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School of excellence

St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, has received one of the best inspection reports on a secondary school, despite being visited while staff and pupils were in temporary accommodation during the construction of their new school, Elizabeth Buie writes

The school earned three excellent, 10 very good and three good gradings from HMIE. Staff were praised particularly for their implementation of the Schools of Ambition initiative: St Ninian's High is concentrating on extending its expertise in modern languages through the use of information technology.

The report also identified other key strengths, including the "exceptionally positive climate and relationships within the school", improving patterns of attainment, strong links with parents and the wider community, pastoral care, and effective leadership at all levels.

Inspectors said the school had adopted "a well-judged and measured approach to curriculum innovation".

The proportion of pupils following modern languages from S3 to S6 was exceptionally high, with very good exam results at all levels. "Advanced Higher French pupils demonstrated outstanding levels of proficiency in a DVD they had produced of a debate relating to membership of the European Union," said the report.

The very high morale among staff and pupils was singled out, and Paul McLaughlin, the headteacher, was praised for his very effective leadership. "He had established a very productive working atmosphere within the school and a sustained and collective commitment to school improvement," inspectors said. "As a result, levels of attainment and the quality of teaching were improving." Teamwork, communication and consultation were particular strengths.

The report said: "Principal teachers led their departments well and were responsible for a number of well-judged innovations. In many departments, staff engaged in high quality debate about the curriculum and approaches to learning and teaching, arising partly from the school's involvement in the Schools of Ambition initiative."

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