GAIRLOCH HIGH SCHOOL PARENT COUNCIL
24TH JANUARY 2017 7PM
ATTENDEES: Vanessa Quinn, Donna Mitchell, Jim Sutherland, Angela Tattersall, Lucy Cairney, Stewart Smith, Catriona Smith, Isobel Mackenzie, Lynne Whall, Christine Baptist, Luciana Maclean, Sinclair Browne, Graham Milner, Barbara Cummisky, Donna Hildrey, Iain Cumming, Leila Lapsley, Doug Lapsley, Angela Rae
APOLOGIES: Julie Brady, Maureen Cumming, Graham Mitchell, Chris Hildrey, Kirsty
1.0 VQ welcomed everyone to the meeting. It was noted that there were a number of
parents attending from the Primary School as observers due to the topics on the
Agenda being relevant to both schools.
IM advised that the tenders for the astro-pitch were going out in January. There had
been no further dates provided for the actual works.
Post Meeting Information provided by IM
Highland Council are still working to the programme below
February – tender
March – award and mobilisation
April – start on site
June – complete
3.0 Head-teacher Report
School Improvement Plan – HGIOS 4
Staff continue to work extremely hard driving forward projects identified in the
school improvement plan. Three Learning and Teaching Groups: Quality of
Teaching; Effective Assessment; Tracking, Monitoring and Reporting have been set
up allowing staff time for collegiate discussion and self-evaluation. It is through this
process that we will strive to improve Learning, Teaching and Assessment across the
Staff have been working in groups to review our School’s Vision and Values. A
first part of this has been the creation of a new website – this is now ‘live’ and will
evolve in content and appearance as we continue the self-evaluation process. A
Parental Questionnaire had been circulated but elicited few responses – reviewing
alternative ways to engage with parents is a priority.
The authority’s management information system (SEEMiS) will be further developed
during this session to ensure that the school makes effective use of its data.
Collegiate work with Primary Head Teachers (Associated Schools Group) is
invaluable and meetings to date have provided very useful opportunities to share ideas
and practice. This terms specific opportunities to work with others has included:
many sporting activities; , Primary Christmas party and a very successful ICT project
with Shieldaig Primary to be rolled out across the ASG.
Developing the Young Workforce has involved us reviewing our provision of Work
Experience. The proposal is that each pupil in the senior phase will be offered at
least the equivalent of one week of work experience/shadowing at an appropriate
stage. Planning is ongoing and this will be launched in session 17/18. A very
successful Interview Skills took place in conjunction with the Rotary Club.
Senior Phase Prelims currently underway – Pupil Reports and Parents’ Evenings are
The annual Art Exhibition was held in November 2016 showcasing pupils’ artwork
and the calendar has been available for purchase.
Pupils have been attending a Creative Writing Group set up by Miss Fordham. Other
additional opportunities are: Paired Reading; Future Chef; Careers interviews –
Scotland Careers Liaison Officer for the Royal Navy / Royal Marines ; SSE
Apprenticeships; Exploring Careers in Health day: Scottish Space School; S3/4
Mental Health talk; S6: UCAS applicants; Youth Forum – Paul Burden YDO; Wester
Ross Fisheries Trust – App Development; S4-6: Study Club; Scholar (Heriot Watt);
links with St Andrews University.
Senior and Junior Learning Councils
These operate to allow pupils the opportunity to discuss many aspects of education,
recent discussions have been improving social space for pupils specifically at
Extra Curricular Activities
Staff in school continue to provide a vast array of extra-curricular opportunities for
Basketball; Football; Badminton; Indoor Climbing; Ocean Youth Trust; FilmG;
Gaelic Debating – Stornoway; Indoor Rowing – Scottish Championships; Hockey;
Netball; Fly fishing; Futsal (soccer skills); Dodgeball Leadership; Bouldering; Scottish
Schools Ski Race; Cross Country Running; Junior Ski Trip to the French Alps.
Throughout last term pupils and staff contributed to the following charities:
Blythswood Shoebox Appeal; Medicin Sans Frontieres; Poppy Scotland; Children in
Need; Sports for Champtions Team GB Olympic Medallist Judo.
Staff have begun the process of forward planning in fundraising activities. This will
involve an evaluation of: supporting charity events; whole school fund raising
activities; using the school fund to support current pupil activities and minibus
maintenance and operational costs.
Whole school assemblies have explored a variety of themes on Personal Achievement.
S6 Prefects represented the school in the Church of Scotland on Remembrance
Sunday and laid a wreath at the War memorial on behalf of pupils and staff. S3
Drama class delivered a thought provoking Christmas assembly and we were joined
by School Chaplains and some members of the community.
