Gold star for U-turn school

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Attendance, teaching, management and morale have improved

Two years after inspectors slated St Roch's Secondary in Glasgow, HMIE has given it a gold star for improvement.

The school, in Royston - one of the most socially deprived areas of Glasgow - was taken to task for "unsatisfactory" self-evaluation, poor staff morale and weaknesses in attainment, leadership and its relationship with the local community and parents.

It has now revamped its curriculum structure, improved pupil attendance from 78 per cent to 92 per cent and undergone some significant staff changes.

Gerard McGuigan, the new headteacher, is in no doubt about the reasons for the turnaround: "our approach to self-evaluation." A much tighter focus on accountability has been the key to improvement, he believes. There is now target-setting for pupils and departments, and staff are expected to evaluate their own and each other's work.

Mr McGuigan adds that there was "not an enormous amount of things wrong with the school - there were good kids, good teachers and supportive parents. But what HMIE found was that the structures behind the scenes needed to be updated and modified."

The school is now far more explicit in celebrating the varied multicultural backgrounds of many of its pupils. Recently, it won an award for its contribution to Black History Month, when it invited poets and authors to explore the theme; and the head boy, a Muslim, read at the parish church to celebrate Ash Wednesday during Catholic Education Week.

Maureen McKenna, Glasgow's new director for education services, was involved in both the original and follow-through inspections of St Roch's in her previous role as HMIE district inspector.

The key drivers of change, she believes, have been the appointment of a new senior management team and their increased visibility around the school. The rest of the staff have become much more actively involved in decision-making (as have the pupils).

She agrees that the school has become better at outwardly valuing the diversity of the backgrounds of its pupils. A fifth do not speak English as their first language and many come from asylum-seeking families.

Six S3 pupils, from five countries, say they like the school. Dagshagini Velnayagami, from Sri Lanka, says teaching methods have improved over the past couple of years, although both Daniel Carreia, from Portugal, and Saulius Garubis, from Lithuania, feel the work is much easier than in their home countries.

The previous headteacher, Chris Nairn, retired last summer and Mr McGuigan is anxious that he should share the credit for the school's improvement. Mr Nairn, he says, did much of the groundwork with staff who were most obstructive of change. All have now either retired or volunteered to go elsewhere, but Mr Nairn's efforts got the school to the point "where we could move on to another level", Mr McGuigan says.

He joined St Roch's in June 2006 as senior depute from St Andrew's Secondary in Carntyne, which hit the headlines when it received five "excellent" gradings. He has been confirmed as head, but his senior management team are still "acting".

Mr McGuigan, meanwhile, is trying to change perceptions of the school and boost its roll by inviting pupils as young as P5 to visit.

"We still have a fair bit to go," he says, "but I would have no worries about a full inspection. I'd be confident that we'd do well."

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