16 February 2024
FACTFULNESS IN S3 GEOGRAPHY
Our S3 geography classes have recently been working on a unit based on the best-selling book Factfulness, concerning “the stress reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts”.
As part of the course pupils were asked to complete a quiz about how they view the world. The quiz included questions about life expectancy, poverty, natural disasters and population and they had been previously been posed to some of the world’s leading minds such as World Bank staff, CEOs and University professors. What the authors wanted to understand was are we humans better at answering questions about the world than a chimpanzee? In most cases, the answer was no.
During the unit pupils investigated poverty, looked at predictions on the world population, the United Nation’s Global Goals and how we can achieve sustainability – everything fitting neatly under the overall concept of Learning for Sustainability which we are currently developing across the school. We asked pupils to consider stereotypes and income levels and they were also asked to look for the positive changes in the world. These messages of hope are sometimes overlooked, but are hugely important for our children and young people.
Our S3 geographers looked at some of the misconceptions of the world we live in – they are bombarded with many of the messages around these on a daily basis through social media platforms. We set them the task of putting their initial impressions to one side to look in more detail at the factual information available before coming up with their own opinions.
We are hoping to teach our pupils to consider their viewpoints, to think critically about some of the big issues affecting the world today and to base their ideas on facts, rather than biased opinions and the loudest voices. We asked them to question, to look for the positive and to form their own opinions. These are, after all, valuable lessons for us all.
The quiz which the pupils completed is well worth having a go at and is quick and easy to do. It can be found here https://factfulnessquiz.com/ and it is more than likely you will be quite surprised by some of the answers.
9 February 2024
SCOTTISH EDUCATION REFORM
The last 12 months have seen a huge number of consultations from the Scottish Government on aspects of education. All of these have been sent out with the intention of engaging parents and others in discussion about their children’s schooling. From Gaelic provision to outdoor learning and uniform, the government has been asking for views from as many members of the public as possible. Some, but not all, of them will have time-scales that will affect pupils currently in the school.
Three of these consultations have been, perhaps, of the most importance. First was the Skills Development review which looked mainly at the work of Skills Development Scotland but had important implications for the way that skills are taught in schools. Secondly there was the consultation on the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment. In this review Professor Louise Hayward put forward recommendations for the “Scottish Diploma of Achievement”. If the recommendations are accepted this would become the overall qualification which pupils gain when they left school, be that in S4, S5 or S6. The diploma is envisaged as having three key elements:
- programmes of learning – in-depth study of curriculum, both subjects and vocational studies
- project-based learning – to show how pupils engage in the kind of individual research and teamwork they will need after they leave school
- a personal pathway – to display individuality in, for instance, extra-curricular activities and community work.
More details of the Hayward Review can be found on this link.
The final review – which came under the title of the National Discussion on Scottish Education – was aimed at anyone with “an interest in the future of our education system”. The starting point for the discussion was: what kind of education, skills, knowledge and support do you think young people will need 20 years from now? Action points from the report relate to four main themes: learners and learning; a learning system; digital futures; and human-centred educational improvement. The summary report is available here.
The Scottish Government is now considering all the various consultations and has promised an update in March on what plans are being taken forward. We shall watch with interest and continue to keep parents informed in what we hope are useful and easy to understand summaries.
2 February 2024
NEW COURSE: LEGAL STUDIES
Are you interested in finding out about how the law works? Looking forward to a legal, crime prevention or business career?
We are starting a brand new subject for senior students. Open to S5 and S6, the National Progression Award (Level 6) Legal Studies is made up of two mandatory subjects:
- Scots Law; An Introduction, and
- Crime and Society.
Assessment for the NPA includes in-class assessments, research projects, case study analysis and an essay. Although this is an SQA qualification, there is no final exam like you would find in other subjects.
Learn the basics of our system of law as well as why we have laws in the first place. Are you considering a career in just about every type of business, the police, military or even the legal profession? This course has been designed to provide you with a fundamental knowledge of Scots Law which will help with progression into further qualifications but may also enhance your career prospects for entry level employment in a range of sectors.
Enjoy the real-life cases which bring the law alive. Come and find out how one small snail in a bottle helped affect how you buy a bottle of fizzy juice.
For more information, please see your Social Subjects teachers.
26 January 2024
COST OF LIVING SUPPORT
As a school we recognise that the current economic situation will be putting a lot of strain on finances for a number of our families.
A recent exercise we completed with pupils on Learning for Sustainability showed that they too are concerned about the effects that the cost of living is having on more vulnerable people. We are keen to help out in whatever ways are possible but also realise that it is not always easy to find the information that you may need. To bring it all together, we have produced what we hope will be a handy booklet to point you in the right direction of the support which is available. Some of this support – such as free school meals, clothing grants and money for seniors to stay in education – is available from the Highland Council, some of it is available from the school and some comes from other organisations working in the community.
We hope you will find it useful. If you need any more information please do get in touch with the school guidance teachers. Paper copies of the booklet are also available from the school office if needed.
19 January 2024
CULLODEN CAREERS UPDATE
The end of last term was a busy time for our Skills Development Scotland (SDS) staff and new DYW (Developing the Yong Workforce) co-ordinator, Soraya MacDonald. The photos below show the range of employers we had attending our S3 Careers Speed Dating event. The army, NHS ambulance service, the Scottish Academy for Construction Opportunities and the University of the Highlands and Islands were all in attendance, highlighting the exciting employment opportunities for young people across the region. Other year groups have been involved in mock interviews with our employment partners and we have continued to hold very successful My Future Friday sessions with short presentations from organisations as diverse as Dounreay, the armed police, Barratt Homes and the Nigg Skills Academy. Many of these sessions have been extremely well attended and we hope they will continue to be so when they resume later this month.
