Inspection - Students' 'one chance' threatened by failing school

8th November 2013 at 00:00
Secondary under fire for lacking an `ethos of achievement'

A secondary school in Aberdeenshire has been judged "weak" in all five categories by Education Scotland inspectors in one of the country's worst inspection reports in recent years.

Banff Academy is severely criticised in the inspection report published this week, with inspectors judging only about half its lessons to provide young people with "good-quality experiences". Learning experiences are too variable and do not reach a consistently high standard, the report adds.

The school lacked an "ethos of ambition and achievement" and students across S4-S6 performed consistently less well in examinations than the national average, Education Scotland said.

According to the report, the overall quality of the curriculum is weak and there is "too little strategic focus on planning transitions at all stages and ensuring continuity and progression".

It further states that students are expected to make choices in S3 that may limit their options later, and do not receive their entitlement to physical or religious and moral education in the senior phase. The way the school provides information to parents is also condemned.

Although the report acknowledges that relationships between school staff and students are positive and identifies students' ambitions to succeed as a key strength, inspectors say that only just over half the academy's students feel that staff talk to them regularly about their learning.

Aberdeenshire Council has identified a "number of significant weaknesses in the arrangements for supporting learners with additional support needs", it adds.

National parent groups have voiced serious concerns about these findings, which come in the second consecutive negative report on the school.

"The new inspection framework is designed to ensure that there are no surprises," said Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. "So how can they go from one poor inspection to another poor inspection and not see evidence of improvement? Kids only get one chance at receiving a good education in school. This is desperately disappointing."

Iain Ellis, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, added: "Our main concern here is the children. In this day and age, under Curriculum for Excellence, this is unacceptable."

A spokesman for the EIS said that the teaching union did not comment on circumstances at individual schools, but said it was essential for all schools to receive appropriate support.

"The current financial climate has put pressure on education budgets across the country, creating additional strain on schools and education departments as well as on staff," he said.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said the case confirmed why it was a "good idea to move forward the way we are with the senior phase benchmarking tool".

This would allow schools across the country to develop a greater awareness of how they were doing in relation to others, he said.

In a statement, Aberdeenshire Council said an action plan was being developed to address the school's weaknesses.

Maria Walker, director of education, learning and leisure at Aberdeenshire, said: "We have been aware of the need to address a number of key issues affecting the school, and will continue to work with the academy to develop an ambitious and effective action plan to deliver improvements over the coming weeks and months."

Headteacher David Dunn retired this autumn after about a decade in post. Andrew Ritchie, a former quality improvement officer for the Banff network who has worked closely with the school, has been appointed as interim headteacher.

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