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									Mearns Academy Newsletter
Winter Newsletter December 2006 Rector : Gordon Miller

Rector’s News
Due the late October holidays this term has been shorter than normal, nevertheless it has been extraordinarily busy. Staffing changes continue and a full resume of all these changes is contained in this newsletter. Contents
Rector’s News Staffing Absences Staff Awards 1 2 2 3

Standards & Quality Reports 3 SQA Results Parental Support Praise and Concern Slips PSA Attainment of Pupils Transport 3 4 4 4 5 5

The school was inspected last month as part of the normal follow-up procedures to the full HMI inspection of 2004. A follow-up report will shortly be written as a consequence of this and parents will be issued a copy as soon as it becomes available. I am proud to report that the inspectors were very impressed with the standard of work which they witnessed and took time to tell me, at the end of their visit, that they most impressed with the confidence which our pupils showed in representing their own views and that of students in general. They were also impressed at the awareness which pupils had of the school and of their own learning. An action point of the original inspection was to improve the accommodation and facilities of the school. This of course is outwith the normal work of Mearns Academy and requires a level of investment which is beyond that of the school. We are disappointed that at this point, almost nothing has been done to improve the accommodation or facilities. There is no doubt that there is now an inequity of learning experience between different schools within Aberdeenshire and Mearns Academy pupils are at the wrong end of this comparison. You have previously received a copy of the Asset Management Plan of Aberdeenshire. The likelihood of action being taken on this in the short term seems somewhat remote, with a Scottish parliamentary election imminent. Your School Board has been fully advised of the lack of progress on this issue and are taking a keen interest. I will inform parents of any action or plans to address this matter as it occurs. Anyone who attended the production of Aladdin last week could not have failed to be impressed. It showed the very best aspects of Mearns Academy – pupils and staff working hard and having a huge amount of enjoyment, supported and encouraged by parents and the wider community. Well over 100 students and staff were involved, and working very hard under the expert tutelage of Mr Noble to provide six outstanding performances. My thanks are due to every one of them and all of you who supported this production. A fuller report is contained within this newsletter. We are unable to give a report here of the Christmas Dances as the newsletter is written in advance of these, but ticket sales show the same high level of participation for what are three outstanding events on our calendar. Our Christmas Service will be held on the afternoon of Thursday, 21 December. Any parent or friend of the school is invited to join us for this occasion, though like most whole school affairs there will only be a few seats available. It would be helpful if you could advise the school of your intention to attend this event so that we can reserve you a seat. School will be dismissed from the Parish Church. On behalf of the school I wish you all the compliments of the season and look forward to working with you in 2007. .

Emergency Closure Number 5 Early Presentation Enterprising Maths Maths Puzzle Day Mobile Phone Register School Web-Site Senior Maths Challenge Safety Awareness Charter Mark French Exchange Social Subject Trips Aladdin 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 7 8 8/9 9/10

