Head Teacher's Blog - Archived Glow Blog Entries

Review of the Year 2013/2014

report 2013 2014 blog

I am pleased to share with you a report on the many activities that have taken place over the last year. As I come to the end of my time at IHS I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff, students, parents and wider community for the support I have received. I wish everyone all the very best in the future.

J Holmes


Safe Summer in Scotland CMO letter

Host family wanted

I have had a request from an Italian family who have links to Islay, they would like to send their son to Islay for the summer and wondered if there was a family with a child of similar age who would be willing to host him (S3/S4). Please contact me at school for further details.
J Holmes

Options Booklet 2014/2015

Options/parents evening for S3-S6 is Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Options/parents evenings for S2 is Wednesday 29th January 2014

You can access a copy of our Options booklet by clicking one of the links below. If you require a paper copy please contact the school office.

Option booklet 2014 pdf version

Option booklet 2014 word version

Option form 2014 pdf version

Option form 2014 word version

J Holmes

December 2013

It is difficult to believe it is now well over a year since I took up my post at Islay High School. During the last year I have really enjoyed getting to know the staff, students, parents and much of the community.

This term is often the busiest of the school year, a large proportion of the teaching content of courses is delivered and this together with our new National Courses being introduced has made this an extremely busy time for staff.

Our S1 have settled into school life with confidence. We are planning to give them further freedom by allowing them to leave the school grounds at lunchtime. If any parent is concerned about this please get in touch.

Prelims will take place on from 3rd February mostly during lesson time. This is due to a change to the SQA appeals service which is to be replaced by a ‘post certification’ service. It will not now be possible to make an appeal for a candidate unless there are “exceptional circumstances” e.g. severe illness or bereavement during the exam session. It is no longer essential for us to complete prelims to do this. For all other candidate a re-count and re-mark are all we can request. Further details of the Authority guidance on this will be available soon.

I am really excited to announce that Islay High School is working towards becoming an accredited Adventure Learning SchoolTM. This means we have embarked on a process of school improvement and re-evaluating certain aspects of our curriculum and structure that will hopefully lead to full accreditation. There are a small group of schools across Argyll and Bute beginning this journey with us. You can read more here.

The Merit/Demerit system is running well. Mr Mitten has worked with a student group and the badges the students chose to have as rewards have now been designed and caste, we will be awarding them to S1/S2 before Christmas and to the Senior Phase after Christmas as we are still awaiting extra to be delivered. We will normally be awarding these as on a monthly basis but there has been a delay as we got the badges “just-right”.

Now that the uniform is well supported we have been able to have “non-uniform” days with money being raised for a variety of charities this term. We have dressed in Pink, Jeans and even worn a Onesie, as well as S1 raising over one thousand pounds for the’ Spirit Aid’ charity through a sponsored run in Health & Wellbeing classes. Staff have joined in too with a memorable Movember when 5 staff grew fetching “tashes” culminating in a shave off which raised £111.00 for men’s health issues. The Maths department took part in fundraising activities for this year’s Number Day and raised £65 for the NSPCC.

There have been many trips and visits off the island including our theatre trip to see The Lion King, Football and Rugby trips, Sports Ambassadors met Clyde the Common Wealth Games mascot and a memorable trip to the Argyll and Bute Awards where two of our groups had been nominated for an award. Well done to our “Water of Life” film group who came first in the Health and Wellbeing category. I believe it was a real red-carpet affair and well done to the Youth Group too for their nomination. We have had visit from a Youth Theatre groups who ran workshops for all our students. Our music concerts have shown the wide range of talents our students have and thanks to all in the community who support them in their endeavours. Our student’s achievement in the Associated Board Practical exams was an excellent 100% pass rate. We have run Aids awareness workshops in conjunction with our Youth Work Team.

For the Commonwealth Game’s Queens Baton Relay Liam Logan has been selected as our school ambassador to carry the baton on a leg of the relay and Millie Mitchell will be on the panel for selecting the Argyll & Bute community baton carrier.

Our annual Christmas Fair which is used to raise money for the S2 Loch Eil trip was a resounding success. Thank you to all who attended and who made donations, over £1,100 was raised, a fantastic amount. It was a very enjoyable weekend with the Reindeer and skate rink adding to the festivities.

None of these wonderful trips or experiences could happen without staff who are willing to put in the extra time and effort. My thanks to them for all they do for our students to give them as wide an experience as possible.

I have been working with those students applying to University and am pleased to say the majority of the applications are completed and ready to be sent. The deadline for sending entries is 15th January 2014. If you have any questions about this process please contact me on the school number or email. I will be supporting students with college applications in the New Year but please note that the school does not have any responsibility for sending these to the colleges and they are very much completed by the individual via each college website.

