Headteacher’s Senior Section Welcome Speech 2017

Welcome and thank you for coming to our Senior Section Welcome Back meeting.

Welcome especially to new parents and pupils. As always, the start of the year sees lots of new pupils join us and this year is no different.

As you might be aware, numbers of pupils in the independent sector are down across Scotland. Numbers are in fact at their lowest level since 1988. The Scottish Council of Independent Schools records that this is a country-wide trend. So in this wider context, it is especially pleasing that we continue to attract many new pupils.

As well as new rtrts, we have lots of tasters still going through our admissions process for starting this or next term. So when you see pupils in non-Beaconhurst uniforms, this is why!

I would also like to welcome parents and pupils who are not new to the school. We do value your presence here this evening, your support for school events such as this is important to us. Any opportunity to talk to you about your questions or concerns is always good.

The first purpose of this evening is mainly to meet staff, to put faces to names, at an early point of term. We have a talented and dedicated staff here at Beaconhurst who are waiting to chat with you this evening.

We have new staff present this evening that you might want to say hello to: Mrs McLean, our new Head of Languages and Internationalism; Ms Piggott, our new head of Business and Computing and leading Young Enterprise; Mrs Wallace, who joins the languages team as French Teacher.

Deputy Head Academic, Mr Morrison, will be very happy to chat to you this evening about all matters academic and also the first steps of his new digital strategy. He can also chat to you about our ‘rebranding’ of what used to be called ‘Drop Ins’. The Academic Support and Enrichment sessions take on a more formal identity. Copies of the new schedule of sessions are available.

Deputy Head Pastoral, Mrs Haughton, will be happy to talk with you about the pastoral structure. The Heads of Pastoral, Mrs Casey and Mrs Tierney, are also here. They will also be able to give you an update on the new Transition year ‘common room’! This is an addition to our support for Transition this year.

The directors of Sport and Expressive Arts, Mrs Graham and Miss Marshall, are here to talk about what is coming up this year in their areas.

(Please note that at 7pm in the Golf Hub there is a meeting for sport scholars and exhibitioners – an opportunity to meet the coaches, hear plans for the year ahead and to discuss training plans and individual timetables. While the information will be very specific to sport scholars, feel free to pop your head in if you are interested to see this new facility.)

Also present this evening are Heads of Department and teachers, in case you have subject-specific questions. Tutors are here also; as we know, they perform such an important role for our pupils, having that daily point of contact and the overview.

The second purpose of this evening is information: there is written material for you to take away about the three stages of the Senior Section relevant to your child or children:

  • Transition to S2 – the Beaconhurst enhanced version of the broad general education
  • S3 to S4 – Nat 4 and 5
  • S5 and S6 – broadly speaking Highers, Advanced Highers

As well as all of the other things that you will be thinking about at the start of the year, I know you will be thinking about academic standards – as are we. Please watch the Exam Results mini movie to see some of the many results highlights. Mr Morrison’s summary of results is also available.

We are very proud of our pupils’ academic accomplishments. Our school values are evident in every aspect of school life, including in the way me manage academic matters.

We do not select pupils on the basis of an academic, paper entrance test but rather on their potential and ambition. In this context these results are even more noteworthy.

I know that our position on the league tables is often a topic of discussion.

Ask yourself how easy it must be to achieve high pass rates if a school selects pupils three times: in to a school, onto a course and finally into the exam room. Schools which send their pupils to sit their exams at local colleges, do so to project league table statistics. You might have seen the news coverage about a school in England this last week. This is not uncommon practice!

But this is something we have never done and will never do. Our position in the league tables is less import to us than ensuring that all of our pupils reach their potential, whatever that is. Our exam entry policy has integrity.

While we do have to recommend sometimes that pupils defer entry until the next year it is only when scores indicate a No Award is looming – something that no pupil wants on their academic record. We work very hard with pupils to help them pass, or achieve their B’s or A’s as you can see from our statistics.

At Beaconhurst it is important that pupils of all abilities and interests succeed.

Other information available this evening: there is also a copy of my start of year letter available. This was sent out to the school community last week with our new magazine outlining some of the highlights to come.

One last thing: we are in the middle of the prefect selection process at present, with applicants form S6. We had interviews on Friday. Then they slept in the great outdoors, completing leadership challenges over night. In the morning, after a good breakfast, they had more team building and leadership activities on Saturday morning. Their presence this evening is the final stage of the process – so we are watching to see how they manage an event like this. Any and all feedback gratefully received! They have all done very well so we have some hard decisions to make.

So, please feel free to enjoy some refreshments and talk to staff.

Thank you for coming.

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