Another week to tick off?

It’s not just another week to tick off, biding our time and waiting. Your children have grown, the season is changing from winter to spring and we can still laugh! We’re looking forward to seeing all of nursery and P1-3 in school from Monday. We acknowledge it’s hard for brothers and sisters in P4-7 to be at home while the younger ones are in school. We appreciate you continue to struggle on trying to work from home and trying to motivate the older children at home. We’ll still support those learning at home but hopefully if the ‘R’ number continues to decrease the experts will be able to allow some easing of the restrictions and the Smithton family will all be back together. Until then we all need to be patient. It’s not easy, is it?!

Have a look at the presentation that will maybe answer some of your questions. Remember to click ‘present’ at the top right hand side so you can see a brilliant wee video that P4s who were in school and Miss Noble made today.

Have a good weekend and here’s hoping for a good week ahead next week.

Stay safe,

Aileen Mackay, HT. Enjoy some photos from the nursery today!

COVID-19 Update

Just to confirm that all ELC and P1-3 children will be returning to school on Monday and their usual teachers/nursery staff will be back in place. Keyworker and targeted children are back on Thursday this week but with P5s not in their usual classroom – they will be with the other P5/6 and P6, P7 children so that they are away from P2/3 treehouse.

If you didn’t hear the First Minister today she made it clear that the children returning to school was not an easing of restrictions – it was to get children back to school. Parents should not use the time to socialise or for employers to expect parents to come back to the work place – they should continue to work from home where possible.

I’m sure there will be more information coming from Highland Council tomorrow but I said I would let you know as soon as I could about any changes to school from 22nd February.

Trusting you are all well. Please continue to take care and look after each other.

Aileen Mackay, HT

Friday Feeling

An amazing, heart felt poem by Robyn about friendship!

Oh what joy it is

to have a friend like you

For giving me strength

the way you do.

For lifting me up

when I’m wearing a frown

thanks for being there

and helping me grow.

Your friendship means a lot –

this I’d like you to know.

Last weekend my daughter and I went up Ord Hill. I’d love to say we were exploring but we actually got lost and a one hour walk ended up being nearly a three hour walk. It made me think about losing your way, realising you need to get back on track and having to do something about it. You may feel like you’ve lost your way at the moment: no idea if it’s night or day; no idea if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday (don’t panic – it’s Friday) or whether you’re about to make lunch or dinner. I know lots of us are feeling like all we’re doing is plodding along without a goal or a plan.

Between Robyn’s poem and the following photos there is an incentive to keep going. Families doing what they can to stay positive and remembering what’s really important about the journey: the people who are with you. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not find a moment this weekend to let someone you are on this journey with know how much he/she means to you. When was the last time you said, ‘I love you’ to that person? (Go on, brothers and sisters – you know you want to!)

We’ve been reminded this week on a few occasions where the local community has helped out for no gain other than to look out for each other. We’re all proud to work in the Smithton catchment area and to be on this journey alongside you. The Smithton Family continues to support and connect despite the time we finds ourselves in. Feet up, relax. I have no further news to share with you about school returning until after the First Minister’s planned briefing on Tuesday. As soon as I know anything I will post on the blog here. Until then we follow the guidelines and trust you are, too. Nursery and school back on Thursday.

Aileen Mackay, HT

Thursday Workout!

Starting to feel a bit ‘meh’? All this sitting about in the cold? Are you asking to put the heating up and someone says, ‘No. Just go and put another jumper on,’ or maybe, ‘Well help with the housework and that will heat you up!’?

Luca is an ex pupil of Smithton who studied Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He graduated with a Masters and is now working at west Fraser’s Inverness Plant (previously known as Norbord).

He’s one of the nicest boys who ever came through our school but you wouldn’t mess with him: he has won two professional boxing fights! We are really fortunate that he is going to get us up off our sofas and get us going with a work out. Click on the link. I had a go last night so if I can take part, so can you! Challenge each other in the house to join in.

