The View from Penicuik High School

Monday January 15th 2024


This View has been written by Craig Biddick, Head Teacher, Penicuik High School.

This is the first in a series of Views where each month a Head Teacher from one of Midlothian’s High Schools will write a View about their school.

I recently came across an article I wrote for a local newspaper in May 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. It made me reflect on how easy it is to forget the intensity and difficulty of that time for the young people in our school and the various barriers to learning and wellbeing we had to negotiate as the pandemic took its course.

Whilst it is good to move on and look to a more positive future for the school we are also conscious about the need to continue to support young people and be aware about how the pandemic has affected their world view and engagement with learning.

The school has continued to strengthen its focus on wellbeing and nurture and we have developed a number of key student support areas to target both attainment and social, emotional and behavioural needs within our school cohort. These include an improved Guidance service and the support of a Pupil Care and Welfare Officer who can work with individual students and families, a Learning Hub run through the Student Support and Inclusion Department, a nurture base called TLC which offers both learning support but also focuses on early intervention and social and emotional skills for short and long term referrals, a complex needs base for students with additional support needs not easily met in a mainstream class and a sensory room for students with ASD or who are suffering high levels of stress and anxiety. Beyond this targeted support we also are continuing to ensure they are developing an ethos of nurture across all of our classrooms as part of the universal offer.

Penicuik is a small school but it does have a big heart and whilst there will always be times when there is stress in relationships between young people and staff or peer groups this is often mediated through the underlying ethos that has developed over a long period of time in the school and has primacy in the value it places on relationships and restorative processes.

Alongside these student support developments, Midlothian Council and the Education Service have made a huge investment in young people’s learning through the Equipped for Learning Project which has enabled every young person at Penicuik High School to have access to a digital device – a Chromebook – which allows us to enhance learning through access to the Midlothian Google platform and associated suite of Google tools and apps. This means young people can have access to learning materials at any time / anywhere– allowing flexibility, tailored approaches to delivering the curriculum learning and supporting our learning and teaching strategy. It is no wonder it has been recognised nationally by Education Scotland and has been nominated for prestigious awards.

Finally, you will be aware that the media has been full of reports about concerns relating to school attendance. There is no doubt our attendance figures have taken a dip since Covid but we are looking at current best practice in improving attendance and developing a further two year strategic approach to stabilising this aspect of schooling. Poor attendance is linked to poor attainment and so it is paramount that we make this part of our improvement planning. Over this session our new Pupil Care and Welfare Officer and Attendance Support Officer will work with Guidance staff and senior management to tackle long and short term attendance issues through supportive and family based approach.

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