Headteacher’s Message March 2016

March message 2016

From the Headteacher’s Desk February 2015

School Calendar
The run up to Christmas provided the opportunity for the school to come together and celebrate the festive season. This included our annual school concert, S1 and S2 parties, S5/6 Ceilidh along with our informal assembly programme on 19th December. There was also a time for reflection provided by Gaye Taylor and senior students at our “Light” assembly on 17th December.
This term is a hard working term for our students as they make final preparation for the end of year examinations. Our prelims have taken place (12-23rd January), and all year groups receive reports on their progress before the February holidays.
A highly successful snow sports tour has returned from Italy and we are enjoyed our S6 social event, the Scots Evening, which took place on 10.2.15.
School Business
The Inservice Day on 5.1.15 provided an opportunity for us to work on some of our priorities:
1. Supporting pupils through group tutor.
2. Behaviour management.
3. Learning and teaching.
4. Curriculum development for the new qualifications.
We have developed a preferred model for the school week following consultation with staff and the Parent Council. The next stage is parental consultation which will take place in the spring term.
We have recently been experiencing some difficulties with regards to heating in the Tower block. Our building provider, Amey, has been working with us to resolve the situation. Actions have been taken to improve the situation, and I have been pleased with the customer focused approach that Amey has taken.
CEC Reviews
The City of Edinburgh Council has continued to develop proposals for a reorganisation of the way in which services are delivered, with the City being organised into four localities. Each locality will have ownership for all of the services within it and there will be a small team at Directorship level. The initial implementation date is April 2016.
The CATS review (Community Access to Schools) is moving to implementation stage. Next year (2015 – 2016) will be interim year as the management of facilities will move to a community team who will be responsible for the booking of our facilities. There will be consistent charging for facilities across the City and an alignment with the new localities management model.
New Staff
Lauren Anderson has joined us in Chemistry and we wish Sam Karpa every happiness in her role as full time music teacher at Portobello High School. We are currently recruiting to fill this vacancy along with teachers in Maths and English to cover the maternity leave of Lynsay Sweeney and Kristyn Sharp.
Cath Thomson and Katrina Harris have been appointed as permanent members of staff (Admin and Art/CDT Support). Lyndsay Crawford will be joining the admin team as a permanent member of staff in February and Raymond Mulligan is returning to Firrhill over the coming weeks.
The school was last inspected in 2006 and HMIe will visit during the week 2.3.15 – 6.2.15. We expect to receive our report in April/May.

Sarah Brown

From the Headteacher’s Desk November 2014

We have completed our self-evaluation of school attainment. We have used new Insight performance tool which provides an opportunity to compare attainment with a “Virtual School” made up of pupils with characteristics similar to Firrhill pupils. In all benchmarking measures pupils at Firrhill have attained better that in the virtual school for example
• Literacy at SCQF level 4.
• Attainment of most deprived cohort.
• S4 attainment (total tariff score) across all cohorts.
• The number of pupils progressing onto a positive destination.
I have met with all school staff to discuss the attainment by subject and qualification and to agree next steps for improvement. We are currently finalising our whole school action plan to address improvement.

School Calendar
Our Senior Student Council have led our annual armistice assemblies. This year the hall was transformed by poppies produced by our Art Classes.
There is a neighbourhood Parent Council meeting at Firrhill on Wednesday 12.11.14 and we are looking forward to the PTA Christmas Fair which takes place on Thursday 13.11.14. The school will come together to celebrate Diversity on Tuesday 18.11.14, when S3 pupils will attend a number of workshops and meet Harry Bibring to hear his extraordinary story.

School Business
We have recently completed two Friday afternoon improvement sessions. The first focused on the shape of the school day and the pupil experience in May. The second provided a deeper understanding of the Broad General Education (S1-3) and clarification about the equivalence of new qualifications. We are also developing greater links with other schools to moderate pupil work. Our next session with neighbouring schools takes place on Friday (14.11.14).
We have received monies from the Scottish Government to support the implementation of new qualifications. This has been used to support central writing teams producing CEC materials for new qualifications, and to provide resources to subjects implementing new qualifications.

