7th November 2011



Minutes of meeting on Monday 7th November 2011 at 7pm

Present: Bobby Smith (“BS”), Ms Denise Penrose, Christine Paterson, Graham Muir (“GM”) , Helen MacGregor (“HM”), Mrs Sarah Hall, Councillor Alastair Paisley, Councillor Ricky Henderson (“RH”), Bev Anderson (Active Sports) (“BA”) & Kate Watt (Secretary of Ratho Environment Group) (“KW”).

Apologies: Ruth Gillan, Annette Wilson, Neil Langhorn, Angie Muir & Councillor Ronald Cairns.

1. Councillors’ report

Councillor Paisley advised that he had nothing vital to report. He was happy to take any questions.

As regards the winter weather situation, concerns have been raised about more salt and better machinery being available. Also communication with head teachers is to be improved.

[Councillor Paisley left.]

2. Winter weather situation

The impact of the snow on Ratho last year was discussed. Ms Penrose advised that since we were so badly hit we are to be given a snow blower, which will be used to clear paths. This can also be used for the community, as health & safety training is available. We have also been given 12 shovels and 2 snow wovels. Any parents who wish to assist with a community effort to clear paths/roads must sign a “fit to work” disclaimer.

KW advised that there is a volunteer snow warden scheme. Being involved would require training due to the physical nature of the activities. The South West Neighbourhood Partnership will be co-ordinating this.

Ms Penrose advised that one issue about opening the school in adverse weather conditions is staffing within the school ie she needs sufficient staff available. There will be a register of where teachers live and as happened last year, all teachers will be asked to attend a local school if they cannot attend their own school. We don’t know how many teachers (from other schools) live locally.

Any decision to close the school is made in consultation, not by Ms Penrose alone. She assured us that the last thing she ever wants to do is to close the school.

As regards the roof issue [last year the school stayed closed even when roads and paths had been cleared due to a dangerous build-up of snow on the roof, over fire exits], we have contacts now with contractors who can deal with this problem and Ms Penrose can if necessary make calls to chase them up. So if this is a problem again, it should be able to be dealt with much more quickly. Primarily however it is the Council who would organise work to clear the roof of snow, icicles etc.

In bad weather the Council works to a priority system – emergency exits and paths first. The car park and road into the school from the school gate are not a priority. Bus routes are priority 1.

In order to open the school Ms Penrose needs the requisite staff in attendance and the emergency exits to be clear.

For this winter she has agreement from Mr Wells to use the church hall in an emergency– but this can only be temporary as there is not enough space for all the children and there are no educational resources there.

In case of the school having to close again, the teachers have prepared snow packs which can be handed out online. Paper copies will also be available.

All children were issued with GLOW passwords, which is another educational resource which could be used in bad weather. Reminders of these will be sent out in the back of homework jotters.

KW passed around a plan showing the Council’s priority areas within Ratho for road and pavement gritting. Any representations on this should be made to Graeme Budd at the South West area office (graham.budd@edinburgh.gov.uk). As a PC we could approach Mr Budd re clearing of the road and car park and ask why that is not a priority. BS will do that. (BS also noted that Scott Neil at the Council is involved in organising gritting.)

[Councillor Henderson arrived.]

Re communication in a snow situation, Ms Penrose will put notification on the website. Announcements are made on Radio Forth and the Council website. A member of staff needs to be able physically to get into the school in order for the text messaging service to be used.

2. School report (Ms Penrose)

Ms Penrose spoke about her improvement priorities:

  • Developing and embedding teachers’ knowledge of the Curriculum for Excellence: a continuation of work begun last year.

  • A new maths resource has been purchased: Heineman Active Maths. This has lots of games and computer programmes and requires children to discuss and justify their activities.

  • A new focus in Curriculum for Excellence will be science. This is currently being taught by Mrs Pettit. Again the teaching of this is very interactive.

  • Health and Wellbeing: there will be a focus on (1) PE and also (2) Sexual Health and Relationships. In PE all sports teaching is being looked at and Ms Penrose is considering how to improve that. Most of the Sexual Health and Relationships development work will start in January 2012.

  • Learning Support: Ms Penrose wants to make sure that this is challenging for the children, so this is now part of the Principal Teacher role. A new policy on Learning Support has been devised and is now available on the school website.

  • Personal learning planning and P7 Profiles: personalised learning means pupils learn better. Pupils are encouraged to plan their own learning with the teachers, who look for evidence of achievement both in and out of school.

  • Our school policies are out of date. Ms Penrose has updated those on (1) Equality, Diversity and Anti-Bullying and (2) Positive Behaviour. Next she’ll look at the Learning and Teaching policy. NB all schools have their own policies on these matters, to take account of individual factors within that school.

  • Golden Time has been revamped so as to focus the children on behaving well to earn Golden Time.

Specialist teaching: Ms Penrose also discussed specialist teaching provision. She has a small budget for this; how it is spent is up to the school.

On PE Ms Penrose feels that better quality teaching can be had from class teachers and that some of the budget can be well spent on organising CPD to help develop their teaching skills on this.

On Art, it is difficult to get a part-time teacher so this responsibility is with the class teachers. They all work hard and help the children to produce great artwork. Ms Penrose explained that for Primary school teachers, the expectation is that they should be able to teach across the whole curriculum.

On Music: the school is using the ABC Music programme. It covers everything in the Curriculum for Excellence and the children enjoy it. It is about music skills, not just singing.

Mr Lamb is teaching the final few P7s in woodwind, up to the end of the current school session. Mrs Miller teaches violin to a few children in each year, who are selected on the basis of their performance in a test prescribed by the Council: they are checked on their listening abilities (picking up pitch and rhythm) and also assessed on their likely commitment to practice. Some money within the specialist teaching budget has been used for learning support. Also some budget is used for CPD to enhance class teachers’ skills.