We won’t have a survey next Thursday but please complete this one by clicking here. Remember that staff won’t be posting any work until Thursday next week after tomorrow and school will not be open for anyone. We will continue to use the grid from this week next Thursday and Friday. Staff will have in service training on Wednesday but it will be done from home.

Beautiful if cold day today! Enjoy’s joining in with Luca and if you have music requests for the next one send them to me if you don’t know Luca! (I’ve made a request already….)

Aileen Mackay, HT

Monday News

The Highland Hospice Bereavement Service (which includes Crocus Group childhood bereavement service) are really keen to hear from as many people as possible, to get your thoughts on what people need from it and would like to see happen with the service. It is a very short survey but can give us such valuable insights, so that the service is designed around the communities and people it is there for. We would be most grateful for your time to share your thoughts. We will review all responses at the end of March 2021. We are looking for responses from both personal and professional capacities, so please do complete the survey if you can, and share with anyone who you think may be interested in participating. 

Here is the link to the survey: 

We are delighted to share some lovely news – Mr Grandison and his partner have had a wee boy, Connall and the whole family is doing well. Mrs Munro and her husband have also had a wee boy, Elliot and again, we are grateful and thankful that they are all doing well too.

Have you signed up to the virtual walk tomorrow afternoon? If you’re not sure if you can make it, here’s the link – just come along. Wouldn’t it be lovely heading to Venice? Have a cuppa to hand and

Check out the Outdoor Explorers latest adventures – Outdoor Explorers – Winter Snow Edition.

Aileen Mackay, HT

That Friday Feeling!

There’s quite a bit of reading tonight – apologies.

Aaron in P7 has written this amazing poem during Good Mental Health Week and was happy for me to share with you. I could certainly identify with the emotions and I’m sure you will, too.

Anxiety and me 

A storm is brewing. My fingers are tense and it’s hard to breath. My heart is racing- 

What is happening to me?  I don’t like this feeling! Make it go away. I’d do anything not to feel like this again. How do I make this stop?

To laugh 

And play without a worry! Not to wear a mask and to feel free again,

like a bird that flies in the sky.

CHIP+ charity has been an amazing support for families and professionals over the years. I love how it has been rebranded as Thriving Families – so much more positive. It has undergone a ‘make over’ and a relaunch:

After almost 28 years as Chip, today we are absolutely delighted to relaunch our charity with our new name Thriving Families. We’re all living through an incredibly difficult time and charities like ours have never been more needed. We felt a new name that better reflects what we do everyday would help us to reach more people. Our goal is to become the ‘go to’ organisation known for improving the lives of families in the Highlands, by giving you confidence, empowering you to know your rights, know what questions to ask and have your voices heard. Onwards and upwards we go!

Chair of the Thriving Families Board Ann Darlington said:
“I couldn’t be more proud of the work done by CHIP+ over the last 28 years, and it is really exciting to be launching the charity into a new era as Thriving Families. I know that our brilliant team will build on past successes, rise to new challenges and reach out across the Highlands to offer support that will improve the lives of families.”

Our up-to-date contact details are as follows:
Phone: 07514 120288
Coping with lockdown and homeschooling
Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash
Being in lockdown, it can be really hard to stay positive and not worry about what is happening now and in the future. We are feeling the pressure of trying to help our children with their school work along with juggling our jobs, home life, paying the bills and maybe worrying about the health of family and friends too. That’s a lot of juggling.

The First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday of a phased return to schools from 22 February gives us some hope and a feeling of progress in the right direction, but it’s been a long slog and we are all weary. 
In the way that we are kind to other people, it is really important to be kind to ourselves too. We are human and things will not always work out the way we would like them to. Give yourself a break as you are doing the best you can.
Try not to be hard on yourself, it is absolutely understandable to feel anxious and struggle at this point in our lives. It’s fine to ask for help too. Take time for yourself where you can, even a wee walk can be good and try not to compare yourself to Facebook friends who seem to be managing it all – they won’t be.