Interhouse Results & News 10 Dates for your Diary School Contact Details 11 11


Mr. Stuart of the Mathematics Department is the latest in a string of retirements in the last six months. Mr. Stuart arrived at Mearns Academy from Daliburgh High School in South Uist in September 1982 as Principal Teacher of Maths. It is quite remarkable to recount the number of changes and developments which have taken place during this time. Mr. Stuart successfully steered the Maths Department at Mearns Academy through this time and we are extremely grateful for his commitment and hard work over this 24 year period. A keen golfer, and a member of Brechin Golf Club, Mr. Stuart will no doubt enjoy having the time now to seriously reduce his handicap! We congratulate Mr. Stuart on his retirement and wish him well. With Mrs. Gammie retiring at the end of last term, a vacancy was advertised and I am delighted to inform the school of the appointment of Mr. Don Crabb as teacher of Drama. Mr. Crabb is a highly experienced teacher who came to us from Montrose Academy. We are happy to have recruited such an effective teacher and wish him every success in his time at Mearns Academy. Mr. Derek Noble has subsequently been appointed to the position of Principal Teacher of the newly created faculty of Drama and Music. All schools in Aberdeenshire are changing to become community schools. Effectively this means that every school will have closer links to those agencies which support the work of the education service, such as Social Work, Community Education, Educational Psychology, the Police and so on. This development has created a new post within the school – that of Support Services Co-ordinator. This post was recently advertised and Ms. Julie Lawrence will join the school at the start of the new term. Ms. Lawrence currently works within the Audit section of Aberdeenshire Council. Also, starting in the new term will be another new post. With the formation of another new faculty – that of Art and Home Economics, Mrs. Theresa Scott will be joining us as Principal Teacher. Mrs. Scott is presently at Torry Academy in Aberdeen City. Another recruit from Aberdeen City, this time from Kincorth Academy is Mrs. Jackie Thomson. Mrs. Thomson, who was here as a student teacher just a few short years ago, and now returns to replace Mr. Stuart in the Mathematics Department. Mrs. Margaret Corrigan, who is presently working in the English Department on a part-time basis, has been confirmed as being with us for the at least the remainder of this session Congratulations to Nicola Anderson (School Nurse) on achieving a BA in Community Public health nursing with specialist Practice (Health Visiting) through distance learning with R.G.U.

There was an unusually high number of pupil absences last term around the October holidays. Till now there has been one week of two weeks holidays which has been common to both Angus and Aberdeen City. This year this was not the case and it was clearly impossible for families to arrange a holiday that would be convenient for all when schools and employment are split between authorities. Nevertheless the effect on progress is marked, and in a session where S3 will sit their final Standard Grade exams there is little time for additional absences. To help parents organise holidays we print the dates of the forthcoming term in every newsletter. Further, you can find a full list of term dates for 3 years ahead! A final place to find out this information is in the School Prospectus which is given to every new parent to the school. Parents are respectfully asked to consult with these dates and ensure that the disruption to their child’s education is minimised.

Staff Award
Mearns Academy Technical Education teacher Miss Michelle Buchanan, has been awarded the accolade of Student of the Year, by the Technical Teachers’ Association. She was presented with her medal at the Association’s Annual Conference in Dundee on 4 November. Miss Buchanan completed her one year graduate diploma at Aberdeen University last year. Miss Buchanan joined Mearns Academy in August 2006.

Standard and Quality Reports
You should find a copy of the abbreviated version of the Standards and Quality Report for Mearns Academy with this newsletter. Every school in Scotland is required to produce such a report for their Authority. The full report is available on request from the school, or if you have not received a copy of the shortened version then this too is available from school reception.

I hope you find this report informative and easy to read.

SQA Results
A short summary of the SQA results is contained in the Standards and Quality report. Parents will be aware that Mearns Academy students have been very successful in SQA examinations. We have experienced record levels of attainment in almost every category of result that the SQA provides in the last five years. It is of course, impossible to increase these levels indefinitely, and while the results were perhaps disappointing in terms of record levels, they still show a high standard of attainment across year groups and ability levels. Standard Grade results are still well above national averages. In respect of the number of the pupils gaining 5 or more Foundation awards for example, the school remains in the top 30% in Scotland. At Higher Grade, S5 did particularly well – with 48% of S4 going on to gain at least one Higher Grade last session, an increase of 5% on the previous year. The percentage of S4 gaining 5 or more Highers last session in S5 was 11%, a rise of 2% on last year, and the second consecutive increase. Many students were successful in appealing for higher grades in the examinations and the results above should become even better once these have been taken into consideration.

I like to take as many opportunities as I can to report the excellent way in which our pupils conduct themselves at events and trips throughout the year. It is however the daily application of pupils and students to their classwork, homework, revision and general study that leads to the kind of success which we see here. This is the kind of work which largely goes unnoticed, particularly by the media who prefer to concentrate on failure and the sensational. I would like to thank our parents who have encouraged and supported our pupils throughout last session and who have contributed in their own way to the success of their children. As ever, you are invited to contact the school whenever you feel that there is information which the school can use to better cater for the individual pupil, or with any relevant enquiry for further information. Issues such as health and family will always be important for school work and behaviour, and it is important that we keep in contact as appropriate.