I have had many request for an online calendar for parents which I whole-heartedly support. I am looking into getting this up and running in the New Year.

Staffing – my thanks to Dr Weatherhogg, Mr Weatherhogg, Mr Stuart, Ms Siddall and Mr Pollock who have all taken on extra responsibilities since Mr Beresford’s departure. We have now made more permanent arrangements for our Student Support area. I have split the role into 2 distinct areas, Pastoral Support and Academic Performance. Mrs Nicola Moran will be joining us to take up the role of PT Student Support (Pastoral) after Christmas and Ms Siddall with be taking up the role of PT Student Support (Academic) on her return from her maternity leave in February. Mrs Fraser will of course be continuing her role as area PT with part of her time allocated to IHS, her particular focus is students with additional support needs. Mr Stuart is leaving us for a 23 month secondment with the Scottish Government. Details of how his classes will be covered is avaible here Timetable changes

School Uniform – can I ask parents to take time over the break to ensure any replacement shirts/shoes etc. are purchased in time for the new term? Only a plain black V-neck jumper or blazer can be worn in school and no leggings/jeggings/jeans please. Please avoid sending your child in a hoodie unless it is worn as an outdoor coat only. There is a very small minority of students who have missed out on trips, activities and dances this term due to their lack of consistency in wearing uniform and I will continue to monitor and enforce this next term.

Please see a letter re our early closure on Friday here. Finally I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff and community who have supported the school in the last few months and wish all our families a lovle festive season and a Happy New Year!



Welcome Back

It seems a little late to be saying “Welcome back” as here we are already well into September. As always it was a busy start to the year, not least with our new uniform policy. Can I thank once again all parents who are supporting this policy and remind you that your child will not be permitted to represent the school in any forum (e.g. school trips) if they are not wearing uniform consistently? To allow us to monitor this situation we have introduced a new awards system.

Your child can now be given merits or demerits according to the categories below;


We now have a clear overview of how your child is achieving on a weekly basis. The purpose of the demerits is to help the Senior and Pastoral teams keep track on effort, behaviour (and of course uniform). This will allow us to intervene (including getting parents involved) if we see a pattern of poor performance emerging. It will also allow us to reward students who are working hard and doing well in school. Representatives of the students have met with Mr Mitten to choose how they would like to be awarded and have suggested a bronze/silver/gold badge system. The finer details of this are being discussed now and should be put into place very shortly.

As many of you will know Mr Beresford left us for a post as Deputy Head Teacher at Rothesay. His post is still being covered by Mr Stuart, Dr Weatherhogg and Mr Weatherhogg (Ms Siddall having gone off to have her baby). This role will be nationally advertised shortly and I hope to have a permanent appointment made by October.

Shortly before the summer I advertised an Art and an English post, this was to replace Mrs Bell (who retired in the summer) and Mrs Cummings who left us in January and who was being covered by Mrs McIntyre. I am pleased to say that Mr Galligan will be joining us on Islay at the end of the month to teach Art, he and his wife are relocating to Islay. Mrs Broad will be joining the English team and is relocating with her husband. I hope you will make them most welcome. I would like to thank Mrs McIntyre for all her hard work and wish her the best with her imminent arrival.

At our first assembly I told students I would be focusing on 3 things this term; uniform, attendance and performance. As an island community I appreciate there are times where students require extra time to travel to and from appointments however, I would urge you to ensure that your child achieves the maximum attendance possible. If they do not have a legitimate reason for being absent this will result in an “unauthorised absence” being recorded. In the longer term you could face prosecution. Please see the link below for a parent’s guide to attendance in school.


If the school does raise concerns over your child’s attendance it is very important you contact us so we can work together to make improvements or deal with any issues that may be contributing to poor attendance.

Our new S1 groups are settling in well and we have our first opportunity for you to meet with their tutors this Wednesday evening (11th) from 4-6pm.

Our S1 and S3 have been sitting CATs test (Cognitive Ability Tests), we plan to share relevant information with parents regarding these test and will be in touch once we have reviewed the results and decided on a format. The link below gives a brief outline on these tests;


Here is a parent guide that you might find useful;



Well done to all students who received examination results, we have performed very well as a school. To build on our improved Higher results we are holding an information evening for all parents whose child will be following Higher courses this year. We will also be discussing University/College applications and other options. This will take place on WEDNESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2013. Letters are on their way to parents. During the evening there will be talks on career pathways and how to support your child. English, Mathematics and Science will also be holding sessions for parents. We tried this type of evening out on a smaller scale last year and it received really positive feedback from parents.

As many of our students start there new careers at College, University or work I would like to wish them all the very best in their future.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” Mark Twain

J Holmes

Review of the year 2012/2013

The past 8 months have flown by and it is the time of year that we have been busy planning for the next school year, it is important to look back and celebrate what we have achieved.