Another major event was the Drones in Construction day, organised by SDS in partnership with Balfour Beatty. All of our S1s took part in sessions learning about how drones are revolutionising the construction industry and then were hands-on in flying, surveying sites and landing the machines in the school lecture theatre. You can see the S1s and their drones in action below:
Together with our partners we are continuing to explore how we can improve the careers education we offer to our pupils, ensuring they are aware of all the opportunities that will become available to them when they leave school. Later this month we shall be joined by the director of Cru Holdings for a Maths and Mixology session and Soraya is also organising a Youth Philanthropy Initiative Charity Speed Dating event for all of our S3s. If you have any ideas for activities we can do with our pupils or you would like to get involved with our careers education programme please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at the school.
12 January 2024
PRODUCT DESIGN – CREATIVE INDUSTRIES
An exciting new course is replacing Design and Manufacture in The Tech Department!
Product design – Creative Industries is an amazing opportunity to reach into the innovative world of Product Design.
Creative industries will run at level 5 for next session and is open to 4th, 5th and 6th year. The course will offer an insight into the world of Product Design and will involve product design folio creation, model making and setting up a design expo to showcase the products that you have made! You don’t need to have taken Design in third year to pick this course, it’s open to everyone.
Improve your sketching, model making skills and lifelong transferable skills through the delivery of ideas to others and learn about this amazing industry that impacts the world around us.
Video link for the third year course below:
15 December 2023
MUSIC & MUSIC TECHNOLOGY
Myth busting and Information
With Music Technology being a relatively new course, we wanted to give some more information in this very short video. Skills developed in this course can lead directly into college courses and projects will appeal to pupils with a flair for computer technology.
This is a short video about music courses in Culloden Academy. In particular, the fact that you do not need to get extra-curricular lessons or have had previous experience in playing instruments to sit these courses. You also do not need to read music! It can be very helpful but not essential. Music in schools has changed so much in the last 30 years. Also, there is a straightforward progression from National 5 (Grade 3) to Higher (Grade 4) to Advanced Higher (Grade 5).
8 December 2023
In the coming weeks we are planning to highlight some of the new courses running or that we are keen to run in the school. The first one up is a course called Creative Thinking which will be offered to S5 and S6 pupils at Level 6- meaning the same SCQF Level as a Higher. It will be delivered by the Art department and they explain it better than I could below. Please also take the time to click on the links.
Creative Thinking – Level 6
Creative Thinking is the new Level 6 course that will be run in 2023/24, links to videos can be found here and below.
Creative thinking is the ability to produce unique, original solutions. Also known as creative problem-solving, creative thinking is a valuable and marketable soft skill in a wide variety of careers.
It is open to S5/6 students who are to be curious, brave, ambitious, and keen to collaborate. It is for anyone who wants to improve and demonstrate their creative thinking, inspire innovation and who think of themselves as ‘future-makers’.
It will be delivered by the Art and Design Department and is focused on the process of creativity rather than on the physical outcome. Creative thinking is at the heart of the innovative process and is an essential skill for everyone in this fourth industrial revolution.
Using a wide variety of strategies, ideating, and testing you discover new solutions for issues in every area of life, including at school and future work. Creative thinking challenges our assumptions and allows us to discover new things about ourselves.
1st December 2023
YOUNG STEM LEADER
Following on from a successful introduction to Culloden Academy last year, the Young STEM Leader Programme has continued to run into the 2023/24 school year. The Young STEM Leader Programme (YSLP) aims to inspire young people in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). To do this, Young STEM Leaders are given opportunities to inspire, lead and mentor other young learners within the school by delivering STEM-based activities. This encourages them to develop their leadership, communication and employability skills within a fun and engaging programme through which they can gain an award and SCQF credit points.
What have our Young STEM Leaders been up to?
They have been taking part in team-building activities that allow them to practise their leadership skills such as building a hidden shape out of Lego and solving the of problem of transporting objects across the room with very few resources. Although challenging at times, the Young STEM Leaders have worked hard to develop their communication skills which is helping to shape each of them as strong future leaders.
Within the programme, each Young STEM Leader has to deliver a set of activities to their younger peers, leading them in learning about STEM challenges. This helps to inspire young people to become more enthusiastic about the STEM subjects. To execute this, our Young STEM Leaders are choosing to restart the school’s STEM Club, where younger pupils will be able to come along and take part in fun activities, such as experiments, maths puzzles and engineering conundrums. For example, their first activity involved making cute, cuddly microbes out of felt, pipe cleaners and googly eyes! No matter what level of Science, Maths, Technology or Engineering ability you may have, there is something for everyone at STEM Club.
What can our Young STEM Leaders do next?
Our Young STEM Leaders are currently working towards their Level 4 award. This means that, if they complete all the activities successfully, they will receive a Level 4 certificate, pin badge and SCQF credit points at the end of the year. After completing the course, the YSLs can then choose to continue working through the Young STEM Leader Award levels up to Level 6.
The Young STEM Leaders can mention taking part in this award on their CVs when applying for jobs or applying for college or university. This is because the programme has allowed them to develop important personal skills that employers and education establishments are looking for. As part of the programme, the Young STEM Leaders have been researching different areas and challenges faced in STEM today, helping to motivate them to learn more about STEM and consider careers linked to STEM in their futures.
How could I become a Young STEM Leader?
Becoming a Young STEM Leader in Culloden Academy is easy. All you need to do is have enthusiasm for STEM subjects, show a motivated and keen attitude, and the want to develop your knowledge and skills further. We are looking for future leaders who can help to enthuse other young people in STEM, people who can encourage them to think deeply about some of the challenges that are being faced in STEM every day. We are looking for people who can build the confidence of young learners by engaging them in fun and stimulating activities.
If you are interested in taking part in the Young STEM Leader Programme next year, or would like some more information about the course, then you can speak to either Miss MacLeod (Maths) or Miss Slater (Biology) at a break or lunchtime during the school day.
24 November 2023
When I started this weekly Blog, it was to share information with parents and carers that they might not otherwise get. I hope you are finding it useful. What I would like to do this week is outline all the ways in which we believe we are getting information to parents to help them support learning. I have two reasons for this- firstly so that you know all the ways to get your questions answered and secondly to invite feedback about how well these approaches work and how we could further improve our support to you.