A successful school carol Concert was staged by Miss Hunter and almost all pupils
attend a very successful Christmas dance. The issue of transport for pupils attending
events needs further exploration as currently a level of inequity exists.
Quality Improvement Officer – Mr Alan Bruce, attended the Christmas Assembly and
will be meeting with staff and parents during the remainder of the session.
Challenges – 4 ½ day week, 33 periods, S4 x 6 Subjects
4.0 Discussion on movement to 4.5 day school week/ 33 period week
AT raised the following concerns:
- No discussion with the Parent Council (PC) on the matter
- Poor interaction between Highland Council and Parents
- First time that Parents were aware was the High School Newsletter in
- Parent Council previously fought to keep current timetable arrangement.
- Advised that a number of years ago a similar proposal was tabled for
providing time for CPD.
- School has to provide 27.5 teaching hours per pupil per week and the
timetable can be altered to provide this in 4.5 weeks.
- At present Gairloch works on 55 x 30 min periods. This has advantages for
part-time staff. However IM thinks the 33 period can work with part-time
staff requirements also. The challenge will be to ensure that staff also gets
- Head teachers were advised in September that the Council would be meeting
in December to decide on 4.5 week. On 14th December Head-teachers were
told that 4.5 week had to be implemented in all schools in Highland by
August 2017 (means in reality June after exams). IM met with staff and
gathered feedback including concerns and emailed this to Jim Stevens/ Bill
Alexander. No response has been forthcoming yet.
IM agrees that recent consultation with parents has been lacking. Suggests
that the PC writes to Jim Stevens stating that we are aware that the school has
raised concerns and no response has been received.
IM stated that she is trying to avoid an earlier start and later finish and is
working on a proposal with senior management. School can decide on the
timing to suit the new 33 period week.
SB raised the concerns from the Primary School Parents that the Primary School was
not aware of the change and the potential knock on effects for the shared canteen and transport.
IM advised that the Primary Headteachers were given this information on the 15th
December. She agrees that the whole Associated School Group (ASG) has to be
involved in the decisions on how the 4.5 week will be implemented.
BC stated that the changes need to consider Working Parents.
IM encouraged the PC to raise all these concerns in email to Jim Stevens.
DL asked what the primary drivers for the 4.5 week.
IM advised that the key drivers are cost and to sustain the curriculum. Cost is not
always that clear as Gairloch has the library and Leisure centre attached. If all school
timetables are aligned then pupils can access a greater variety of subjects through
virtual interaction. The column structure is still up to the school to decide but it can
give pupils an opportunity to choose subjects that may not be available in a school.
IM believes that it can make learning more individualised at Gairloch. IM suggested
that we should use the opportunity to look at how we can improve Gairloch.
JS mentioned that the parents from Shieldaig Primary also felt there was a lack of
communication on this matter with Parents.
ACTION – IM will forward email she sent to Jim Stevens to VQ. PC to write
an email to Jim Stevens with concerns brought forward tonight.
DH stated that e-learning is an option but we need to have the broadband
infrastructure to support this and she did not think it was available at present.
IM disagrees and thinks it is possible at present. If we to suddenly lose a staff
member then support can be obtained from another school via e-learning.
5.0 Presentation on S3/ S4 Subject Choices by Iain Cumming, Donna Hildrey and
As parents of pupils in S2 in GHS we are very happy with the variety of subjects that they have studied during their first two years as well as their general education. Our real concern is with the curricular structure in S3/4 that results in limited choices.
Background to S3/4 options
Pupils do English and Maths in S3 and S4. In addition they choose 8 other subjects in S3 – one from each column. Columns merge in S4 – pupils continue with 4 of the 8. In the recent past pupils did English, Maths and 6 others for the duration of S3 and S4.
As parents, we cannot see one significant benefit in the new system compared to the previous one. There are however serious drawbacks.
- Pupils have a very restricted choice as they go into S3/4
(a) S3 Options: Pupils will be forced to choose subjects that they are not particularly interested in due to the nature of the option form. They already know at this stage that they will not study these in S4. This time would surely be better spent on subjects that they would be continuing with in S4. Pupils are ‘locked in’ to their S3 choices if they are to progress through the levels. In many ways they are choosing their higher subjects at the end of S2.
(b) S4 Options: Because there are less columns in S4 than previously (four instead of six), there are more subjects in each column. ‘Clashes’ between subjects have intensified. One of our children, for example, is unhappy that three of his favourite or best subjects are in the same column in S4. He will only be able to take one – this will have a massive effect on his future learning and career path.
In addition, our children feel that because they will only have six subjects in S4 that they all need to be academic – there is no space for less academic subjects that they enjoys.