We had a very enjoyable “Celebration of Achievement” ceremony in school last week. Our guest speaker was Jim McEwan, production manager at Bruichladdich Distillery. Jim’s talk was thought provoking, encouraging our students to excel in whatever they choose to do and give thanks to those that support them on the way.

I have attached part of a document I recently had to prepare for the Authority. It was enjoyable just to sit back and reflect on all the activities that have taken place this year. The photos look amazing and capture many happy faces.

School review 2012 2013

Our Senior Students did very well to raise the funds for their Ethiopia Expedition and left last week. Thanks to all the generosity shown, donations and helping hands at fund raisers. They do have a twitter account “Ethiopia 13” https://twitter.com/Ethiopia131 and we will be re-tweeting everything on the school twitter feed “IslayHigh” https://twitter.com/IslayHigh . As I write this they are busy completing the community-work part of their expedition in a children’s orphanage in Addis Ababa.

In the next school year we will be launching our New Vision/Values. The new school uniform will be in place and we will have a new merits and awards process.

We are also planning more frequent reports to parents and we will be developing new curriculum offers in personal development, John Muir, DoE, Endeavor.

School Uniform

Our school ties and badges will be delivered to the school in July. They will be on sale via the school office which will be open from Thursday 1st August – Wednesday 7th August 2013 (weekdays only) from 9am to 12pm.

You will also all be able to purchase them on the Inservice days Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th August.

The costs are; New ties £5.50 Blazer Badges £1.50


Thanks to all who have supported the school in any way this past year and I wish you all an enjoyable summer.

J Holmes

Summer Closure June 2012

Please see the following letter;

Early Closure Summer 2013

The Scottish Education

An interesting article that discuses the fundamental differences between the Scottish/English systems and explores what the Scottish Education System is trying to achieve;


and a futher article from the Scotsman


May 2013 Update

The following letter was issued to parents this week

May 2013 update


You may be eligible for a School Clothing Grant, please click below for more details;

School Clothing Grants

School Opening

Please note that Islay High School will be open on Monday 25th March
Joanna Holmes

Spring Term 2013

I was recently asked by a parent how I had settled in to which I replied “Well I feel like I have survived the winter!”. After some stormy weather early in January (I have been told it can be worse) the first spells of calm clear weather were stunning and I got another opportunity to appreciate how beautiful this area is. As we come towards the end of a very busy spring term I find there is lots to look back on and celebrate and still more to look forward to.

I have had plenty of opportunities again through the issuing of reports and parents evenings to get to know many of our parents. We have also had some very productive Parent Council meetings.

I am sure many of you have seen the recent press attention regarding our “student cleaners”. I have been amazed by the interest and found the tone of different newspapers coverage very amusing at times. I was even invited on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kay Adam’s show, but declined – I would have been teaching and classes come first!

It was also good to see our student’s make the front page of the Oban Times through their investment adventure. I hope they have a great time at the regional final this week.

In February I began work with staff and students to review the school, looking at where we are, what our values are and the direction we plan to take. Having shared this with the parent council, I am now in discussion with my managers here and another education trust that I would like to work with us. We have a lot of planning to do over the summer term and I will keep parents up to date on the progress we make. If you would like to be involved please get in touch with a Parent Council member or I am happy to meet with any parent for a discussion.

Part of that review included uniform and I would like to give parents an opportunity to comment on the following draft policy. Much of what students are currently wearing to school is not really suitable and the fairest and simplest solution is to introduce a uniform. I would see this being compulsory from August 2013. Please make any comments via email to enquiries@islay.argyll-bute.sch.uk .You can also phone the school office or simply drop me a note.

Islay High School Uniform Policy

We also had our annual prelims. These really are important in deciding if a student is ready to sit examinations and we are in the process of firming all the examination entries up. This information will be with parents shortly.

Mr Beresford went on secondment to support work in another school and he of course is missed, however this has been a great opportunity for other staff to take on responsibilities in this area and I am pleased to say they have been outstanding! One of their main tasks at the moment is option choices for our S2-S5 students. Staff will be interviewing every student and they have a great deal to cover so I would encourage parents to help this process with discussions at home.

As many of you will now know Mr Drain is leaving us for pastures new after the Easter holidays. Senior staff are already covering his classes and this will continue up until the examinations.

Even with the winter weather our sports groups have managed a few trips to compete in badminton and basketball tournaments. We have also had visitors with a rugby development day and a recent volleyball tournament at IHS.

Our Youth Work has continued and I was impressed how many of our students gave up some of their February holiday to attend workshops. This together with the very successful Feis and the Dance workshops meant that many of our students had a very busy February break.