1) Parental emails. We have organised emails by year group so that we can send out targeted emails (about Parents Evenings, social events etc) to all parents/carers in a year group or we can send out emails to all households by sending out 5 separate emails. I know that some parents have queried why they get multiple copies of the email but if we try to email more than 500 people at a time, the system refuses to send the email so a whole school email must go out in 5 separate batches.
2) School website. This is updated regularly and at certain points in the year (mainly when choosing courses for the next session) is essential for pupils and parents as all the supporting information can be found there.
3) Facebook. It sometimes replicates what is on the website but is used much more to highlight successes and share details of events that have happened in the school.
4) School Handbook. Published on our website and Highland Council’s website in December each year, it is currently 41 pages of detail about how the school functions and what pupils and families need to know. Watch out for the session 24-25 version, coming to a website near you soon.
5) Parents Information Evenings.These are held usually one week before the official Parents Evening for S2, S3, S4 and S5 and are, we believe, a really important part of our work with parents. At these we try to explain what the next 2-3 years will look like, what the acronyms mean and what choices your child will have to make. Increasingly we are joined by heads of department who will explain the different courses in their department, the different ways that a pupil can progress within their department and hopefully give you all the information you need to have focused conversations with their teachers the next week.
6) Parents Evenings. Each slot with a teacher is 5 minutes long and that is why we hope to have given you the information you need through reports and Information Evenings to allow you to ask and get answers to key questions.
We hope and believe that we are working hard to communicate with and support parents. If you believe there are other options that we could consider, please let me know by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr J Vance
10 November 2023
A positive school ethos and culture (sometimes described in academic research as ‘climate’) is essential to developing good relationships and positive behaviour in the classroom, playground and wider community. Research has found that a culture where children and young people feel included, respected, safe and secure – and where their achievements and contributions are valued and celebrated – is essential to the development of good relationships. In order to create this environment for effective learning and teaching, schools are recommended to create a shared understanding of wellbeing underpinned by children’s rights and a focus on positive relationships across the whole school community.
This year we are aiming to improve the school ethos in culture in a number of ways, with a particular focus on Rights Respecting Schools and Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) as well as an improved and evolving offer of extra-curricular activities.
A survey will be conducted this term asking parents/guardians for feedback on the school’s ethos and culture. This will be sent directly via email and we would be very grateful for as many responses as possible to help inform us of your views and suggestions.
Rights Respecting School
Culloden Academy achieved the Rights Respecting Schools Bronze award in 2022 and we are now working towards the Silver Award, with our inspection visit booked for next summer. As part of this we are trying to embed knowledge and understanding of children’s rights across the school, as well as improving pupil voice through Pupil Councils (which restarted last term) and the S6 Leadership team who have drawn up exciting plans based around the school values of Ambition, Community, Kindness and Respect. Departments across the school are keen to work together with our young people to achieve the Silver Award.
Mentors in Violence Prevention
Last Term, a team of S6 pupils undertook Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training. MVP began in America and was first introduced in Scotland in 2012. Since then, schools in all local authorities across Scotland have begun to deliver the training and the number of schools actively engaging with the programme is continuing to grow.
MVP aims to encourage young people to be “active bystanders” who feel confident to safely challenge behaviours and attitudes that are unacceptable in our society. The trained senior pupils deliver a series of sessions to younger peers which help them to explore and challenge the negative attitudes and behaviours that underpin gender-based violence. The sessions are based around real-life experiences that Scottish secondary pupils are likely to witness or be aware of and involve a number of activities and discussions to explore the issues raised.
This term, our S6 MVP mentors are going to be visiting S1 classes, and it is hoped that this will empower the year group to become active bystanders who can safely support and challenge their peers, and to understand the importance of healthy, respectful relationships both in school and the wider community.
For more information on MVP please visit: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/mvpscotland/
For further details on our plans for delivering MVP or Rights Respecting Schools this year please feel free to contact Mr Wilson (PT Guidance) via email: email@example.com
3 November 2023
LEARNING FOR SUSTAINABILITY
Learning for sustainability (LfS) is an approach to both life and learning which aims to build a socially-just, equitable and sustainable world for our pupils (and everyone else) to live in. It encompasses many aspects which are of the utmost importance for the future of our children and young people including equalities and diversity, global issues, the environment and climate change.
LfS brings together many strands of education which are familiar to pupils and which they encounter every day inside and outside of the classroom, including (but not limited to) global citizenship, sustainable development education and outdoor learning. It is no exaggeration to say that ensuring our children and young people have access to high quality experiences in these aspects of their education will help them develop into responsible citizens who are ideally equipped to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise for them through their lives.
I have recently taken up the role of Depute Headteacher at Culloden Academy following stints in the same role at schools in East Lothian and, for the past ten years, as Headteacher of Inverness High School. One of my tasks is to ensure that all our pupils’ entitlement to a worthwhile education in LfS is fulfilled. My own background, as a former development scientist, author, journalist, teacher and principal teacher of geography, has been heavily biased towards raising awareness of global and local issues amongst young people and of ensuring they know they can make changes to influence a better society and a sustainable world.
Over the coming months I shall be working with the pupils, teachers and staff in the school to develop our vision of what Learning for Sustainability means and what we can do to bring this vision into action – inside the classroom, through extra-curricular opportunities and out in the wider community. Parents too have a role to play in helping come up with our vision and in developing it and driving it forward. I would be very interested to hear from you if you have any ideas or wish to get involved. Please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
27 October 2023
Thank you for all your support with the Sponsored Walk and apologies about all the extra laundry from soggy, muddy children returning home that evening. As with last year’s event it was a lovely change of pace, great to see so many fancy dress costumes and really nice to see pupils and staff just chatting as they walked along. Your children were also very generous in offering to share their snacks with me which was much appreciated… until I had to stop eating for the day!