Parents As Partners
While this heading is indeed true, this item is not intended to outline the approach of Mearns Academy in involving parents in their child’s progress. Rather, it is the title of the new legislation which the

Scottish Executive has introduced, which will over the coming year replace the School Board system of parental representation in Scottish schools. We presently await further information on how Aberdeenshire will introduce the new system. As this information is received parents will be informed appropriately as to how this affect the school, what part parents can now play in the school and what steps need be taken. A leaflet was distributed last year with respect to this matter. Parents can find further information on this subject at the Parentzone website – www.parentzonescotland.gov.uk

Parental Support – Readers and Scribes for Examinations
Several of our pupils are granted the opportunity of assistance with certain examinations by the SQA. This most often takes the form of an adult assisting dyslexic pupils with reading examination papers and scribing answers, and we are looking for volunteers to help with this. The school is unlikely to receive external support for this. Clearly a good level of reading and writing would be required. If you would be interested in supporting pupils in this way please contact Mr. Parkin, Depute Rector, at the school (01561 – 378817).

Praise and Concern Slips
You will find below the Praise and Concern statistics for this term for the school. I would remind parents that there are no artificial targets or limits to the number of Praise or Concern slips that staff may issue; staff issue these as and when they deem it appropriate. In this context it is extremely encouraging to note the comparative number of Praise slips issued against the number of Praise Concern YEAR Concern slips. The use of Praise slips shows a commitment to the recognition and celebration of pupils’ achievement and performance in Mearns Academy. It is an important way in which we can show each individual pupil that they are valued and supported in their work and activities. These slips represent an enormous amount of work for staff, in the issuing, recording and subsequent follow-up to pupils and parents. I am very happy to inform you of these statistics as an endorsement of the excellent work of our pupils and staff.

S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6

386 464 345 87 118 33

25 46 122 76 30 4

Parents and Staff Association
The 100 Club is up and running again, and all tickets have been sold. There has only been one draw so far. The winning tickets for November and December draws were November winners are:December Winners Are:1st – 98 £20 Lorraine Gammie 1st – 46 £20 Maggie O’Hagan nd – 90 £ 15 2 Jackie Spencer 2nd – 64 £15 Deborah Meggach rd – 72 £10 3 Moria Clyne 3rd – 59 £10 Gina Easter Thank you to everyone who supported the Quiz night which was held on Thursday, 9 November. This was again a very successful and enjoyable evening for those who attended. Thanks to Mr. Ken Kidston who was our Quizmaster, and to the PSA Committee for organising the event. School Calendars are still on sale, price £3, and can be bought at reception.

If your child requires a privilege pass please apply at least 14 days in advance of requiring the pass. Parents are reminded that if a child does not have a pass they will not be able to travel. Parents/Guardians who have elected to pay by instalments or direct debit need do nothing. The bus pass will be renewed before each term. Pupils with privilege passes can also elect to buy 10 journey tickets from the school office.

Emergency Closure Phone Number
As winter approaches parents are reminded that the telephone number in case of emergency closure is:

0870 054 4999
followed by the

Mearns Academy PIN number 02 1090.
This information can also be accessed from the Aberdeenshire website

A reminder of this information is contained on page 1 or your child’s diary planner

Early Presentation
Parents of S3 pupils will be aware that the school has taken the decision to present pupils for Standard Grade English and Mathematics in S3 – one year earlier than previously was the case. The intention is to give additional time for Higher and Intermediate courses and in so doing improve attainment levels in senior school. As part of our ongoing monitoring we have gauged the progress of pupils at the previous formal exam. and are presently looking at the results of the recent prelims.

Enterprising Maths Competition
The team of Emily Morrison, Craig Byres, Campbell Anderson and Peter Anderson ran out winners of the regional competition in Aberdeen for the fourth consecutive year. The team captained by Craig finished an impressive 10th out of 63 teams who contested the national competition in Glasgow.