Our annual S2 Loch Eil trip was a resounding success. I enjoyed following their exploits on our twitter feed and have heard nothing but positive comments from staff and students alike. Well done S2 you are a very impressive bunch.

Our Ethiopia expedition planning is gathering pace. Student still have fund raising to complete as well as more than a few vaccinations to get. Thanks to all our GPs for their combined efforts to support in this.

University applications were completed and submitted in January with many of our young people now receiving offers from a variety of places. As I said in my last blog for more information for parents please click here. Please note your child has to apply for their finance independently of school click here to find out more (you can apply from April 2013 onwards). If you have any questions or concerns then please do call school for an appointment, I am only too happy to support.

With study leave approaching I am pleased to say that I have employed a study supervisor in order to support those students who wish to come into school (or have to be in for an examination). They will be available every school day during study leave, which is Tuesday 7th May to Tuesday 4th June. Our new timetable will start on Wednesday 5th June. If your child struggles to study independently then I would encourage them to use this facility. They will be able to access guidance and support on how to study in a supportive environment. There are also master classes running, a timetable of which will be will parents shortly together.

With Easter fast approaching we have organised extra revision classes on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd April. I would encourage as many students as possible to make this part of their study plans over Easter.

Finally my thanks to all staff, students and parents for their continued support.

Joanna Holmes

Hello to Islay and Jura!

Welcome to my new blog! I thought this would be a good way to keep in touch with our community and families, so please check in regularly for updates regarding what is happening in school and any important dates and information.

Having arrived on Islay one dark night at the end of October I have to say the weeks have flown by since. I would like to thank the school and wider community for making my family and I feel so welcome. I have met so many people over the past few weeks that are ambitious for the school and want to see it do well and I look forward to working with you all in the future. I also have to thank Mr Harrison and the rest of the staff for “showing me the ropes”. I am sure they will continue to be of great support as the school year progresses.

During my first week I introduced myself to the whole school at a special assembly. It was important for me to talk to both staff and student about what I valued this included honestly, taking responsibility and perseverance.

I have also had two opportunities to meet with our Parent Council. It was an ideal opportunity to gauge any concerns and share our future plans for the school. These included new building works, website and some results from parental questionnaires. Parent Councils can be a great support to schools and I hope to see as many of you as possible attending our AGM on Wednesday 23rd January at 4pm at the school.

Click here to read more about the work of Parent Councils

As many of you will know the school has had some significant building work completed over the summer. There is still significant investment to be made in Islay High School and more planned refurbishment will take place in the next few years to re-design the use of our internal spaces. The downside to this is that redecoration will not happen until this refurbishment is completed; I know that condition of some areas of the school is not good but it will be addressed eventually. However one small program of redecoration has taken place. After an exploratory look under the rather grubby carpet in my office I discovered a beautiful parquet floor covered in glue; bring in Mr Bell and his boys. In two weeks the floor was scraped, sanded and varnished. It really looks stunning and my thanks to them and their very labour intensive work. Please pop in for a look!

It was good to see so many parents attend our S3-S6 Parent’s Evening and the Higher Mathematics and English night we ran. The feedback from the Higher evening was so positive that this is something we will look to extend into other subjects.

The pantomime and music evening were a triumph and have shown me just how much talent we have within the school, and how dedicated staff are in encouraging and supporting our students. It was a great opportunity for me to meet our community and thanks to all who came along and said hello. I have also been told that many of our music students have done very well in their grading exams. I know many of our students were involved in helping at our primary events too so well done to them on their commitment and stamina.

Our Christmas dance organised expertly by our S6 was a fun evening and students impressed me with their great behaviour and excellent dancing, it was also nice to see them so smartly turned out. Speaking of smartly turned out I have discussed the issue of school uniform with a number of parents, students and staff, please be assured this is something that I plan to address over the coming months.

Prelims are looming for many of our S3-S6 and at our Higher Mathematics and English evening I talked to parents about how much work students should be completing. Research shows that an average of 2 hours per evening can make the difference of at least a grade. As parents we can help by encouraging them to make a timetable of revision, make sure they have a suitable space to study and making sure they are eating and sleeping well. It is important to strike a balanced between work and play and it is important that our teenagers get to let off steam!

Applications to universities are now complete and many members of staff have been helping students complete their personal statements. For more information for parents please click here. Please note your child has to apply for their finance independently of school click here to find out more (you can apply from April 2013 onwards).

We have also been working within faculties to plan for the new qualifications, there will be more information given to parents on the S1-S2 parents evening at the end January S2 students and parents will begin to discuss option choices for S3. We will also be inviting any parent who wishes to know more about the new qualifications to this evening. More details to follow.

A reminder to students about the travel discounts they can claim with their Young Scots Card. Click here to find out more

Wishing all our families and community an enjoyable New Year.

Joanna Holmes