What I wanted to focus on today was what we spend the money on and the answer to that is simply that we spend it on improving the quality and range of pupil experiences that we offer. With rising costs and budget pressures, the money we have raised will allow us to support a range of experiences and opportunities that otherwise would not have happened.
The money goes into the School Fund and staff can bid for funding from this. The school fund committee meet regularly, and each bid must ‘pass’ these five tests:
1) Is this to support the quality of provision to learners? How many learners?
2) Is it reasonable to spend school funds on this or are we creating an unsustainable precedent?
3) Should departments be paying for this from their own per capita allocation?
4) Should the Head Teacher be funding this directly?
5) Is outside funding viable and if so has it been considered?
If a bid passes these tests, then the committee can award up to £1,200 to support a request. Any requests above that (we get one or two per year) have to go to a vote of all staff in the school.
In the last year, school funds- topped up by last year’s Sponsored Walk funding, has allowed the committee to give funding to the following bids:
- Coach travel for the trip to Berlin
- Coach travel for the Visit to Johnstons of Elgin
- Supported two pupils to participate in the Lessons from Auschwitz trip
- Outdoor flower beds to improve the entrance to the school and provide some pupils with gardening skills.
- “Blizzard Blankets” to support Duke of Edinburgh expeditions.
- Coach travel for trip to Lifescan.
- Coach travel for trip to Eden Court
- Registration fee for Young Enterprise programme
- Transport costs for trip to Politics talk in Edinburgh.
- Coach travel for trip to Scottish Parliament.
- Top up for essential clothing bank for pupils.
- Entry fees for Art trip to exhibitions in Edinburgh.
- Registration fee for debating society
- Coach travel contribution for Drama trip to London.
- Lighting equipment for school social events- dances, musical etc.
- Catering for this year’s Sponsored Walk
This year we will follow the same approach as last year in that the money raised will go into the School Fund except for a significant donation to two pupil chosen charities as well.
6th October 2023
S6 LEADERSHIP TEAM
Before the summer holidays, the Culloden Academy S6 leadership team was created (along with the pick of Head Boy, Dean Thom, and Head Girl Sophie Lambert) with the idea of bringing the school’s 4 principal values together; Ambition, Community, Kindness, and Respect. Since the return of school, the leadership team has come together each Friday to discuss topics that correlate with these 4 school values and have been divided into teams in order to help promote pupil voices, ideas, and upcoming events. This blog will be an introduction to each team, its members, and their aims for the school year!
Leading the value of Ambition is our depute Ellie Smith along with Sophie Kennedy and Brodie Krienke. One of their core aims is to celebrate the pupils! The Ambition team wants to encourage pupils to share their achievements, whether that be from sports, music, etc they wish to highlight every range of talent in our school with the hopes of inspiring other pupils to do the same. A further aim of the Ambition team is to plan a subject fair to support pupils who are beginning to make subject choices and are still determining what path to go down. This would be an open day, allowing pupils to have taster sessions on the subjects they’re considering for next year and have the opportunity to meet and ask questions to the teachers of those departments. A final aim is the introduction of ‘My Future Friday’ to the school. This is where pupils will be able to experience talks and presentations from all different backgrounds of employment to understand how these people achieved their roles, as well as the choices they needed to make to get there. The team hopes to inspire pupils with possible career paths and gain a better knowledge on how to pursue careers pupils are already set on.
Representing Community this year we have depute Vincent Peteranna along with Archie Reid and Ella Paterson. An aim of the community team this year is to improve on and create new clubs within Culloden Academy to include all fields of interest. So, if you feel the school is lacking a club or activity you feel passionate about, the Community team will be sending out a form to hear from pupils in the hopes of suggestions for new clubs and activities in school. Another aim for Community this year is to introduce more themed charity days, with a focus on ‘Red Nose Day’ which begins on Friday the 15th of March 2024. The Community team plans to have a dress-down day and include a lineup of competitions and activities for all year groups to raise money for the charity. Furthermore, the school blog will be used as an outlet for highlighting events within the school, as well as pupil achievements, successes, and updates. So keep your eyes peeled for more blog posts incoming! Inter-house competitions for S1 through to S3 are also making a comeback starting after the October holidays, so make sure to head to the P.E. department to gain your space.
The kindness team is led by depute William Scully along with Caitlin Irvine, Jessica Streeter-Smith, and Miguel Almadin. This year, the team plans on integrating more kindness into the school throughout the next year. This includes the creation of the ‘kindness crew’ who you will soon be able to spot throughout school wearing pink, neon lanyards! The kindness crew is here to support any pupil at any time who may be unsure of who to speak to. So, if you’re in need of advice, are feeling overwhelmed, or just want a friendly face to chat with, make sure to find one of our very own kindness crew and they can provide you with the guidance you need. The kindness team also aims to create more opportunities to raise money for chosen charities and are open to any suggestions for organisations, big or small, that you believe Culloden Academy should support.
The team for respect this year consists of depute Ruby Mackintosh, alongside Logan Hamilton and Lily Craig-Gould. The team this year hopes to create a wider respect for all aspects of school life, including the school building, staff and pupils. To this end, the respect team are promoting MVP lessons which will be delivered by S6s to S1s and will foster a wider respect for their fellow pupils. Also on the docket is working with UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools programme, to help create a learning environment where children are respected and nurtured.
By Ella Paterson and Logan Hamilton
29th September 2023
Culloden Academy is very proud of the efforts that staff and senior pupils make to enhance the school experience for our learners through the provision of regular extra-curricular groups and clubs.
Beyond the fun and enjoyment inherent in these activities, it is well-established in academic research that participating in groups and clubs provides tangible benefits to young people through developing social skills, confidence and a sense of belonging to the school community. This in turn boosts the climate and positive culture of the school.
The impact of lockdowns in recent years played a significant role in curtailing the extra-curricular activities that we could offer in school, however over the past year we have really built up the opportunities available to our pupils thanks to the efforts of a huge number of staff members – without their dedication to our pupils and their willingness to give up their time, none of this would be possible.