If you have worries about the way your child is learning (or not) during lockdown, school staff can chat to you about this and help reassure you.
At Thriving Families we are here to help so please get in touch and let us know how you are getting on. We can be contacted by email or 07514 120288 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9:30am to 4:00pm. There is information on our website that was put on during the first lockdown but still relevant. We also post regularly on our Facebook page.

Our Information and Support Officer Catherine recommends the following sources of help and information:

During lockdown bumps2bairns have a daily e-mail with lots of ideas and suggestions for play, learning and having fun with young children. Parent Club also have lots of information on their website and social media about ways to support children, young people, parents and carers. BBC Bitesize have ideas and tips for learning at home too. 
Seasons for Growth have written an amazing guide to self-care and well-being during times of uncertainty to help children and their families. We’ve shared an excerpt below and highly recommend this resource.
Highland Council psychological service have information to help families on their website and you’ll find some really helpful resources there too.
Clear your head highlights practical things we can do to feel a bit better and help us take care of our mental health during the pandemic. They also list organisations in Scotland which can help.

Apologies for not getting the survey out in time for this week. We will use the information for next week and the following Thursday and Friday. (Monday 15th – Wednesday 17th there will be no school or home learning – February weekend and the Wednesday is an in service day where all staff will be working from home. There will be no new grid for 18th and 19th February) Click here for the survey.

A message from the Highland Council that we have to put out to you all:

For the attention of parents and carers in Highland

On 2 February, an announcement was made in the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, about remote learning and the future return to face-to-face learning in schools.  This message includes the key information that children, young people and their families need to know.

The key points are as follows:

  • The remote learning offer, alongside support in-school for vulnerable and key worker children and young people, will continue until Friday 19 February.
  • From week beginning 22 February, there will be a partial return to schools as follows:
    • Full time attendance for Early learning and childcare children, and for children in P1-3.
    • Part-time attendance for young people in the Senior Phase who need to attend in order to complete practical work that is necessary for the completion of national qualification courses. 
    • Further clarification about future plans for the re-opening of schools will be shared by the Scottish Government on 16 February.
  • There will be a roll-out of testing for some workers in educational settings and pupils in the Senior phase, which will help to ensure that the partial return to school is as safe as possible. This is in line with national guidance.

It is important to remember that all of our Highland schools will be closed for the long weekend (Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 February are holidays, and Wednesday 17 February is the In-Service Day).  During those days our school buildings will be closed and there will be no provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. 

We are currently working through these guidelines and are planning for the week beginning 22 February.  We will continue to keep parents, carers and families informed.

Further updates about free school meals will be issued next week.

Meanwhile, the current remote learning situation continues, with the continued emphasis on following guidance from the Scottish Government to protect the NHS and save lives.  Thank you for your patience and support.

Just before we relax and look at the photos this week (by the way, how impressive: a family can not only get the children engaged in learning but Barney the dog is on the google meet!) I just want to continue to encourage you and your family in all that you are doing. I’m a bit fed up with the media talking about ‘the lost years’ in learning and how much the children are going to be behind. Yes there will be parts that your child will have forgotten and will need to be picked up again at school. Their social skills will need a bit more practice. Their confidence in going outside might need a bit of encouragement but it’s also really important to acknowledge the hard work you are all putting in with and for your children. Every time you expect them to help around the house and garden are learning opportunities. Every time you sit together and chat or walk together are clear bonding times for you as a family. Enjoy these bonus weeks when you can hold your children dear – this is anything but the lost years – it’s an opportunity for family time and acknowledging just how much this is to be valued. When many of you are beginning to struggle as the time is going on, just ‘reboot’ and relax. Turn chores into games (who can match the socks from the basket the quickest? Can we unload the dishwasher and dance to our favourite song together at the same time? Take photos of before and after cleaning the garage and turn them into a chatterpix, etc) and plan for things in your day together.