Maths Puzzle Day
Maths Puzzle Day 7th November, for the third year in succession the maths department has welcomed the Happy Puzzle Company into schools. All pupils in S2 took part in practical logistical problems which tested their determination, communication and team working skills. This year we were pleased to welcome 50 P7’s from both Laurencekirk and Luthermuir primaries. The motivation and conduct of the pupils ensured the day was a success and enjoyed by all.

National Mobile Phone Register
This term the local community officer Susan Grimmer spoke to all assemblies about this very useful scheme. The National Mobile Phone register has been operating in England and Wales for some time. Its activities centre around an online database (www.immobilise.com) where members of the public can register their mobile phones (and any other property which is identifiable by reference numbers).The

Police use the database to check details of lost or stolen phones and can use it to identify the rightful owners, all of which benefits in terms of returning lost/stolen phones and assisting the Police to successfully investigate thefts. The scheme has been extended to Scotland and Police Forces throughout the country are now working to encourage the public to register their phones via the immobilise web-site. The database already holds details of over ten million phones and it takes only a few minutes to add your details to it. The service is completely free and the individual need only enter their contact details and the phone’s fifteen digit IMEI number (unique serial number) into the electronic registration form on the web-site. The IMEI number can usually be found underneath the battery in the phone, or by entering *#06# on the keypad. The database can only be interrogated with the IMEI or telephone number. It is not possible to search on the name of an individual or an address. If you child’s phone is lost or stolen you should report it the Police as normal, in addition please advise your network operator and Immobilise information line on 08701 123 123. This will allow the phone SIM card and handset to be blocked. The Police will inform you if your registered phone is recovered.

A reminder that our Web-site address is:

A copy of this, previous newsletters and other information can be found at this address.

Senior Maths Challenge
Students in S5 and S6 pitted minds against the finest in the country in this national competition. Despite there being fewer entries this year our students won 4 awards in total. Silver awards were won by Erling Garriock and Rory Comerford, Bronze awards were won by Kirsty Jolly and Gavin Merchant. Next term we look forward to the Intermediate Maths. Challenge for S3/4.

Safety Awareness
As a school we receive many reminders of safety issues. One which receives little exposure is that of the dangers posed to young people from electricity lines and sub-stations. There is (of course) a web-site which provides information which is specifically designed for young people in relation to this matter. It is

Charter Mark
Our assessor will visit Mearns Academy next term and determine if we have addressed those points which were made at the assessment last term. One of these action points require us to be able to show that we record and respond to complaints. We always take parent and pupil contacts seriously and attempt to respond appropriately. Complaints have always been recorded. From the start of term however we have begun to collect these in statistical form. We will publish these statistics in each Newsletter from now on. This term we have had 2 complaints.

Use and Misuse of Technology
It is perhaps a sign of the times that schools now deal occasionally with fall-outs and bad feeling between pupils after they have been corresponding to each other via phone texts or internet. This has been an issue which has been discussed at the highest levels within Aberdeenshire. While both mediums of exchanging information and sending messages can be fun, and provide a great deal of entertainment, this now provides a new opportunity for some pupils to be defamatory or offensive. A difficulty for both parents and school is that when young people are texting or messaging each other by these means their correspondence is almost impossible to check. I would ask that parents be aware of the potential difficulties which this could cause, and regularly spend time with your children to find out the content of the type of correspondence which they have been engaged in, and whether such correspondence has been appropriate. Such difficulties are even more pronounced when the exchange of photographs are involved, and with the use of mobile phone cameras now common-place, the potential of this as a source of aggravation between pupils is ever more likely. Parents should be aware that the use of cameras in the school, whether as a mobile phone or not, is banned. No photos of staff should be taken in any circumstance. Clearly, the issue of photographs brings this item into the area of the rights of the individual. The photograph of a pupil can only be taken by the school where parental consent has already been granted, and the permission of a member of staff is similarly required. As pupils are unaware of such permission it must be the case that photography within school is banned. Parents may be unaware that there are now web-sites such BEBO, or YOUTUBE, where people of all ages can post messages for all to read, many of which are of a personal nature. While these can be harmless and of good humour, there have been reported instances (NOT from Mearns Academy) where such messages have been offensive and problematic. Again, parents are asked to monitor the use of their children of such sites. If difficulties appear in school from the misuse of such sites such as bullying, or breakdown of pupil relationships, then of course the school will attempt to deal with this appropriately. Parents who think that matters should be taken further with respect to content of material posted on phones or internet, should contact the police. With continued responsible use, pupils may bring mobile phones into school – they should of course be switched off during class time. Your assistance in these matters is sought to protect our pupils and ensure that they use electronic means of communication responsibly. Thank you.