CEC Budget and Reviews
The City of Edinburgh Council has started to consult on Budget proposals for 2015/16. They have developed the budget challenge which is an interactive budget planning tool. All parents are encouraged to get involved.
The CEC also has some BOLD work streams (Better Outcomes Leaner Delivery). We understand that this may see all services being delivered through neighbourhood arrangements from April 2015.
The CATS review (Community Access to Schools) has been completed and is moving to implementation phase. This will mean that from April a community team will oversee the out of hours use of the Firrhill facilities. There will be centralised booking of facilities within our neighbourhood (Balerno, Currie, WHEC and Firrhill) and it is hoped that some community staff will be available on site during letting periods. In the long run it is anticipated that there will be greater use of the school facilities by the community.

New Staff
We have made some new appointments to our teaching staff. Emma Anderson and Katie Harkness in PE and Lauren Anderson will be joining us in Chemistry. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Mrs Gilchrist every happiness after 17 years of service to Firrhill.
Following her appointment as Senior Admin Assistant with Midlothian Council, Janice Russell, will be leaving our office team this month. Jonny Ross CDT technician, reduced his hours to fit in with study at Moray house. He has now resigned his post and we are sure that he will make an excellent teacher in the future. We are currently recruiting for two Admin Assistants and a CDT Technician.

Sarah Brown

From the Headteacher’s Desk September 2014

Staff News
At the start of the new session we have welcomed a number of new teachers to the school:
Alison Lynas – RMPS
Callum Archibald – Geography (Probationer)
Paul Clohosey – Technologies
Paul Grant – Music
Shona Jenkins is relocating to England and we are currently recruiting in PE and Computing. At the end of last session Audrey Bowman decided to consolidate her hours at St Thomas’s and teaching and Drama is being delivered by two part-time colleagues Debbie Bently and Lisa Grindall. Lynsay Sweeney (Maths) and Jo Kendall (English) have also returned to school following their maternity leave.
We have welcomed new staff to our support team. Alison Broomfield has joined us as a Pupil Support Assistant a new role which will aims to provide enhanced communication with pupils and home. Tessa McMurry (Accounts) and Miriam Altelarrea-Llorente (Learning Assistant) have left our support team to undertake further qualifications and Jo Green (Learning Assistant) has also left Firrhill. We are recruiting to fill these vacancies.

The school year has started well. Our Inservice days provided an opportunity for all staff to prepare for the year ahead and for teaching colleagues to attend Firrhill’s Annual Professional Learning Conference at Napier University. The focus of the conference was learning and teaching, providing an opportunity for staff to engage with research and the school improvement agenda.
Our new S1 have settled quickly into Firrhill having been supported by the Summer School and their S6 helping hands.
Pupils in S2-4 have benefited from the early timetable change and have settled back into classes. In the senior school there have been pupil inductions and S6 pupils are attending relevant open days as they prepare for their next step.
The school expedition to Venezuela was a great success and the pupils involved have shared their experiences through the assembly programme.
The annual Parent Council Jobs Fair continues to be a success and a good addition to the senior school calendar.
We are looking forward to our Celebration of Achievement Event on 24th September 2014.

Bockarie Sonnah
Our school community was saddened by the accidental death of one of our pupils over the summer holidays. We are working with those who were closest to Bockarie to commemorate his life. A tribute staff versus pupils football match is planned along with a memorial within the school.
S4 – Nationals
National Qualifications are different and comparison with standard grade is difficult. This is because previously pupils took awards across two levels and different skills are tested. Education Scotland has developed a new tool called Insight which allows schools to compare their performance by benchmarking against virtual comparators. This will shortly be available to schools.
Data shows that pass rates for Firrhill pupils at National 5 is higher than the National average. Initial review indicates a strong performance in a new system.
S5 – Attainment at Higher
60% of pupils with 1 or more Higher
38% of pupils with 3 or more Highers
19% of pupils with 5 or more Highers
Attainment by the end of S5 is above the national pattern in all performance measures. Although the attainment figure shows a slight decrease from the previous year, it is in line with the expectations based on the prior attainment of the year group.
S6 – Attainment
29 % of pupils with 1 or more Advanced Higher
70% of pupils with 1 or more Higher
55% of pupils with 3 or more Highers
45% of pupils with 5 or more Highers
Attainment in S6 is well above the national pattern. The value is ranks strongly when compared to previous years and is in line with the expectations based on the prior attainment of the year group.
Post Results Service
SQA appeals no longer operate and has been replaced by a post results service. This is available when the school is concerned about a candidates result and holds clear and compelling evidence that there is a reasonable possibility that an error may have occurred with the award that has been made to a candidate.