In 2023-24, we are incredibly pleased to be offering a really wide-ranging selection of clubs and groups during and after school. We hope that there is something for all of our young people to participate in and enjoy, whether their interests lie in sports, music, arts or any of the other areas covered by our extra-curricular timetable.
In House assemblies this term, Guidance Teachers discussed our school values, with a focus placed on “Ambition”. We are really hopeful that as many of our learners as possible will be ambitious when it comes to getting involved with a club or group this year – and we are very keen that parents and carers encourage them to try something new and get involved.
The S6 Leadership team are also very keen to keep growing the number of clubs and groups available, so if pupils or parents/carers have suggestions for an activity that isn’t offered – yet – please do get in touch!
Mr R Wilson
22 September 2023
NEW PT OF HEALTH & WELL-BEING
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I am Scott Houston and I started as the Principal Teacher of Health and Wellbeing (PE and Home Economics) following the summer holidays. I have been teaching for 14 years and previously worked in PE, Guidance and as a Depute Head Teacher at Invergordon Academy. I’m passionate about sport and fitness and was playing football at Highland League level for Brora rangers up until 5 years ago, now stepping back to play at amateur level. I have also recently found the sport of Crossfit (as pictured!) and enjoy the challenges that this offers both physically and mentally. I’m a firm believer in the idea of a ‘healthy body = a healthy mind’ and this underpins my lifestyle and my reasons for being a PE teacher.
My initial impressions of Culloden Academy have been very positive. The pupils are welcoming and eager to do their best in classes. The staff are extremely hardworking and strive to offer pupils a great experience both inside and outside the classroom. All parents I have spoken to have also been friendly and supportive of the school’s efforts to help their child(ren). I’m looking forward to continuing on with the vast improvements the department has seen over recent years.
As a department our overall aim is to give pupils a practical experience of health and fitness and to provide them with the knowledge, understanding and confidence to live healthy lives. In S1-3 this is done through our Broad General Education (BGE) curriculum and in S4-6 this is done through our SQA certificated courses (some of which are explained further on in the blog).
The PE department consists of 7 members of staff:
- Mr Houston
- Mr Brown
- Miss Carson
- Mr Calder
- Miss Martin
- Mr Windsor
- Mrs Mulraine
The HE department consists of 3 members of staff:
- Mrs Stewart
- Mrs Fraser
- Mrs Hilton
The extracurricular timetable (https://cullodenacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Extra-Curricular.pdf) is jam-packed and offers pupils opportunities on a daily basis to take part in a variety of sports and activities. We also have a high number of teams entered into leagues, cups, competitions and fixtures versus other schools, which will give them a great opportunity to test their skills against other pupils. All pupils are welcome to take part in extra-curricular and try-out for school teams. Please contact me or another member of the department is you would like any further information on this, or any questions around Health and Wellbeing at the school. (email@example.com).
Exercise and Fitness Pathway – Written by Mr Brown
It has been a busy new term in PE as we adjust to our huge uptake in senior phase certificate course numbers (up 40% on last year). This reflects the positive ethos created in the department and coupled with the diversification of our PE curriculum over the last few years. This section of the blog is going to share the vision and implementation of our new Exercise and Fitness pathway. Once completed, it will stretch from the BGE all the way through to the senior phase.
A high percentage of pupils now have gym memberships or actively participate in physical fitness outside of school. Upon leaving school I would argue, more school leavers take part in exercise and fitness, either in gyms or at home, versus the percentage of pupils who leave school and participate in team or individual sports. Therefore, should this not reflect our PE Curriculum? The number one reason why adults don’t use local gyms is because they lack the confidence and knowledge of the various activities, exercises and equipment. It is our job as PE teachers to ensure we give our pupils the confidence and knowledge to continue lifelong exercise upon leaving school. If this is not done through team or individual sports, then we must equip our pupils with the confidence and knowledge in alternative fitness exercise. Improving health and well-being is a national school priority, even more so post pandemic. Here at Culloden Academy, we have diversified our senior and BGE pathway to offer exercise and fitness opportunities, which is not only relevant to current pupil interest, but also relevant to building skills for work in potential job pathways in the exercise and fitness industries.
Senior Phase Pathway
Exercise and fitness leadership level 6 sits at the top of the pathway. The skills for work NPA allows candidates to develop their personal leadership qualities and to develop their knowledge and skills in fitness. This course provides a structured opportunity for candidates to experience a number of recognised ways of leading others in fitness activities. Pupils will engage in exercise to music (spin, step, aerobics), Gym (fixed weights, free weights, circuits) and cardiovascular training (treadmill, running, rowing). Pupils will be given leadership responsibilities of leading classes in our BGE and in the local feeder primary schools, to develop their personal skills and gain valuable experience leading exercise and fitness to classes.
Next up at level 5 is the NC Sport and Fitness course. This course is very much at the approval stage however, the course should be up and running over the next few months. This course will provide pupils with a base knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, an understanding of exercise and fitness training methods, and develop teamwork skills through sport and fitness activities. Pupils will get the added bonus of developing their knowledge and practical skills in the HE department as they work through the nutrition, health and well being unit.
To prepare our BGE pupils for the senior exercise and fitness pathway we have offered an S3 Wider Achievement strength and conditioning option. This course focuses on functional movement skills. Pupils will develop their skills and knowledge in bodyweight exercises, before moving on to the fundamental movement skills using light weighted bars. Throw in some cardiovascular exercises into the workout and you end up with all the ingredients for a tasty workout. Backing up my earlier opinion, more pupils this year have selected the strengths and conditioning option over the team / individual activity option. This course has proved very popular, and it is hoped this will be reflected next year in the number of pupils choosing our senior exercise and fitness pathway option.
