A Year in Review


Last session was my very first as Acting Head Teacher and what a year it was. Here, are some of the highpoints I shared with Parents in a speech at our Award Ceremony in June 2018…


“Over the years as a senior leader I have enjoyed our accounts of outstanding improvement and enduring progress. I have seen a positive ethos flourish and achievement soar. Young people, your school identity and pride has grown and parents your support and partnership with us has strengthened. As Acting Head Teacher, I am delighted to continue this positive news story and share with you the successes and achievements of our school, of Bellshill’s school.

Where to begin, of course, the young people of Bellshill Academy. This year all our young people have proven themselves to be responsible, confident, successful young people who are able to make effective contributions to the life of the school and the community and we, with our partners, have worked hard to ensure they get opportunities for academic, social and emotional growth.

This session, we saw continued improvement in our S4 examinations. Those achieving 5 level 5 awards increased, while level 4 awards advanced well above the North Lanarkshire average. In S5, our results showed the improvement to our three year average due to the year groups’ success and we were able to offer a greater number of Wider Achievement Awards. The trend for improvement in the numbers of Higher Awards in S5 and S6 has continued with our Dux of school achieving an outstanding 5 A awards. This session, ladies and gentlemen, we had excellent success across the school but it is worth special mention that we had a 100% Higher A pass Awards in music, and at National 5 in Administration and IT and Hospitality: Practical Cookery. Young people’s achievement also continued to grow with 8 Duke of Edinburgh Awards, 23 Saltire Awards, 63 Dynamic Youth Awards and 12 who completed the Prince’s Trust XL. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we strive to provide the best opportunities for our young people. This is affected by how we teach, the learning environment we provide and the opportunities we offer. We are committed to raising standards in every aspect of school life and desire to see attainment and achievement continue to grow. In light of this, for the new session, we rewrote our vison and values statement. We said that our aim: is for young people to be continuous learners who are able to secure for themselves rewarding futures in life and work, impacting positively on the Bellshill community, North Lanarkshire, Scotland and indeed the wider world.

Now I hear you say, that sounds a bit ambitious and you might asking, what impact can we expect young people to have? What impact can there be of their actions? What impact can there be of what they say and what impact can there be of what they become?

Well ladies and gentlemen, whatever the impact, you can be sure it will be felt by all those who come to contact with them. The future of this community relies on the positive impact these young people can have; boys and girls, our futures rely on the positive impact of what you say and what you do and what you become.  This is why the theme of this Award Ceremony is skills for life and work. We want to highlight to you the skills that young people develop that enable them to leave this school having the ability to secure rewarding futures for themselves and in turn future generations.

Skills such as Citizenship, Leadership, Teamwork and Enterprise and Employability. I want to share with you examples of how we have developed these skills and in doing so improved pupils’ development in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. This, I believe, will provide a most fitting backdrop to the scores of impressive awards you will see handed over tonight…

Our pupils are responsible citizens who with support from their teachers, staff CL&D staff, Active Schools Coordinators and the Parent Council have been able to learn about their community and the wider world and make meaningful contributions to it. Just this month excited and responsible senior pupils made the journey to Malawi to engage with communities there. A staggering sum of money was raised to support charitable work through a number of activities such as Strictly Bellshill, bag packs, coffee mornings and a whole host of projects run in their own time. This is the third year we have had pupils joining other schools in North Lanarkshire and pupils tell us the experiences they gain there last a lifetime. Support for charity is also provided closer to home: pupils throughout the school have busied themselves raising funds for St. Andrew’s Hospice through cake sales and staff versus students charity football matches, while at the start of the session, 3 S1 pupils won Glasgow Children’s Hospital calendar competition