Facilities Improvements
Over the summer months there was significant improvement to decoration with a painting programme including the front of the school, Modern Languages, Science and the dining hall.
We have completed our accommodation review and one of the business Management classrooms has become a multi-functional ICT suit. We have also invested in a new digital learning lab for modern languages. This dynamic class management system will improve the pupil experience.
David Hall (Business Manager) is pursuing ways to improve the astro pitch.

Ros Nixon (Communications Officer) has been continuing to introduce Wisepay as an electronic method of communication with parents. Individual staff also utilise digital communication e.g. Twitter being used to support UCAS process.
Following parental feedback, we have introduced Parent Information Sessions (S2-6). These focus on the curriculum, how to support children and school improvement priorities. The S5/6 session has taken place, the BGE (S2-3) Info evening is on 9.9.14 and the S4 event takes place on 17.9.14.

Sarah Brown

Welcome Back


Dear All,

We hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer break, and look forward to welcoming our pupils back, and the new S1 of course, on Wednesday 13th August.

Sarah Brown

Bockarie Sonnah


The Firrhill Community has been deeply saddened by the death of Bockarie Sonnah (S3) who lost his life in a swimming accident at Torduff reservoir.

Over recent weeks there have been many tributes paid to Bockarie and it is obvious that he was a popular and much loved pupil, who will be sadly missed by our whole school community.

Our Pupil Support Team are providing advice and support to our pupils and we are working to have a permanent mememorial to Bockarie within the school.

Our thoughts and best wishes are with all those who were closest to him.

Sarah Brown

From the Headteacher’s Desk June 2014

From the Headteacher’s Desk

June 2014


Staff News

We would like to take this opportunity to wish the following colleagues well as they leave Firrhill:

  • Maree Duguid (Music) who has been appointed as Curriculum Leader of Creative Technologies at Balerno High School.
  • Adrienne Moohan (Drama) who will retire at the end of this session.
  • Fiona Williams (RMPS) who will be leaving us at the end of term and will take up a new post in London.

Helen Barely has returned from her maternity leave and Morag Jack has been appointed as Admin Officer within the office team.

We are currently recruiting for Computing and Music Teachers along with 3 School Support Assistants.  We expect to have three probationers join us next session (CDT, PE and Geography).


Pupils in S1 and S2 have just returned from very successful trips to Paris and Berlin.  Feedback from staff, pupils and partners about our interdisciplinary week has been very positive.  Pupils in S4 have commenced new courses leading to National Qualifications.

Pupils in S4/5/6 have now all returned to school and have been praised for their conduct during the SQA diet of exams which have gone well.

Our in-service day on Thursday 22nd May provided the opportunity for staff to continue to develop the curriculum and materials for the new qualifications.

We are looking forward to welcoming our P7s on the transition days (17 – 19th June).

Plans are underway for an ethos day for pupils on 26th June which will include the S6 Teddy Bears picnic, S5 team building, S4 sports day, S3 performance and S2 house quiz.

The last day of the school session is Friday 27th June and staff return on Monday 11th August, with pupils on Wednesday 13th August.

S4 Structure

Ross Ranger and Ross Isdale have continued to work with parents to review the S4 structure.  They have also consulted with staff and are currently gathering feedback from pupils.

To support pupils in the current S4 the timetable change has been earlier. Initial feedback from staff indicates that good progress has been made in qualifications subjects with the earlier change and a full evaluation will take place before finalising the arrangements for next session

Accommodation Review

Our final two faculties (Mathematics and Modern Languages) are moving classrooms.  This means that, from August, all teaching accommodation within each faculty will be located close together.


Sarah Brown

June 2014

From the Headteacher’s Desk – May 2014

Headteacher Report May14

From the Headteacher’s Desk – January 2014

Staffing News

I would like to congratulate Mr Gillies on his appointment as Curriculum Leader at Liberton High School, this is a temporary appointment until January 2015.  Mr Baillie has been appointed to our Chemistry Department. We wish Miss Reid a happy maternity leave and welcome Mrs Shaw to our Music Department.  Miss Barley, Chemistry, will be taking maternity leave later in the term and we are currently recruiting a new teacher to cover this leave.   Mrs Bentley and Ms Donnelly have joined our Drama and English Departments for the remainder of this session.



