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Spring Term 2013

I was recently asked by a parent how I had settled in to which I replied “Well I feel like I have survived the winter!”. After some stormy weather early in January (I have been told it can be worse) the first spells of calm clear weather were stunning and I got another opportunity to appreciate how beautiful this area is. As we come towards the end of a very busy spring term I find there is lots to look back on and celebrate and still more to look forward to.

I have had plenty of opportunities again through the issuing of reports and parents evenings to get to know many of our parents. We have also had some very productive Parent Council meetings.

I am sure many of you have seen the recent press attention regarding our “student cleaners”. I have been amazed by the interest and found the tone of different newspapers coverage very amusing at times. I was even invited on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kay Adam’s show, but declined – I would have been teaching and classes come first!

It was also good to see our student’s make the front page of the Oban Times through their investment adventure. I hope they have a great time at the regional final this week.

In February I began work with staff and students to review the school, looking at where we are, what our values are and the direction we plan to take. Having shared this with the parent council, I am now in discussion with my managers here and another education trust that I would like to work with us. We have a lot of planning to do over the summer term and I will keep parents up to date on the progress we make. If you would like to be involved please get in touch with a Parent Council member or I am happy to meet with any parent for a discussion.

Part of that review included uniform and I would like to give parents an opportunity to comment on the following draft policy. Much of what students are currently wearing to school is not really suitable and the fairest and simplest solution is to introduce a uniform. I would see this being compulsory from August 2013. Please make any comments via email to .You can also phone the school office or simply drop me a note.

Islay High School Uniform Policy

We also had our annual prelims. These really are important in deciding if a student is ready to sit examinations and we are in the process of firming all the examination entries up. This information will be with parents shortly.

Mr Beresford went on secondment to support work in another school and he of course is missed, however this has been a great opportunity for other staff to take on responsibilities in this area and I am pleased to say they have been outstanding! One of their main tasks at the moment is option choices for our S2-S5 students. Staff will be interviewing every student and they have a great deal to cover so I would encourage parents to help this process with discussions at home.

As many of you will now know Mr Drain is leaving us for pastures new after the Easter holidays. Senior staff are already covering his classes and this will continue up until the examinations.

Even with the winter weather our sports groups have managed a few trips to compete in badminton and basketball tournaments. We have also had visitors with a rugby development day and a recent volleyball tournament at IHS.

Our Youth Work has continued and I was impressed how many of our students gave up some of their February holiday to attend workshops. This together with the very successful Feis and the Dance workshops meant that many of our students had a very busy February break.

Our annual S2 Loch Eil trip was a resounding success. I enjoyed following their exploits on our twitter feed and have heard nothing but positive comments from staff and students alike. Well done S2 you are a very impressive bunch.

Our Ethiopia expedition planning is gathering pace. Student still have fund raising to complete as well as more than a few vaccinations to get. Thanks to all our GPs for their combined efforts to support in this.

University applications were completed and submitted in January with many of our young people now receiving offers from a variety of places. As I said in my last blog for more information for parents please click here. Please note your child has to apply for their finance independently of school click here to find out more (you can apply from April 2013 onwards). If you have any questions or concerns then please do call school for an appointment, I am only too happy to support.

With study leave approaching I am pleased to say that I have employed a study supervisor in order to support those students who wish to come into school (or have to be in for an examination). They will be available every school day during study leave, which is Tuesday 7th May to Tuesday 4th June. Our new timetable will start on Wednesday 5th June. If your child struggles to study independently then I would encourage them to use this facility. They will be able to access guidance and support on how to study in a supportive environment. There are also master classes running, a timetable of which will be will parents shortly together.

With Easter fast approaching we have organised extra revision classes on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd April. I would encourage as many students as possible to make this part of their study plans over Easter.

Finally my thanks to all staff, students and parents for their continued support.

Joanna Holmes

Hello to Islay and Jura!

Welcome to my new blog! I thought this would be a good way to keep in touch with our community and families, so please check in regularly for updates regarding what is happening in school and any important dates and information.

Having arrived on Islay one dark night at the end of October I have to say the weeks have flown by since. I would like to thank the school and wider community for making my family and I feel so welcome. I have met so many people over the past few weeks that are ambitious for the school and want to see it do well and I look forward to working with you all in the future. I also have to thank Mr Harrison and the rest of the staff for “showing me the ropes”. I am sure they will continue to be of great support as the school year progresses.

During my first week I introduced myself to the whole school at a special assembly. It was important for me to talk to both staff and student about what I valued this included honestly, taking responsibility and perseverance.

I have also had two opportunities to meet with our Parent Council. It was an ideal opportunity to gauge any concerns and share our future plans for the school. These included new building works, website and some results from parental questionnaires. Parent Councils can be a great support to schools and I hope to see as many of you as possible attending our AGM on Wednesday 23rd January at 4pm at the school.

Click here to read more about the work of Parent Councils

As many of you will know the school has had some significant building work completed over the summer. There is still significant investment to be made in Islay High School and more planned refurbishment will take place in the next few years to re-design the use of our internal spaces. The downside to this is that redecoration will not happen until this refurbishment is completed; I know that condition of some areas of the school is not good but it will be addressed eventually. However one small program of redecoration has taken place. After an exploratory look under the rather grubby carpet in my office I discovered a beautiful parquet floor covered in glue; bring in Mr Bell and his boys. In two weeks the floor was scraped, sanded and varnished. It really looks stunning and my thanks to them and their very labour intensive work. Please pop in for a look!

It was good to see so many parents attend our S3-S6 Parent’s Evening and the Higher Mathematics and English night we ran. The feedback from the Higher evening was so positive that this is something we will look to extend into other subjects.

The pantomime and music evening were a triumph and have shown me just how much talent we have within the school, and how dedicated staff are in encouraging and supporting our students. It was a great opportunity for me to meet our community and thanks to all who came along and said hello. I have also been told that many of our music students have done very well in their grading exams. I know many of our students were involved in helping at our primary events too so well done to them on their commitment and stamina.

Our Christmas dance organised expertly by our S6 was a fun evening and students impressed me with their great behaviour and excellent dancing, it was also nice to see them so smartly turned out. Speaking of smartly turned out I have discussed the issue of school uniform with a number of parents, students and staff, please be assured this is something that I plan to address over the coming months.

Prelims are looming for many of our S3-S6 and at our Higher Mathematics and English evening I talked to parents about how much work students should be completing. Research shows that an average of 2 hours per evening can make the difference of at least a grade. As parents we can help by encouraging them to make a timetable of revision, make sure they have a suitable space to study and making sure they are eating and sleeping well. It is important to strike a balanced between work and play and it is important that our teenagers get to let off steam!

Applications to universities are now complete and many members of staff have been helping students complete their personal statements. For more information for parents please click here. Please note your child has to apply for their finance independently of school click here to find out more (you can apply from April 2013 onwards).

We have also been working within faculties to plan for the new qualifications, there will be more information given to parents on the S1-S2 parents evening at the end January S2 students and parents will begin to discuss option choices for S3. We will also be inviting any parent who wishes to know more about the new qualifications to this evening. More details to follow.

A reminder to students about the travel discounts they can claim with their Young Scots Card. Click here to find out more

Wishing all our families and community an enjoyable New Year.

Joanna Holmes