Through the unrelenting support from our Elected Members, the Lord Lieutenant’s office, our primary cluster HTs, Home School Partnership Officer, Community Police Officer and our partners at the YMCA and CLD our students have been able to offer their Citizenship skills across a wide demographic from P6s to their peers, from the community groups to those coming to live and work in Scotland. Our students supported a range of P7 transition events, designed and organised a family coffee morning and delivered an open day for the local dementia support group, Sporting Memories.  For their peers, they focused their attention on promoting diversity developing a new anti-bullying strategy. We had an LGTB awareness raising event in September and a flag signing day last month. Our Diversity group is well established and receives growing support and we look forward to receiving our Silver Award in August. More than this, our Leadership class provided buddying and paired reading to young people who needed it most and we were proud and honoured to be invited to Bellshill Registration Office to witness the Citizenship Ceremony for people who were becoming British Citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the kindness, warmth and respect you can expect from pupils when you come to Bellshill Academy, in fact one often is heard to remark: Bellshill Academy – the kids open doors for you there…

I am so very proud of our responsible citizens and know the skills the young people gain with undoubtedly have a very positive impact on the school, the community and on themselves.

More than this, let me share with you that our pupils are both team players and leaders, In fact, if you were to have seen the cover of the Bellshill Speaker recently you wouldn’t have failed to read the headline ‘Next Generation Learn How to Become Leaders’.  With the unstinting dedication from our Active School’s coordinator, the Leadership Academy, supported by partners Muller, enabled 40 pupils in 5 months to secure 170 sports leadership qualifications. During this time, the pupils developed leadership, communication and teamworking skills. They also took part in work placements, volunteering, coaching, disability awareness training and emergency first aid. We had a packed awards ceremony dedicated especially to the work of these young people, attended by our local councillors, senior staff at the Centre and members of our Parent Council and I you can imagine, couldn’t have been keener to show off.

Beyond this, one of our dedicated senior pupils was awarded a Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award and we attended a ceremony in the Radisson in Glasgow. This student, with a team from neighbouring schools, provided activities for young people with additional support needs and the wider community including a family fun day at the YMCA Orbiston Childcare centre. Seeing how proud her mum was of her was the highlight of the evening.

Volunteering is an institution in Bellshill Academy and I was delighted to be able to write to the parent of another incredibly hard working and talented senior student to tell them that their daughter was nominated for the prestigious North Lanarkshire Young Volunteer of the Year award. Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to tell you, she won….

Leadership and teamworking skills permeate classrooms throughout the school, young people take part in school shows, take on positions of responsibility, get involved in leadership workshops and interdisciplinary lessons. They design their own learner journeys and work with each other to plan whole school events and coordinate their views through the Student Council. Students this year have won medals in the County Sports and NLC swimming competition and successfully completed the Duke of Edinburgh Expedition which involved hiking, map reading and camping all with stoves and necessities on their backs. Some S3s have even made presentations at the Sky Academy, delivering a report on ‘The Mobile Phone Generation’, while 24 S1 pupils had a great time on their Outward Bound residential.

Without excellent leadership and teamworking opportunities we would not be able to deliver the fantastic drama productions like the one we are having next week or musical performances such as tonight. We would not have events like the annual Christmas Ceilidh, Jingle Bellshill or the Christmas Market. The NLC Rockband, of which we had a band member, or the NLC Spring concert, of which we had performing musicians, would have been out of our reach.  Boys and girls, I ask you to think now why we offer these experiences and why, do you think, leadership and teamworking skills might be important… Will you be a leader in your own life? Will you set the pace and challenge for yourself? Will you be able to work with others and continue to learn even when you are as old as me? Boys and girls, what will the impact be if you do? What will the impact be if you don’t?