Our In-service day provided time for staff to continue to develop courses and materials for the implementation of new qualifications.  In addition, on 24th January staff worked with colleagues from across the City, supported by the SQA, to understand new assessment standards.

Pupils have had a good return to school and some of our senior students along with our Anne Frank Ambassadors, led assemblies focusing on our values of diversity and inclusion.

In January some of our pupils travelled to Italy as part of the snow sports tour.  All pupils attending were complimented on their exemplary behaviour and a very enjoyable time was had by all.

Clare Williamson (S6) has been selected as our Commonwealth Games school Baton Bearer.

The very popular senior Ceilidh took place at the Corn Exchange on 23rd January, with almost 240 pupils attending.  Our pupils in S4/5/6 are preparing for their prelims which take place at the start of February.

A parent questionnaire has been developed by the City of Edinburgh Council to gather feedback from parents about their view of the school.  Parents who have been selected to participate will complete the survey by the February break.


National 4/5 Implementation

We are continuing to implement new qualifications in S4 and are monitoring feedback from staff and pupils. As a result, we are looking to reduce the amount of assessment undertaken by pupils during S4.  We will be developing a new curriculum architecture to support this and will be involving parents in processes of planning for change in the summer term, for implementation from 2015-2016.


Implementation of New Highers

The implementation plan for Curriculum for Excellence allows for dual running of qualifications in session 2014-2015.  This means that both old and new Highers are available from the SQA.

We are expecting that in the majority of our subjects we will be presenting the new (CfE) Higher as this articulates with the National 5 qualifications undertaken by pupils this year.  There are a number of supports being put in place to ensure that staff are ready to deliver the new qualifications. This includes engagement with the SQA, appointment of central writing teams, and resources devolved to schools.

There may be exceptional circumstances, where a subject may decide to delay the implementation of the new qualification and revert to the old.  Any such decisions will be based on the interests of pupils and will be finalised by March 2014, before pupils commence courses.


Sarah Brown

January 2014

From the Headteacher’s Desk November 13

From the Headteacher’s Desk – November 2013

School Calendar

We are currently undertaking the first stage of our Quality Assurance visits with faculties.  This provides an opportunity to discuss the attainment of our pupils in the subjects and courses offered within each faculty.  Following these discussions a whole school action plan will be developed to address any issues identified.

Over the October holidays, our second New York and Washington trip took place.  This was an enjoyable experience for staff and pupils alike.  S2 pupils have visited either the Kelvingrove Art Gallery or National Portrait Gallery as part of their Broad General Education.  Our senior pupils have led a number of assemblies, including a very moving Armistice Day assembly.

Forthcoming school events include our Scottish Evening (S6), our School Concert and our junior Christmas party.

Implementation of New Qualifications

The implementation of new National 4/5 qualifications is going well.  We held an information evening for parents of S3 and S4 pupils.  Our staff have had an opportunity to meet with colleagues from across the city to share the assessment standards on the in-service day in October.    This is being followed up by two afternoon sessions, one in November and one in January, when subject specialists will share good practice in the assessment of new qualifications.   In addition, colleagues in expressive arts and modern languages are meeting regularly with primary teachers to moderate standards across primary and secondary transitions.

Mike Russell (MSP) Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning, visited the school on 7.11.13, to see good practice in Modern Languages and to speak with pupils about the delivery of our Duke of Edinburgh Award, which has recently been picked as a model of good practice. Mike Russell also met Hayley Mound one of the teachers in our English faculty who has been writing support materials for the Scottish Literature Qualifications.   He had the opportunity for professional dialogue with teaching staff about the implementation of new qualifications.

Parents Activities

Highly successful Christmas Fair has taken place, thanks to members of the PTA for this.  Members of the Parent Council Health and Wellbeing Group joined us for our recent staff development session which was focusing on the motivation of learners.

New Staff

We have made some new appointments to our pupil support team.  We are delighted to welcome Ewan Brodie as Pupil Support Leader (Braidlaw House), and Shona Dunn as permanent Pupil Support Leader (S1 and Forces Families).

Lynda Welsh and Shirley Duncan from our Admin team, have both been successful in gaining the post of Admin Officer at neighbouring schools.  Tessa McMurray and Val Bygate have joined our admin team. Gill Ramsay a Learning Assistant will be moving to our technician team and Nicola Bold, Home Economics Teacher will be joining us in December.

Sarah Brown