The following example is worth considering as it demonstrates the problem with the current system in a small school and such a situation could easily arise.
Pupil X has particular talents and/or interests in Biology, Modern Studies, Gaelic (Learners)
and Graphic Communication and, given a free choice, would choose these as his/her four
subjects in S4. S/he struggles with/isn’t interested in Chemistry, History, Design &
Manufacture and Art. How well would our current curriculum structure cater for this pupil?
We understand that the policy of six subjects in S4 has had less of a negative effect in larger schools as subjects can be offered in more than one column. We do not have this opportunity here.
- Some pupils are not being challenged by the current system. Many schools in Scotland do eight subjects in S4 and pupils prove that they are capable of achieving in all eight. National 5 Courses from next year will be a lot less cluttered (as internal assessments are on the way out) and there is every reason to think that many pupils would be capable of gaining more than 6 National courses – providing them with far more options and qualifications as they go into S5/6 and beyond school.
In conclusion: the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)
recently published a report on the Scottish curriculum. This report demonstrated that our S4 curriculum (English, Maths and four subjects in S4) was not in line with CfE principles and is damaging pupil choice:
“A reduction to 6 S4 courses was never a planned aspect of Curriculum for Excellence … The result of curricular change, particularly in schools pursuing a 6-column S4 curriculum is curricular narrowing and significant curricular distortion. ….”
The report states in its conclusion:
“The diversity of S4 course structures needs to be resolved before the situation demonstrated in this paper worsens further. If schools offering 8 courses can support students to success, there is little (or no) need for 6 course approaches … This process could be facilitated and simplified by removing the S1-3 “Broad, General Education” and returning to an S1-2 period. There are no inherent benefits in a 3-year period.”
Following the presentation there was further discussion on the subject.
- VQ asked whether 4.5 week/ 33 period/ e-learning can help to offer more choice in
subjects or more subjects than 6?
- IM stated that she is currently discussing the timetable with a member of staff to see
how we can improve the column choices. She also suggested that we raise our
concerns in the PC email to Jim Stevens. She suggested that we mention that
Gairloch should be able to offer individual subject choice.
- CB mentioned that she has had experience in the 8 and 6 subject systems and 8
provided more choice to the pupils.
- LW asked whether the council would allow 8 subjects to be taught in the school.
- DM asked why different Authorities in Scotland had differing views on the number of
subjects a S3/4 pupil takes.
- IM advised that historically Highland Council decided on 6 subjects as they felt 8
subjects was putting too much stress onto pupils given the other continuous assessment work they had to complete.
- VQ – given the current Governance Review where more power is to be given to the
Head-teacher. Would the H/T have the power to change the 6 subject ruling in the
- IM advised that she is concerned that the Review will mean there are restrictions on time and also H/T’s will have to try and save further money which might affect this. There is no reason why a pupil cannot pick up a National 5 qualification in 5th or 6th
ACTION – include in email to Jim Stevens that the PC recognises that
Gairloch has the resources to offer 8 subjects to S3/S4 and would like to be
able to offer this to pupils.
- DL stated that the current 6 subject system is restrictive at 15.
- IM advised that she is currently investigating the timetable structure. At present
pupils are given 93 hours in year of PSE, LRC and SMART. She is reviewing this
with staff to see the impact it is having on the pupils and how it can be more
individualised. She is reviewing with the staff how to create a challenging and creative school. There are currently many good activities and achievement but how can this improve further.
6.0 Easter Study Club (raised by DM)
IM stated that she had made enquiries about funding but found that it had not been
centrally funded for the past 7 years. She is investigating how it was funded
At present the school is running an after school study club which is proving popular.
IM to advise what will happen with Easter Study Club.
7.1 – AR asked whether there had been any further communication from HC on the
3-18 campus as it was intimated at the meeting with Don Esson that we would have
information in January. To be raised in email to Jim Stevens.
IM advised no further information.
SB advised that the papers for the HC Education Committee were available on line
and they give outlines on the proposed structure for the new ASG’s.
In November last year a sub-committee was set up with the Primary PC to discuss the
3-18 Campus and Key Challenges facing the ASG. AR will email all members of the
PC to determine who wants to be involved in the group and set up the next meeting.
SB/ CH/ LM and VQ at first meeting.
7.2 Catriona Smith, S6 has asked the PC to support this year’s S6 Pupil year book. All
present agreed. Exact amount to be discussed with treasurer Julie Brady.
7.3 IM advised that the new school website was nearly ready to go live. She presented
the new layout to the PC and explained it was more streamlined and easier to
maintain. Hoping to release details to Parents in the next few weeks.
8.0 Date of Next Meeting
2nd May 2017. 7pm.