Head Teacher Update - Letter and Video 62

17th January in School

(jump to video and podcast section)

Monday 17th January 2022

Dear parent / carer, (please share with your child)

I hope this letter finds you all safe and well again.

Covid and SQA

I have previously observed that the numbers of pupils presenting with confirmed cases of Covid in our
school are relatively small, especially in light of the rates being publicised nationwide by the Scottish
Government. Having said that, the impact on attendance because of being unwell, whatever the reason,
combined with requiring to take time off school linked to self-isolation does lead to some concern over
lessons missed. This is a concern shared by every pupil, parent and school across the country.

The impact on disrupted learning is one that is currently being considered by the Scottish Government
and the SQA. I noted recently that the SQA has stated that they intend to run exams if considered safe
to do so. This intention was confirmed by Shirley Anne Somerville, the Education Secretary, when she
noted that a decision would be taken by the end of March (at the latest) on whether to cancel exams or
not. The SQA does have planned alternatives, which can be found here:

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/99158.html

The scenarios for the SQA at the moment are:

  1. Run the exams as planned, keeping the course modifications from last session;
  2. Run the exams with existing modifications but also give further guidance to help pupils focus on
    specific areas for study – this may be the most likely in my opinion.
  3. Do not hold exams but use teachers’ professional judgement of evidence that demonstrates each
    learner’s skills, knowledge and understanding. The current quality assured assessments used in
    schools to determine natural pupil progress throughout the year would form the evidence necessary;
    and no additional assessments would be asked for.

Regardless, we are preparing for all of these eventualities. Our teachers continue to teach pupils all the
knowledge and skills necessary for them to undertake each exam; whilst at the same time gathering
evidence that both helps the teacher determine the ongoing next steps for our pupils, and as “banked”
evidence of the achievement of knowledge and skills. Such evidence will be useful if the exams are
cancelled or if required as part of any post results service (appeals) offered by the SQA.

I led an assembly on Friday in which I congratulated all our youngsters and staff for all their hard work
and commitment; hard work and commitment praised so highly in the recent HMIe visits to both Oban 
and Tiree schools. It is this same level of commitment that we must strive to maintain throughout the
course of the next few months – and not just for those about to sit exams but all our pupils who need to
keep learning with each step in their journey; through the primary stages, through the BGE and into the
exam stages.

Online learning

In many schools when a pupil is absent from school for more than a few days, teachers gather paper
copies of work and post it home to support long-term absence. With the fantastic IT and very
experienced staff we have in our school, we are now able to provide work to pupils much more quickly.
We cannot teach live lessons to pupils’ homes and deliver simultaneously to a class of say 30 other
pupils; but during the lesson, our teachers will take notes and copies of links used, perhaps even a
video of an experiment; and at the end of the lesson, this material with a helpful comment and set of
questions/tasks will be posted in Google Classrooms. If a pupil is well enough, they can engage with
this work.

Almost every lesson will be uploaded to some degree. Some won’t. A period of group work or a field
trip can’t be shared easily. The intention behind sharing the basic materials and questions from almost
all our lessons is that our children keep pace with what’s going on in the classes missed so they come
back to school far more informed.

Options 2022

Our Options process for S2 to S5 pupils will begin on Monday 24th January with S2 pupils receiving
one to one interviews to select their S3 Electives with their Guidance Teacher. S2 parents and carers
will receive an email this week which will invite them to their child’s meeting virtually and also include
an electronic copy of the Options Form and our S3 Electives Booklet which contains information about
the contents of each course on offer. Pupils will also be issued with their appointment times in school.

From Monday 15th February, S3 pupils will begin their interviews, with S4 pupils from Monday 28th
February and S5 from Monday 21 March. Again parents will receive an email with an invite to attend
Course Choice Meetings virtually and for these year groups there will be a dedicated Google Classroom
where pupils and parents can access information about all the courses on offer. Codes for these Google
Classrooms will be sent out at the end of January to allow pupils and parents lots of time to have a
good look at all the information on the many courses we run.

In addition, we will also be organising virtual Options Information Evenings from Monday 24th January.
Each faculty will run a session on the courses they offer and this will be an opportunity for pupils and
parents/carers to ask any specific questions they may have. The programme for these sessions will be
issued this week.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Options process then please contact your child’s
Guidance Teacher.

Social Media (again)

I have written many times about the benefits and dangers of social media. It’s a great facility to share
information (like the video version of this letter that will appear later tonight). However, many people
hear a rumour and before long a sentence becomes a story, which then becomes an inaccurate,
imbalanced myth. Parents have contacted me concerned about this disappointing aspect of social
media and asked me to quell the flow of another Facebook story. Today’s rumour is around toilets and
the school refusing to allow pupils to attend nature’s call during lessons and at lunchtimes. For clarity a
few Q&As:

My child needs to go to the toilet during class, can they? Yes, provided they ask the teacher so the
teacher knows where they wish to go. We don’t allow kids to walk out of class without explanation.

My child needs to go to the toilet at lunchtime, can they? Yes, always without question or
permission… though only to one of the numerous toilets on the ground floor. Why? We have less
supervision available across our very large school when the teachers are all at lunch.

My child has a medical condition and needs to go the toilet immediately, can they? Yes, without question
or permission. Teachers know who has a medical condition. A knowing look or wee wave to let the
teacher know they are going is all that is required.

My child asks the teacher to go to the toilet, 2, 3 even 4 times every period, can they? Yes… and no.

Pupils can go to the toilet when they need the toilet. If they are asking that many times they either need
medical intervention; or like teenagers over the centuries they are merely trying to get out of lessons.
By doing so they disrupt the learning for themselves and for other pupils. To put this info context.
Imagine a drive to Glasgow and your child asks to stop the car so they can go to the loo in Taynuilt,
then again in Dalmally, Tyndrum, Ardlui, Luss, Dumbarton, etc. I’m sure your response would be a
combination of “Are you sure you need so soon after we started out?”; “Can you wait until a suitable
break in the journey?”; OK, here’s a place in the journey we can stop.”; What, again?” No, you’ll need
to wait a wee bit longer.”

These are all the same statements a teacher will make in our lesson journey.

So, it’s not that some pupils are refused permission to go to the toilet, it’s that they are being refused
permission to truant, to miss lots of their lessons and to continually disrupt the learning of others in the
class so often. Guidance staff will contact parents if this is an issue and if any parent has a concern,
then please contact your Guidance Teacher, or Family Liaison Officer.

Support available

Should any pupils or parents have any questions or concerns, please contact your Clan Guidance
Teacher if in Oban or PT Primary or PT Secondary in Tiree. You can do so by using the “Contact Us”
page on the website.

Please also remember my oft-repeated offer of support. If you need pastoral, subject, IT or even
financial support, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you and your families.

Yours faithfully,

P A Bain
Executive Head Teacher
Oban High School, Tiree High School & Tiree Primary School


Mr Bain’s Update 16th January 2022

Podcast

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