To finish at the root of our fitness pathway, our S2 HWB (health and well-being) will focus on developing physical fitness through a wide variety of exercise and fitness activities. Pupils will now have 1 block of PE each week dedicated to a block of fitness. Pupils will complete blocks of work in swimming, cross country, fitness suite gym, functional fitness skills and alternative fitness activities (spin, pilates, yoga, step and circuit training). This will equip pupils with the basic knowledge and skills to start their fitness pathway. Our aim is for pupils to develop an interest in physical fitness activities at an early age which will give every pupil the confidence and knowledge to continue lifelong physical exercise.
Academy Crossfit Programme
Culloden Academy is now affiliated to CrossFit. We have teamed up with the Academy programme to make CrossFit the heartbeat of our exercise and fitness pathway. The Academy programme is supporting the school to acquire fitness equipment, upskill staff through qualifications, and is providing a 12-week educational sport and lifestyle programme.
‘Using CrossFit as the foundation, the programme is designed to introduce students to health and fitness, while developing life skills, personal growth, and employment opportunities. The Academy equips students with the skill sets which will not only gain an accredited qualification but leave them with the knowledge to live healthier lives in the future.’ The Academy Programme.
It is hoped all equipment, staff training and programming will be in place at the start of December to enable us to start the course. We will be the first school in Scotland to implement the Academy Programme. We are very excited about it’s potential! Watch this space for a future update next term.
Special thanks must go to Miss Doran in the Business Department, who is a Level 2 CrossFit instructor. Miss Doran has done an incredible amount of work fundraising for the launch of the programme (£1,100 raised to date). Miss Doran used her CrossFit contacts to put us in touch with the programme and her knowledge and experience will be valuable as we move the programme forward. Miss Doran runs a staff/pupil CrossFit session every Friday morning and it has proved very popular with staff. Not so popular with our students who struggle with the early start however, interest is building.
A second special thanks must go to Donnie Beaton, the owner of the local CrossFit box ‘North57’. Donnie has been a great support to the PE department, firstly hosting a fundraising competition at North57, and secondly providing various bits of equipment to help get us started. The support doesn’t stop there, Donnie is coming into the school next week to provide CrossFit taster sessions to our senior pupils. Again, Donnie’s support and knowledge is going to be a huge help as we introduce CrossFit into out Curriculum.
What is our eventual long-term goal with CrossFit? Have every member of the PE department CrossFit level 1 qualified. This will enable us to deliver CrossFit on our BGE curriculum and have it as an integral part of every Senior phase exercise and fitness pathway. Ambitious? Yes, but that is one of the school values. With the Kindness and support of local Community and the Academy Programme, we can achieve our goals.
Our Go fund me page is still live Fundraiser by The Academy Programme : CrossFit Culloden (gofundme.com)
15th September 2023
NEW PT OF BUSINESS EDUCATION
I just wanted to take the opportunity to say a big *hello* to everyone in the school community. I am Mrs Bremner and I have just started at Culloden Academy as Principal Teacher of Business Education and Computing. It’s lovely to be here and to have received a nice welcome from pupils and staff. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone a bit better over the coming year.
I hope in this blog post to share a little bit about myself and our department, including what’s going on at the moment and our future plans.
Myself and my family have recently relocated from Thurso so it has been a busy summer getting settled in to a new house and schools for myself and my two boys. We’ve been exploring much of the area and we love adventures, walks, beaches and swimming. I really enjoy holidays to new places, reading, fashion, interiors, music (I play the piano) and I’m a big foodie. I also love animals and I’m currently trying to get sporty which doesn’t really come naturally to me!
I always wanted to be a teacher and after doing a crash Higher in Business Management in S6 I decided to become a Business Teacher. I found the subject really interesting and dynamic and wished I had known more about the other subjects the department offered for senior pupils and the benefits of these for skills for life and work.
Things have changed now and luckily Business Education and Computing are subjects that are incorporated into the curriculum from S1 rather than being Senior Phase based. However, we feel we need to spend more time making clear to our S1-3 pupils and their parents the pathways which exist within our department so that they can make more informed choices when it comes to choosing their subjects. We offer a lot of courses, some well established and some new and it is my goal this year to ensure everybody knows about them!
To this end we will be spending time in Term 3 with classes doing promotional lessons for each of our subject areas: Accounting & Finance, Administration & IT, Business Management, Economics, Travel & Tourism and Computer Games Design. I will also be available at Parents Evenings and Information Sessions to provide more details for parents. I look forward to chatting with you all about all things Business and IT related!
Moving on to department news, I would like to congratulate Miss Doran who after lots of hard work, is set to gain her dual qualification in Computing Studies this term. We are excited that we might be able to widen our curriculum offer further in the future as a result of this.
Last week we said goodbye to long-standing member of staff Mrs Robertson as she headed for pastures new and we are delighted and very lucky to have supply teacher Mr Johnstone joining us for the next wee while until we recruit for our vacant post.
Mrs McIntosh is currently on maternity leave after her baby girl arrived in the summer. Big congratulations to her and her family.
Miss Thomson has been busy organising lots of enriching learning experiences for our pupils and you may have seen on school social media that the Travel & Tourism class recently benefitted from an informative and engaging session led by Scott Murray of Murrays Travel Agents. Thank you to Scott for his time, we love having industry speakers in to classes as their wisdom and experience is invaluable to our learners. If there are any parents or others who may be able to offer some time to do something similar, please let us know!
The two Higher Business Management classes are soon heading out on a trip to West Fraser as part of their learning around the Operations topic, and our National 5 Business classes are having a trip to Johnstons of Elgin at the end of October to gain an insight into their business.
The S3 Admin class will soon be involved in a project supporting Drummond School to produce a recipe book, in so doing they will be showcasing their IT skills!
We also have a very enthusiastic group of S6 pupils following the Young Enterprise programme, they will be attending their Induction Event run by the Highland and Moray Area Board next week. We know that there will be great things to come from them as they are a super bunch so watch this space!
It’s hard to believe we are already more than half way through Term 1 and all classes are now well into their courses. Nearly all pupils are arriving in their Business and IT classes fully prepared for lessons and with a positive attitude to their learning. It really helps the smooth running of our lessons when pupils have their Chromebooks with them and fully charged (or have a charger with them) so we would really like everyone to try hard with this in Term 2.