HM made the point that it is a shame for the children if their learning experience is narrowed due to so much of this type of teaching coming from class teachers – although of course the fantastic work the class teachers do is greatly appreciated.

  • As regards the Principal Teacher’s post, there are to be interviews next Wednesday. Annette Wilson is currently the only PC person who has done recruitment training and she will sit in on the interviews (although this is technically not a requirement). There are some strong candidates and Ms Penrose hopes to be able to make an appointment after these interviews. NB others in the PC should do the recruitment training so that AW is not the only qualified person.

  • In relation to the “Ratho Through the Ages” project last session, Ms Penrose has entered the school for a Children & Families Achievement Award. The Awards ceremony is coming up shortly. She will take with her Ann Thomson, a village resident who helped greatly with that project, and 2 children.

  • Ms Penrose also mentioned that she is discouraging the children from using the path from the main entrance leading around the back of the school. It is not a proper path and becomes very slippery in winter.

3. Active Schools Update (Bev Anderson)

BA works within our cluster ie the High School and the 2 primaries within City of Edinburgh. She promotes health, sport and physical activities. She is keen to encourage the whole family to be active.

What she does first is ask the children what activities they would like to have and then she finds out what’s available. She tries to make all activities self-financing. Her budget is only £1,000 for the whole cluster.

She highlighted that she needs numbers attending the sessions which she arranges in order to keep those activities going. This can be very unpredictable eg last year Street Dance was very popular but this year there has been a drop-off.

She aims to provide activities for 2 different age groups where possible, so that as many children as possible have the opportunities.

GM asked about inter-school games, which he thinks are good for children’s self-esteem. BA agreed that she tries to get these organised where possible.

This year there has been an issue with eg not having a football team from the start of the session, at which point the opportunity to be in a league arises and has now been lost. However, friendly matches can still be organised and BA will try to get the team into a cup competition.

Netball was led by Miss Souza in the past and although other staff have led the training sessions, there have been no actual matches. Here also the chance to join a league at the start of term was not taken up as the children at that time were felt not to be ready. Again BA will try to sort out friendlies.

For the Soccer Sevens to be able to field a team: we need at least 10 boys training every week.

Rugby: this year Currie lost its Youth Development Officer and as a result the club has not been working with the schools. BA is approaching Forrester High School instead.

JASS (Junior Award Scheme Scotland): this is the junior Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. This year it is being piloted with the P6/7 class. It is done within curricular time. BS mentioned that this was discussed at the CCWP meeting he attended and that there is an issue with taking it up outwith curricular time.

GM & HM mentioned a bugbear they have with the P6 class being split: that different opportunities are available for the P6 children in the P7 class as opposed to those in the P5/6 composite (eg the JASS scheme) – and that when the class is reunited as it must be next year (as a P7 class), there will be differences in their educational experience. Ms Penrose suggested that the opportunities which the two sets of pupils have had are simply different, and one is not necessarily better than the other.

The cycling training which was been held recently was praised as being very good.

BA told us that she often attends school assemblies to talk to the children. She also attends festivals etc.

BA is also involved in providing CPD opportunities for staff: first at Ratho there will be gymnastics, then hockey and dance.

To improve PE education within the school, Ms Penrose & BA are looking at using a pack prepared by North Ayrshire Council.

GM also asked about BA’s links with the climbing centre. BA explained there is a new manager there and BA has been trying meet with him/her. It was agreed that the EICA is a great resource which should be encouraging visits from schools. RH can make representations about this.

4. PC Accounts

At the moment there is a credit of £47.55 in the general account.

During the summer the PC agreed to contribute £200 to purchase games for the children – or possibly slightly more. The children have chosen a games box and an extra £19.85 is needed for this; all present agreed that this additional sum could be donated from PC funds.

5. Feedback from CCwP meeting attended by BS

At this meeting BS was involved in discussion on issues such as how PCs are organised & what is the role of PCs?

BS said that there seems to be a great deal of variety in PCs – from the massively organised with many sub-committees to those which barely exist. We seem to be somewhere in the middle.

One topic discussed at the CCwP meeting was communication with parents (eg email/parentmail/texts) and BS will follow up on this. He is also going to look at the Drummond Community High School website.

Also discussed were sports provision and janitorial cover.

Re janitorial arrangements, RH explained that following last year’s budget there was to be a reorganisation of janitorial cover. There is a target as regards the savings to be made.

RH said that what is currently being looked at are ABMs: Alternative Business Models. This means that the janitorial work (and other work such as cleaning and catering) could be outsourced to a private company. A decision is due at the end of this month.

BS is in contact with the Chairs of Dean Park and Kirknewton Primary Schools. He suggests inviting their Chairs to come to one of our meetings. He thinks it’s important to forge better links with these schools, and also with Balerno High School.

As regards the role of Ratho PC, Ms Penrose would like to see the PC being more involved in decision-making as regards the curriculum.


  • Ms Penrose advised that the EIS has agreed to take strike action on Wednesday 30 November. A decision is expected shortly from Ms Penrose’s union. More information will follow on this.

  • Primary 1 enrolment week is 14 to 18 November. There are 25 in the nursery class who may possibly start P1 here. Apparently some of the parents in the new Cala homes are sending their children to Clifton Hall but Ms Penrose does also have some new enrolments from these houses. The nursery will be almost full after the January intake. The nursery room can hold 30 children.

  • Miss Souza is coming back to the school in January. She was asked to stay on a little longer at her current school as their head teacher has left and otherwise they would have been without senior management for an extended period.

7. Date and time of next meeting

Monday 30 January 2012 at 7pm.