As you hit that Friday Feeling (woohoo! This is how teachers feel every Friday!) focus on the difference you are making to your child’s life in the long run rather than panicking about what they are missing at school. Leave that to us when we are back together safely.

Aileen Mackay, HT

Cleaner’s Challenge

This week Brenda and her glamorous assistant Emma show us how best to use a vacuum cleaner…will you get a Star Award this week for trying? Make sure an adult says you can have a go!

First video

Second video

Virtual Walk around Venice! (A wee change from Culloden Woods)

We can’t get out and about together for our termly walks but we will not be defeated! How about a virtual walk? The world is our oyster!
These virtual walks are really relaxing.
If you would like to join us on Tuesday 9th February at 2.30pm  please email and I will send you the link

Apologies – these photos were missed off Friday’s gallery.

Scottish Government’s announcement today means that hopefully all of our early years setting and P1, P2 and P3 will be back at school from 22nd February. P4-7 will remain at home until further notice. I will give further information once I have had an opportunity to look at what this means for the rest of the school, targeted children and children of key workers.

Please stay safe and let’s keep following the advice to beat this virus.

Aileen Mackay, HT

Positive Mental Well-being Week

What are you going to do to keep up your spirits this week?

Some of the children in P5/6, P6 in school today watched the video “Lucy’s Blue Day”, then made self-portraits of themselves with blue hair and shared their ideas of things they can do to lift their spirits if they’re having a “blue day”. This lead to us talking about Positive Affirmations. So the children made hand prints with an affirmation on each finger. They can use these when they need to “Take Five”, to remind themselves of their positive qualities and encourage positive self.

January’s End

Hard to believe we are at the end of January but the lighter nights already are proving that the seasons are changing as normal.

We’ve been asked to share this with you by the area office:

Households in the Highland who are on low income and experiencing fuel insecurities as a result of COVID-19 can apply for a Fuel Support Fund from The Highland Council. The £270,000 Fuel Support Fund has been set up by the Council using Scottish Government funding which can be used flexibly to alleviate financial insecurities.

Low income households within Highland experiencing fuel insecurities can apply for a non-repayable £60 grant. Full details including online application

The council’s Welfare Support Team provide free, impartial and confidential support to claim all entitlements including the Fuel Support Fund. Call free on 0800 090 1004 or email

In our community we’re also very fortunate with local people willing to give back to their neighbours. The GOODness project, led by Becky Wilson who is employed by The Barn Church and King’s Fellowship together has let me know about a fantastic gift for families.

This is open to any family who is not entitled to free school meals or any other supports but is just above that threshold i.e. families who are struggling but not eligible for usual funds. GOODness wants to give those families a food voucher and activity pack for the February break. Don’t be shy in coming forward. If you would like to be considered for this please contact me so I can get the number of vouchers that are required.

As we head into the last weekend of January I still can’t thank you enough for your patience, your juggling skills and your words of kindness. No wonder we have such lovely children whose manners improve daily and who are kind and thoughtful if the models they see at home are their parents. Assembly was about saying sorry today. There’s a time to forgive and a time to ask for forgiveness. I daresay as we’re all cooped up at home there will be times when relationships are not always perfect. Be humble and admit to your mistakes within your family. I know I have to go home today and say sorry for being grumpy (I know, hard to believe) last night. Take a good break from screens this weekend if you can and enjoy each other’s company. Sit back and have fun looking at the photos from around the classrooms and homes this week. Kim the cleaner is loving her new fan base as both kids and adults are sending her messages! Look out for Miss MacDonald’s sink – before and after- watching Kim’s video…Delighted to see the nursery polytunnel has arrived – we’ll be having home grown veggies soon! Lots to see from nursery to P7. Feet up, relax and view….

Aileen Mackay, HT