French Exchange
We have had a good response to the appeal for host families for the French exchange. We are however, still looking for a few S1, S2 and S3 families (particularly those with boys) to host a pupil from Clermont-Ferrand in May 2007. About 30 pupils will be visiting Scotland for a week and of course they will need accommodation.

Charities Committee
The Charities Committee is in the middle of a very busy term. Children in Need Day activities included Dress As You Please, a Pudsey raffle, “Guess Where Pudsey Is”, selling badges and a sponsored leg waxing. All these events should raise a total of about £800. We are now in the middle of collecting and boxing up items in shoe boxes to be sent to children in Bosnia. On Friday, 1 December we had a collection for National Aids Awareness Day and distributed red ribbons.

Our other main activity before the end of term will be the collection of items to make up parcels for the elderly in our neighbourhood. In addition the school is still supporting the orphanage in Sierra Leone through the small change collection, which is also organised by the Charities Committee. Notes for the future: please collect all your used Christmas stamps (and any others) as we regularly send those to the Kidney Patients Association, and the Guide Dogs for the Blind. Please save up any unwanted Christmas presents for our Silent Auction in the New Year.

The Social Subjects Department has organised a number of activities this term. Below is a summary of each activity:

Mining Museum Trip
Mr Fleming, Mr Parkin and Mrs Sharp accompanied 40 S3 History pupils to the Scottish Mining Museum near Edinburgh. The trip gave pupils the opportunity to see an old working Scottish Mine – indeed the Mine is one of the best preserved in Europe. The pupils were given a tour by an ex-miner and were given the chance to experience the differences between old and new mining. The trip has now been run the last two years and is a great addition to the Standard Grade History curriculum.

Scottish Parliament Trip
This is now a yearly addition to the Standard Grade Modern Studies Curriculum. 45 S4 pupils were given the opportunity to experience the functions of the Scottish Parliament. First of all we were given a tour of the Parliament and the chamber – it certainly is a very impressive building and the pupils were also impressed with what they saw. Finally, the pupils had the chance to meet a number of local MSPs and asked them a number of important and challenging questions.

Travel and Tourism Trip
Around 13 S5/S6 pupils were taken to Stonehaven to investigate the variety of Tourist attractions in the area. They were given a number of topics to investigate and had a look around the local area. This was a great chance for pupils to expand their skills and to see how local councils promote tourism,

Gordon Highlanders Museum
Around 38 S4 pupils were taken to the Gordon Highlanders Museum to expand their knowledge of the World War One. The pupils were able to see a number of artefacts from the Great War and were also given the chance to speak to experts. The highlight of the day was when the pupils experienced the dangers of trench warfare – the course in school can only teach them so much but the museum just added more detailed evidence to their existing knowledge. This was the first year this trip has been run but it is hoped it will also become an annual event.

Higher/Advanced Higher
Higher History pupils attended a conference that taught them key skills and gave them more knowledge of how to pass Higher History. Advanced Higher pupils from History and Modern Studies also visited Aberdeen University Library. This gave them the opportunity to carry out research for their dissertation.

Calcutta Cup Visit
The Calcutta Cup visited the school last week and pupils and staff were given the chance to view it and have their photograph taken. Every year the Scottish and English rugby teams play for the privilege of winning this trophy. The school was honoured to be given the opportunity to view this trophy as it is a piece of valuable sporting History.