If at any time you would like to get in touch with me please drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading!
8th September 2023
MISTAKES AND WHY WE LIKE THEM
I was recently reading over advice from Education Scotland and they were emphasising that one of the things they look for when visiting schools is that teachers are encouraging a classroom environment where students feel okay about making mistakes, or not knowing. Teachers are expected to work deliberately towards establishing a classroom climate that welcomes errors and values mistakes as opportunities for further learning. When looking at what learners are getting wrong, teachers quickly understand which parts of a topic are well understood, poorly understood or still very confusing. A mistake or wrong answer is not the end point- we need to be a school in which errors and mistakes are seen as first attempts at learning rather than as failures. One very powerful word in promoting this idea is “yet” as I hope you can see the difference between “I can’t do quadratic equations” and “I can’t do quadratic equations yet”. Thinking about how I learned to drive, draw, decorate, play golf etc I made a lot of mistakes and learned from almost every one of them: learning thrives on error and “yet” is a helpful reminder that the mistakes are just a stage in learning.
Next week I start a series of assemblies with our young people about us trying to build a school where learners expect to make mistakes, feel okay about making mistakes and learn from them. If your young person tells you they got something wrong in class today, please just ask them how that felt and what they have learned from it. Hopefully, increasingly you will get a positive response to that question and just let us know if you are not getting that sense.
The only bad mistake someone can make in learning is not trying- there is very little a teacher can do to help a learner if they are presented with blanks or activities not being handed in. The learner won’t find out what bits they were right about or wrong about and their teacher doesn’t know what they are struggling with and how to help. It would therefore also be helpful if you could encourage the idea with your young person that mistakes are good, blanks are bad or as one of my colleagues puts it “I never lose, I either win or learn”.
Mistakes, “yet” and no blanks will be some of the messages that they take away from next week’s assemblies. Hopefully. Thanks for reading.
1st September 2023
Firstly, a huge thank you to parents and carers for supporting school uniform so strongly this session and to our young people for turning up and playing your part in building our community. The school already feels more like a community than in recent times, pupils seem more relaxed and classrooms feel more purposeful. I know there have been some supply issues with the most popular sizes, but additional supplies are arriving in school about twice a week and we intend to just keep ordering in further stock so that it is available at short notice all year round. Thanks for your patience and your support.
I’ve written to you previously about uniform and why we are so strongly in favour of it. I won’t waste your time by repeating that but instead want to try today to explain, in terms of the school’s 4 core values, why uniform matters.
Our core values are what I want for every person in Culloden Academy and what I want from every person connected with Culloden Academy.
I’ve already mentioned community and there is no doubt that similar dress code and the sense of shared identity as well as the absence of competition or shaming comments helps with developing this value. We are all on the same side, we can all succeed together and so it can only help if it looks and feels that way as you look around you in the school.
Kindness and respect are two more of our values and these are also easier to achieve when we have a dress code that says we are the same, that shows we have the same goals and emphasises that there need be no distance or tension between us.
Our final value- ambition- also benefits from school dress code. My ambition for your children is that by virtue of being a pupil at Culloden Academy, doors will be opened for them and opportunities given which allow them to become the best version of themselves. Part of how we achieve this is by the initial impression we give people driving past the school or visiting the school and by how it feels when visitors are in the school. Adults form quick impressions about “Culloden pupils” and many are employers or work in places that our young people are applying to. If the impression given is that we are smartly turned out because we value our future opportunities and are focused on being successful learners then my pre-Pandemic experience was that this often meant that being a Culloden Academy pupil gets you an interview.
Dress code was something we had to compromise on time and again during and post-Pandemic but I believe it is right and proper that we get back to the full version of it and use it to create a school and a community which is ambitious, successful, respectful and kind. Your help in achieving this is invaluable.
25th August 2023
MOBILE PHONES & LEARNING
It is not exactly news that pupils are passionately attached to their mobile phones but this year we will be confiscating phones from pupils if they do not comply with our school system. Firstly I would like to clarify what our system is and then I would like to explain why we are pursuing this approach.
This session pupils can still bring phones to school, use them at break and lunch, check their timetable at the end of a lesson. However, all pupils need to have their phones out of sight for the duration of each class including if they ask out for the toilet. Phones will be confiscated until the end of the lesson or the end of the day if seen to be distracting learning and engagement.
We will not be accepting the excuse that they are waiting for a call- it has always been the case that if a parent/carer/family member needs to get an urgent message to a child, then phone the school and we can get a message to their teacher within seconds.
Why potentially fall out with pupils about something they hold so dear? Simply because there is a growing body of evidence and anecdote that mobile phones are having a negative effect on learning.
Our decision was based around the messages from a book that some of the staff here have read: Reconnect: Building School Culture for Meaning, Purpose and Belonging– Doug Lemov, Hilary Lewis, Darryl Williams and Denarius Frazier (Hoboken, 2023) which I have already discussed with the Parent Council. It emphasises three major challenges facing school but the greatest of these is the “crisis in mental health amidst rising screen time”. Two quotes will hopefully explain why we are seeking to disconnect children from their phones for 50 or 100 minutes at a time.
1) The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health” They quote the psychologist Sherry Turkle who notes that we are, now, “forever elsewhere.” This idea of forever elsewhere is a powerful one which I suspect most parents trying to communicate with their child will be painfully aware of. Although we cannot regulate phone usage at break and lunch, we do want to break the constant need to check which is explained in the second quote below.
This idea of forever elsewhere is a powerful one which I suspect most parents trying to communicate with their child will be painfully aware of. Although we cannot regulate phone usage at break and lunch, we do want to break the constant need to check which is explained in the second quote below.
