Parent Update 18th November 2020

Wednesday 18th November 2020

Parent Update – 18 November 2020                                                                 

Dear Parent/Carer

This update will cover: health and safety changes, SQA and school assessments, Indoor PE, Tracking and Monitoring, UCAS applications, Parent report evenings, Policy Development, Student Leaders and celebrating students’ work.


Tier 3 to 2 Changes in School

As we entered November we made several adjustments to our health and safety protocols based on the new Scottish Government 5 tier Covid Framework and updated advice to education establishments. These changes included the requirement that all young people in S4-S6 and staff wear face coverings in all classrooms unless exempt. We also continued to encourage students within S1-S3 to wear masks in classrooms.

We will now be moving into Tier 2 next week and that will mean masks will no longer be compulsory at S4-S6 in all classrooms and social spaces but we will encourage those who wish to continue to wear them to do so. A message confirming the actual date that mask wearing officially ends will come out by Monday 23 November. Staff from higher tier areas are allowed to travel to work in Midlothian so there will be no disruption to staffing.  The school continues to have strong health and safety protocols in place through: staggered break times, sanitisation stations, cleaning protocols in every class, seating plans to trace any possible infections, the one way system and social distancing where possible. Our updated Risk Assessment is available on our website.

Overall our young people are doing very well at maintaining the rules despite the length of time they have been in place. We will continue to monitor the wearing of face coverings in corridors and will contact parents/carers if we feel any student is flouting the rues and making others unsafe. We are thankful for your continued patience and goodwill in the face of these difficult times.


SQA Exam Diet 2021 and School Assessment Arrangements

As you will be aware the Deputy First Minister has announced there will be no National 5 Exams this session (2020-21) but Higher and Advanced Higher exams will occur starting on 10 May 2021.

SQA is now publishing specific assessment guidance for all subjects – they will all be available by 19 November and this advice will support formal assessment activity in the school. Penicuik High School will conduct several formal assessment windows up to April 2021 – these are as follows:

December 2020 – National 5 Assessments

January 2021 – Higher/Advanced Higher prelim

Late January/February 2021 – National 5 Assessments

There will also be a late assessment window in March/April to ensure end of course materials are assessed. We will communicate on this aspect of National 5 assessment later in the session.

For the National 5 December and Jan/Feb windows, assessments will take place under controlled conditions, invigilated by teachers in classrooms and can be ‘chunked’ to fit within the 50 minute period which will ensure the security of the assessment. Assessments exceeding the 50 minute window will do so by arrangement. Normal alternative assessment arrangement (AAA) will be put in place for student requiring adjustments to assessments.

As per SQA’s latest announcement and for our own flexibility, departments are not restricted to these times in collecting up to 4 high quality assessment items to enable an estimate grade to be generated.

Class teachers will discuss any upcoming assessments with classes in advance so that students are clear about what is expected. Furthermore, all Senior Phase courses are supported by a range of on-line resources in each Google Classroom.

There is also on-going work across the Authority to put in place moderation activities in school and between schools to ensure marking is to the correct standard. SQA is also making available question items with marking schedules and guidelines on the grading of questions within assessments for all subjects.

The formal assessment timetable for National 5 subjects for December 2020 will be published to students and parent/carers shortly.  It may still be subject to change due to internal circumstances but this will be flagged to students by staff. The Higher/Advanced Higher prelim timetable will be available to students and Parents/Carers in December. The timetable for National 5 Assessment in late January/February will be available at the start of term in January.

The Senior Management team is also working on collating an internal assessment monitoring calendar for S4-S6 all levels of study to manage student workload over the balance of the session. Where we feel there is too much pressure on students we will discuss with the relevant PTs to negotiate possible assessment adjustments. If parents have any concerns about their child’s timetable of assessments they should contact their Guidance teacher in the first instance.

We will be communicating further with all students by letter in the near future and it is very important to us they feel they understand the SQA arrangements and how it will affect them.

I will continue to update on SQA matters across the session.


Indoor PE

We are delighted that due to the updated guidance from Education Scotland we are now able to offer some indoor PE options and restart some of our extra-curricular clubs. Unfortunately we are still unable to open up the changing rooms for full use at this time. The situation is made easier when students arrive to PE in appropriate kit ready to participate. It is still possible for a limited number of students to change before and after lessons if required. Thank you for your continued support.


Tracking and Monitoring

The new tracking systems are now in place for all year levels and we have completed tracking for S4-S6 and more recently S1-S2. These were settling in reports and highlight whether students are on or off track along with comments on effort and progress. These have been analysed and guidance or senior management will contact parents/carers as necessary to discuss student progress and the required actions to improve the situation. Principal Teachers of curriculum areas and/or subject teachers will also be involved in recommending and supporting next steps for students. A big part of using tracking and monitoring to improve student outcomes is to work in partnership with parents/carers. If you have not been contacted or feel more follow up is required please contact your child’s guidance teacher or a member of the Senior Management team if you feel the issues are more serious.



The school has 39 current applicants to university. We have already submitted three early entries, through the UCAS process two for medicine and one applying to Oxbridge.

First drafts of personal statements should have been submitted to guidance teachers by now and students should seek further support if they are struggling.

We will be supporting students complete the form and write their references in the coming weeks. Our target is to have completed all applications by the Christmas holidays. This allows a little bit of wiggle room to meet the UCAS deadline of 15 January 2021. If you have any enquiries about this process please contact Mr Safhill who manages the UCAS process in school.


Parent Report Evenings

The school has now sent out information to S2 parents regarding bookings for the S2 Parent Report evening which will be held using a telephone system. We were hopeful of using a live platform via the Parent Booking Company who run our website booking system, however technical and GDPR issues are currently preventing that option. Booking for the phone appointments remains via the booking system which has a link on our website. We are looking forward to having the chance to speak to this year’s S2 parents and carers as we are aware you did not have a parent evening last session due to lockdown. Current S2 tracking reports and full reports will inform the evening. While there is a 5 minute window for the meetings parents are welcome to follow up any issues via their child’s guidance teacher. If you have any queries regarding the report evening please contact Ms Lyon, Acting DHT, via the school office.


Homework Policy Development

We are currently developing a policy document in relation to the delivery of Homework across year levels. This will include the levels of homework expected at each level of study, support of additional and extended work at home and the communication of course outlines and types of homework. This policy will be designed to ensure consistency and support your understanding of what your child should be doing at home to support their learning. We will be consulting with staff and parents in early December.


Celebrating Student Success and Progress

The school continues to look at ways of communicating positively with students and families. To that end we are developing a celebration of success, online events for S1-S3 and senior phase that will be delivered in January 2021. In December we will be asking staff to highlight students who are performing well and exemplifying our PRIDE values so we can collate the information and reward their success through an award system. We are also looking at how we can deliver parts of the cancelled Senior Prize Giving within a senior event.

Out with of any formal events we are also encouraging staff to send home praise posts cards based on our PRIDE values. Principal Teachers have also been asked to collect information at department meetings on high performing students in relation to our values so we can write home to share how well they are doing.

Finally, I would like to once again to thank you as parents and carers for the support you continue to give us. If you have any concerns or issues we welcome your feedback and I am always available to speak to parents about any issues raised.



Craig Biddick

Head Teacher (Acting)


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