So good, the First Minister had to call

Netherlee primary in East Renfrewshire, an "average" school in terms of free meal entitlement and attendance, won plaudits from the First Minister this week when it became the first school to receive the top grading of "excellent" under HMIE's new six-point grading system.

Jack McConnell phoned Sandra Mitchell, the headteacher, to offer his personal congratulations to staff, pupils and parents on the school's report - five "excellent" awards and 10 "very goods".

The report effectively sets the standard for other schools to beat - as Mr McConnell acknowledged when he told Mrs Mitchell that he hoped others would follow the example set by Netherlee.

The school received "excellent" gradings for pastoral care; climate and relationships in the school; equality and fairness; partnership with parents, school board and the community; and the leadership of the headteacher and her management team.

Gradings for all other categories were "very good".

Netherlee, one of the largest primaries in Scotland with a roll of 855, serves the Netherlee and Stamperland areas of East Renfrewshire. The proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is in line with the national average, as is attendance.

In a glowing report, inspectors praise the "very positive ethos" and said staff worked well together to provide a stimulating and supportive learning environment.

"The quality of learning and teaching was very good and staff relationships with pupils were well-judged and appropriate," the report states. "The quality of pastoral care was excellent and staff were sensitive to the academic, personal and social needs of pupils."

It also describes the standard of attainment in English language and mathematics as "high", and praises other aspects such as health promotion, enterprise education, technology, participation in the eco-schools initiative and the use of ICT to support learning.

A significant number of teachers had been trained to teach French to pupils at all stages, including nursery. Specialist teachers in music and physical education provided pupils with quality learning experiences.

Mrs Mitchell is described as "an excellent leader and manager" who had "a clear sense of vision and was held in the highest regard by staff, pupils, parents and the community".

For their part, staff said that what pleased them most was the "effective communication between senior managers and staff", the opportunities they had to be involved in the decision-making process, the mutual respect between teachers and pupils, and the fact that the school was well led.

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