just was not long enough. Ms Cunningham wishes to thank all the staff and the Lower Sixth involved for making this such a special event.

    On Wednesday 4 December we also held a pop-up party for the two P6 and P7 classes we work with as rugby coaches. Every week a group of ten of us brave the elements and are out on the astro with full classes at Longstone Primary. Teaching core rugby and fitness, the pupils enjoy the competition and the energy of rugby training for a full hour - come rain or shine. This training is for 60 children so it really does have a positive impact.
    On a more serious note, we would encourage all the Lower Sixth to undertake some form of community service – there is work going on at Davidson House with the elderly, and two groups are working as teaching assistants with the pupils at Braidburn. This is a school for children with additional support needs and there can be no doubt that this is invaluable work that is making a real difference to the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. Thank you to all the staff and all the Lower Sixth who have made this a successful and rewarding term.

    ST ANDREWS DAY DEBATING COMPETITION (presented by Neil)     
    On Saturday 30 November, Merchiston took part in the St Andrews Day National Debating Competition. Run by the English Speaking Union, it offers senior pupils the chance to take part in three short prep debates with a final held in the Scottish Parliament. The motions were released only one day before and you do not know your table position until the day. Henry was representing Merchiston, and Aonghas (who was supposed to be there as a support to the team) was asked to step-up to the plate and compete against Sixth Formers in three different rounds. To everyone’s astonishment Aonghas managed a second place and the motions were challenging – should prisoners have the right to vote; should we abolish standardised exams in school and should a quota system be introduced for female MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Aonghas is to be commended, both for his bravery and for doing very well in all three short prep debates.
    The most innovative aspect of this competition was the fact that you are partnered with a different school so that the focus is on learning the skills of persuasive argument in a collaborative manner. You were also assigned a mentor from Edinburgh University union debating so that you were supported at every stage. As a total novice, Henry learned a great deal about structuring a speech and thinking on your feet. He also took two second places on the day. I would encourage anyone in the Sixth Form to avail themselves of this enriching and transferable skill. The inter-house debates will resume in January and any pupil from Chalmers West up can attend the Monday club meetings held in the Old Library from 6.45pm until 8pm on a Monday.

    Congratulations to the following boys, who were awarded Half Colours for Rugby: Alex, Hector, Alex, Rvyen, David, Struan, Finlay-Broch.

    Well done to the following boys, who were awarded their Major Games Ties for Rugby: Charlie, John Paul, Archie, Teddy, Adam, Jamie, Ben, Finlay-Broch, Guy, Rory, Robert, Struan, Tom, Ollie.

    In Rugby, congratulations to both the 1XV and U16s who were both victorious in their respective cup finals last week. The 1XV won 26-10 against George Heriot’s. The U16s had a dominating display against Dollar Academy, winning 41-5. It was a fantastic day of Rugby at Murrayfield. Thank you to all boys for their support: Andrew, James, Robbie, Glen, Felix, Lachlan, Tom, Rudi, Matthew, Frederick, Amaan, Alex, Luke, Arran, Drew, Jack, Max, Jamie, Monty, Mackenzie, Gregor, Callum, Jonathan.
    In other Rugby matches, the B1s and B2s won against Fettes. The 2XV lost against Loretto 1XV and won against George Heriot’s 2XV. The B1s, U13Cs and U11Bs won and the 3XV and C1s lost against George Watson’s. The U13Bs won and the U16Bs and C2s lost against Hutcheson’s Grammar School. The U13As lost against Cargilfield.
    In Football, the 2XI won against Fettes and the U12s drew against Cargilfield.
    In Squash, the U16s lost to George Watson’s.

    In Tennis, congratulations to the U15s who finished in second place at the UK National Schools Finals in Bolton. After a tough loss against eventual winners Reeds School on Saturday, they bounced back well with win against Millfield and Ellsmere College the following day. Well done to the following boys: Euan, Christian, Luke, Lachlan, and Luis.



    This week was the last Whole School Assembly before the Christmas break, and I congratulated the School on another truly memorable term - many thanks to all those who contributed. Furthermore, I reminded the pupils to say thank you to their teachers, House staff and support staff, many of whom will work on as we finish tomorrow. I wish all the pupils and staff and readers of Headmaster's Headlines a restful break with plenty of time to re-charge batteries before the busy Lent Term. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – see you in 2020!

    Jonathan Anderson