2006 Christmas Production

MEARNS ACADEMY MUSICAL SOCIETY presented “ALADDIN and his WONDERFUL LAMP”, from Tuesday 12th December – Friday 15th December 2006, with performances being staged each evening plus matinees on Tuesday and Thursday. Large audiences attending each performance were treated to a feast of colour, music and magical effects. They were encouraged at all times to join in the fun and several times the appropriate cheers and boos must have been heard up the high street. The production was produced and directed by Derek D Noble with Claire Angus and Cat Skinner making up the production team. Many members of staff from all departments were involved and around 100 pupils were involved on stage, back stage and in preparations for the production. Audience comments were very favourable and great team spirit and fun was experienced by all taking part.

The cast in order of appearance ABANAZAR SLAVE OF THE RING PC PING PC PONG WIDOW TWANKEY WISHEE WASHEE ALADDIN EMPEROR of CHINA S0–SHI GENIE OF THE LAMP SAPPHIRE “ALADDIN” Company Emily Atterton, Sarah Brand, Joanne Bruce, Sarah Bruce, Justine Bremner, Harrison Brown, Lucinda Carnie, Matthew Clark, Rory Comerford, Nicola Dunbar, Sarah Gillanders, Vanessa Graham, Aimee Hall, Leah Hughes, Kassy Innes, Aaron Johnstone, Anna Kramer, Jess Lawman, Kirsty MacDonald, Kerry MacDonald, Emma MacKay, Jenna Main, Sammy Miller, Eiren Nivet, Jenna Paterson, Lyndsey Pert, Beth Robertson-Rintoul, Abby Russell, Cat Skinner, Dawn Stewart, Christine Gordon, Lorraine Francis, Vikky McGillivray. GORDON MILLER HANNAH BEVERIDGE AVRIL SCOTT TAMMY HUTCHISON STEPHEN MILNE BRADLEY WEBSTER TORI FRANCIS JIM McLEAN DANNI HUDSON NICK TARGONTSIDIS KELSEY LOGAN

Inter-House Competition Results and News
The House events have got off with a flying start this year with a full calendar of events arranged for the session. This is due to a number of staff willing to give up their own time along with considerable help from the Senior House Captains. RESULTS: S3/S4 Interhouse netball After an excellent competition with all houses participating well, the results were very close, with all matches very competitive. Conveth beat both Thornton and Johnston the first by 15-0 the second 13-7. Johnston beat Thornton 6-0. The overall winners were Conveth, followed by Johnston 2nd and then Thornton 3rd. S5/S6 Eleven a side Football This has been postponed until next term due to water logged pitches and the commitment of all to the school production. Christmas Parcel Collection At the present moment, pupils are collecting food to go out to the old people of the area and the number of items they bring in count towards their house. LATEST SCORES: After completion of all events above the scores are:

1st eq.

1st eq.


French Exchang e

IMPORTANT DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Thursday, 21 December 2006 Friday, 5 January 2007 Monday, 8 January Wednesday, 10 January Friday, 13 January Tuesday, 16 January Wednesday, 24 January Tuesday, 6 February Wednesday, 7 February Monday, 12 February Wednesday, 14 February Thursday, 15 and Friday, 16 February Monday, 19 February Tuesday, 20 February Thursday, 22 February Friday, 23 February Wednesday, 7 March Thursday, 15 March Monday, 19 March Thursday, 29 March Friday, 30 March Monday, 16 April Christmas Service pm, End of Term Ski Trip leaves School Returns for Pupils and Staff S4 Reports issued Ski Trip returns School Board Meeting S3 Parents’ Evening, English and Maths only S1 Parents’ Evening S5/6 Prelims start S2 Reports issued S3/4 Quiz Occasional Holidays Holiday In-Service Day Mearns Masterchef Competition (TBC) S5/6 Prelims end (TBC) S2 Parents’ Evening School Board Meeting S5/6 Grade Letters issued Cross-Country Championships S5/6 Inter-House Quiz, End of Term School Returns TBC – to be confirmed

Mearns Academy Aberdeen Road LAURENCEKIRK AB30 1ZJ Tel: 01561 378817 Fax: 01561 378252

Email: mearns.aca@aberdeenshire.gov.uk Web address:


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