2) The Like button- added to social media in 2009- is designed to manipulate our desire to connect socially to create product addiction. Getting a like communicates social approval and inclusion to us. This creates a “variable, unpredictable reward schedule” as you don’t know when or whether you will get the little burst of well-being that comes with a like; its schedule is unpredictable, so you are socialised to constantly check for it. For teens, whose need for validation and affirmation is especially high, it makes their lives a constant popularity contest. Being unliked is devastating.
The most reliable antidote to the negative effects of social media and screen time was sustained in-person social interaction- away from phones and in direct engagement with others.
This is all we want- focus on one task or message at a time, develop the capacity to concentrate and work through complicated problems and allow chances for genuine social interaction with classmates.
We implemented this approach before the summer but this report published over the summer merely confirmed how important it is that we pursue this. UNESCO (The United Nations education, science and culture agency) have called for Smartphones to be banned from schools because of the body of evidence that excessive phone use was linked to decreases in emotional stability and educational performance. If you want further information on current research and thinking on this subject that would be a good place to start.
I’m happy to chat further to parents and carers about this- you all know where to find me.
17th August 2023
LEARNING & TEACHING: THE CULLODEN CLASSROOM CLIMATE
I wanted this first Blog to be about the main business of the school- learning and teaching. Last session a group of staff researched effective practice both nationally and internationally and gathered the views of current staff on what they believe make a good lesson. This knowledge was then brought together to create a shared understanding of what we believe all learners should experience in Culloden Academy and we have called it the Culloden Classroom Climate.
Below is a copy of the graphic that is displayed in every classroom.
Essentially, the top line are the preconditions for a great learning experience, the middle line is about how we deliver strong learning experiences, and the bottom line are the outputs that your child should experience in class. Below is one paragraph on each. Future blog posts will see a focus on individual items of the CCC.
Starter and Plenary
An activity which is immediately available to pupils when they get seated in order to help them reconnect with what they previously learned in the subject. It should be brief and accessible because the plenary where pupils offer answers and articulate their learning is the crucial springboard to the start of new learning.
Learning Intentions and Success Criteria
These are very simple and powerful ideas which do exactly what they claim. A learning intention summarises the purpose of the lesson for a learner. Staff often remember these via the acronym WALT- What we Are Learning Today to keep them focused on what the learning is, not what the structure or activities of the lesson are. Pupils therefore start with a clear understanding of what they are being asked to engage with. Similarly, success criteria are a description of how a pupil and teacher will know if learning has been successful- remembered via the Acronym WILF- What I am Looking For. Success criteria will probably have phrases like “I can draw”, “I can explain” or “I can state why” which means a pupil starts a lesson with a clear understanding of what the desired outcome is. Together, learning intentions and success criteria give pupils a framework to understand what is happening in the lesson and to evaluate their own progress.
Positive Learning Environment
Good relationships, a sense of community, respect and kindness create a classroom that pupils want to be in, are happy to speak up in and willing to risk making mistakes in. This is essential because learning is about making mistakes and developing understanding and the environment in the class defines how willing a pupil is to do this. There will be at least one blog on positive relationships coming soon.
Appropriate Pace and Challenge
Another simple idea but in classes of up to 30 with no two learners identical this is a very difficult skill that teachers are always challenging themselves to improve. Pupil surveys frequently check about the pace of learning to allow teachers to understand how well they are reading the needs of the class.
Variety of Styles and Approaches
Even before mobile phones started to diminish our attention spans teachers knew that doing one thing for 50 minutes leads to pupils mentally truanting or checking out of the learning. Lesson planning has this idea front and centre to make sure that we engage with the different ways in which learners like to learn and that the lesson remains interesting with different opportunities and challenges. This is closely linked with the pace and challenge aspect.
Skill Development & Acquisition
This section definitely needs its own blog post. Aside from learning knowledge, pupils need the opportunity to develop skills which will help them in whatever career direction they choose. Scottish education talks about essential skills and here at Culloden we are focusing on giving pupils the opportunity to develop the following skills: Initiative, focus, adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, communicating, collaboration and leading. Developing these skills will increasingly become part of pupils learning experiences in all year groups.
Effective Use of Questioning and Assessment
When teachers ask good questions, when they use approaches such as “show me boards” to allow all pupils to answer simultaneously and when assessment is very definitely focused on allowing pupils to show what they have learned, then pupils and teachers know if success criteria are being achieved, if aspects of a course need to be revisited and if the pace is too high or too low. Good questioning and thoughtful assessment identify the next steps in learning.
On a personal level, I have always considered the quality of the feedback that I give a pupil the best measurement of my effectiveness as a teacher. When the questioning and assessment have had the right focus then teachers can identify individual learner’s strengths, challenges and next steps in learning. Putting that to pupils in language they understand, in written and spoken ways and at a time and place when the young person can engage with it is quality feedback and helps pupils to keep progressing.
I hope this overview has given you a useful understanding of what is happening in classrooms and how we are trying to support learning. Over the course of this year, I anticipate that various members of staff can create a blog post to give you more detail on aspects of this.
26th June 2023
The idea for this came from an initiative that we have started with the Parent Council. At each meeting one of my Deputes attends and outlines what their job/ average day entails. This seems to have been of interest and helped the Parent Council understand of how schools function in 2023. Once all the Depute have been and I’ve taken a turn explaining what my average week entails, I’ll ask Guidance staff, the PT of Additional Support for Learning and department heads to attend also to share information about what they do. That will take over two years and since we have a relatively small number of Parents, will only share that insight with a limited number of parents.
Understanding that this was a good idea but not going to impact widely I realised that a weekly blog on our website, looking at just one aspect of school life might be helpful and of interest. It won’t always be written by me- sometimes I hope our pupils will contribute- but it will I hope always give you a better insight into what we do, why we do it and/or what impact it is having.
I hope you find this interesting and I appreciate that the number of views will quickly tell me if you don’t!All the best, Dr Vance
Early topics will include:
- Changes to ASL provision
- Extra-curricular and lunchtime opportunities
- Different approaches to teaching in different departments
- School Values – what and why?
- School Uniform – why we like it and why we need it
- Revision and Learning – what we do and what home could do