Parent Update Letter 5th October 2020

Monday 5th October 2020

Dear Parent /Carer

This is a brief update on a number of matters including: how young people are doing at school, current contingency planning, uniform, our new tracking and monitoring systems, Parent consultations, and SQA courses and uncertainty.

 How are young people doing at school?

 Overall the young people in school are continuing to report being settled and keen to get on with the work required to move forward in their learning. Many of them are now fully engaged and motivated, working with staff to make progress towards exams, or in their subjects within the Broad General Phase at S1-3. We are conscious some still remain anxious after lockdown and are dealing with situations outside school which means they require extra support. Some Senior Phase students are also anxious about SQA exams and what will happen over the rest of the session and how that might affect them.

In terms of Covid safety, the number of students with masks is high but we are still finding they are forgetting to wear them in crowded situations. The school has also been contacted by retailers who are concerned they are not wearing their masks in shops. A number are still arriving without a mask and where we have current supplies we are using disposable masks. If at all possible we would ask parents/carers to purchase more permanent masks to help with compliance as the disposable masks don’t last well.  Staff at school do very much appreciate the support shown by parents/carers with regard to ensuring your children have a mask, and are acting safely at school.  We have ensured staff know who has an exemption, and any student exempt should not feel singled out.  If you have any concerns about this aspect of the mask guidance please do not hesitate to contact us.

We have set up a Senior Phase Covid 19 Pupil Voice group and will host a Junior Covid 19 Pupil Voice group this week. Their advice will help shape policy and practice in relation to ensuring health and safety in school on an on-going basis.

A number of parents/carers have raised concerns regarding Covid measures in school.  My position will always prioritise health and safety, and the well-being of the young people.  We will, as always, aim to be as flexible as possible to ensure we support parents also. As a school we are following national guidance which is then written into a local authority context to support health and safety across the school, all of which is regularly enforced across the school.

 Contingency Planning – Further Blended Learning Needs

 As you will be aware the current transmission rate has increased in Scotland and has already affected some schools in other regions. At some point we may need to respond to any public health directives in relation to infections linked to schools or how infection rates are impacting staffing levels. This may result in us having to introduce a home/school roster system for some classes or year groups. In the event of students having to remain at home on some rostered days, we will return to online learning alongside in school learning. Senior Phase teaching in school will be protected as much as possible within this scenario.  Contingency plans are being discussed at present and we will look to send out a clear contingency plan for any eventualities in the week beginning 12th October 2020.


As mentioned in my last update we have now returned to our official uniform from Tuesday 22nd September 2020 and we are requesting that all students arrive at school in the correct uniform which is as follows:

White shirt or blouse

Black V neck jumper or cardigan

School tie – All S1 will receive a free tie

Black trousers or skirt

Black shoes

The senior tie has been slightly modified but is still black. All S5 have received the new tie free of charge. More ties have been ordered for S4 but due to Covid restrictions they may take up to 6 weeks to arrive. Once these have been delivered all S4 will be given the new senior tie free of charge.  S4 should remain in the blue and white striped tie until that time. Old ties will be collected for recycling.  The present school uniform policy was introduced into Penicuik High School with the full support and agreement of pupils, parents and staff and therefore we do expect it to be followed.

If a student has PE on a particular day they may wear their PE gear to school and either change later (an opportunity to do this will be given) or remain in their PE gear if they feel it is hygienic to do so.

Up until the October break Fridays will be classed as dress down days, although students can continue to wear uniform if they wish.  We ask that students who dress down are appropriately dressed – this means no crop tops, ripped jeans or revealing clothing. A number of students are still flouting these rules and we will contact parents if we have concerns.

We realise that some parents have come under financial pressure due to the Covid 19 pandemic and we are very keen to help. You may be eligible for a clothing grant. Please follow the link below.

There is now also a parental initiative across all Midlothian schools to support uniform swaps through a Facebook site called Midlothian School Uniform Swap Shop. You just need to ask to join and either offer uniform or request uniform items.

Follow this link:

Tracking and Monitoring

As mentioned in my last update, we have revamped our tracking and monitoring systems to include three clear tracking periods for all year levels across the session. These formalised periods of review will ensure we react quickly to any change in effort or disengagement, particularly at the Senior Phase where assessment evidence is probably still going to be significant in evidencing the level of outcome.

We are working within our first tracking period for senior phase students and S1-3 will follow later.          The three phased system includes the early warning tracking report, an interim report with grades/ levels and a full report with grades/ levels and comments.

Early progress tracking reports for S5/6 will go out to parents/carers this week followed by S4 and then S1-3. The Senior Management Team and Guidance staff will look at overview reports to help target students who need intervention to improve performance.  This will also involve contacting parents/carers to discuss issues and suggested interventions.

Senior Phase students, in S5/6 in particular, will be reminded that they have chosen to work with the school to gain qualifications to secure their future. We therefore expect that they will take an active role in their learning process. Where students lack commitment we will work with parents/carers and may look at other educational options.  Please note that no student will be expected to leave school without a positive and sustainable destination that gives further options.

Outside of tracking periods we will continually scrutinise individual student progress,  if you have any concerns at any stage please contact your child’s guidance teacher in the first instance.

Parent Evenings

We are conscious that, due to lockdown, some parents have not had an opportunity to meet with their child’s subject teachers.  Planning is now under way to look at how we can facilitate a consultation process over this session as Covid guidelines do not permit face-to-face meetings. Initial planning centres on telephone appointments or appointments through an online platform.

We will advise parents of the proposed dates for each cohort and process nearer the time. S2 will have their full report earlier this session to assist the process of selecting S3 options and there will be a linked parents’ evening. The early recovery phase progress will be picked up through the tracking reports for all levels that are coming out over the next few weeks and are discussed above.

SQA Exam Diet 2020-21

At this point there is still no clear guidance on this session’s SQA Exam diet. The Deputy First Minister has received a report on the SQA Consultation undertaken with stakeholders.  He has delayed making a decision until he has received a report from Professor Mark Priestley with regard to the SQA Estimate process from last session that proved so controversial.

A number of scenarios are possible from a full exam diet for all National 5, Highers and Advanced Higher courses to removing external exams for one of the certificated courses, such as National 5.  Should a scenario exist where grades are awarded using only internal assessment it is unlikely that the same estimate process from last session will be used.  There will be more SQA moderation of our assessment work to ensure grades awarded reflect pupil achievement.

The Deputy First Minister is due to make a statement in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 6th October.  When details have been finalised we will be in contact regarding the plans for this academic year.  We will also engage with students about how this will affect their courses this year.

Thank you once again for your continuing support of the school at this challenging time.

Craig Biddick

Head Teacher (Acting)

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