Finally, in Bellshill Academy, we develop enterprise and employability skills. From nursery age, children are asked to consider what they would like be and, I imagine, ladies and gentlemen, you will all have been asked this yourselves from a small age. But here’s the thing, the young people of Bellshill academy are already ‘being’. The career in the distance is not some intangible thing that will happen in a far-off future. It is now. The skills and qualities they learn now are intrinsically connected with that future self.  That is why, we at Bellshill Academy have developed a plan for all lessons to focus on career pathways and for every subject to illuminate to young people how learning its contents will make them more able to secure a job, training or further education. This year we had a very successful careers fair and numerous trips and visits to and from universities, colleges and work placements. Thanks to our partners at the Hilton, we have been able to deliver a fantastic enterprise event in S2 and our Partners at SDS and New Collage Lanarkshire have supported all our young people to explore career opportunities. During careers week, young people were asked to consider mindfulness and the power of ‘yet’ and this year all teachers have been asked to consider how they can incorporate the skills for work into their curriculum. I am delighted to share that we have 30 young people heading to university. 23 going to college and another 2 taking up Modern apprenticeships.  I can’t mention them all but one student is going to the City of Glasgow College to study architectural Technology while another has an unconditional offer to study at the Prestigious Glasgow School of art. One more is going to the University of Glasgow to study English Literature while something called Diagnostic Imaging has attracted another to Glasgow Caledonian University. Ladies and gentlemen, in a few years Scotland will have more Chemists, sports coaches, teachers, scientists, nurses, psychologists, accountants, solicitors and even a neuroscientist, all coming from Bellshill Academy…

This is all down to the very hard work of the young people and I would like to extend my thanks to our teachers, partners at SDS, janitorial and canteen staff who worked tirelessly preparing them for their exams. Can you believe, the term ‘Saturday school’ has entered our vocabulary! Yes you heard me: school – on – a – Saturday! Over three weekends, staff and 67 pupils studied together and ate breakfast together on a Saturday in preparation for the exams. Ladies and gentlemen, I learned something from this – if you provide food, it attracts teenagers…A trick used often in Art and Technical where the words pizza and study are synonymous…

Ladies and gentlemen, because of the skills we pledge to develop and commitment and tenacity of our young people, the future of Bellshill Academy is positive. As a Scottish Attainment Challenge School and being in receipt of Pupil Equity funding, we have focused our attention on raising standards in literacy and partnerships I am delighted to share with you that a great number of pupils in S1 have made significant progress in their reading, so much so that we are expecting a visit from Education Scotland next week. We have also developed a number of strategies to increase parental engagement and family learning. There are far too numerous to reference but let me mention the family cooking group where together parents and children learn new and useful skills and the new Parents’ Forum who work with CLD staff and the school to identify new initiatives help with consultation. We have a dedicated attainment mentor and a team of excellent pupil support staff and mentors who work with pupils in a one to one basis to support and improve mental health and wellbeing.

We have invested in the environment of the school, and thanks to the School’s Trust, who have invested in our Anti –bullying strategy, we have been able to provide more student friendly social areas where young people can study, socialise and support one another. Outdoor learning has become a big hit with students and staff, not only did we have a fantastic outdoor learning week, but we have also invested in a new outdoor performance area consisting of stage and seating and a much anticipated Sensory Garden is currently being created at the west side of the school.

I want to stress how acutely aware we are that none of the school’s success could be achieved without the time and support and of all our partners. I would like to thank our Invited Guests for their continued support and interest over the years. To the head teachers of our cluster Primary schools, your partnership and support to the school is unwavering and I want to thank you for promoting our school to your youngsters as positively as you do. To all parents and the Parent Council please know important you are to the running of this school and how greatly appreciated your input is, and, to the school’s principal teachers, your hard work and leadership is valued and respected by the students and staff alike. Finally, to the Senior Leadership Team, it has been an absolute honour to have been able to Act as your head teacher this year. Your commitment has been deeply felt and I am absolutely humbled by your own personal abilities and your collective support

To conclude, I want to speak specifically to you boys and girls. I want you to know how important you are and how very proud I am of what you have achieved. We are invested in you so you can invest in the future of Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland and indeed the wider world. I look forward to seeing the exciting IMPACT that you are going to have…”

Mrs McGraw