Mount Vernon primary in Glasgow has received one of the best inspection reports to date under HMIE's new six-point grading system. With five "excellents" and 10 "very goods", it equals the rating given last year to Netherlee primary in East Renfrewshire, and is the best report ever published on a Glasgow primary school.
Inspectors have clearly embraced the language of A Curriculum for Excellence, with specific references to "successful learners", "effective contributors" and "confident individuals".
The 292-pupil school, which has just over 40 per cent of pupils on placing requests, is described as providing "a very high quality of education for its pupils".
The report states: "The consistently very good quality of learning and teaching ensured that pupils were highly motivated and successful learners who were achieving well.
"The strong ethos of achievement extended to staff as well as pupils.
Through effective planning and organisation, staff ensured that the needs of all pupils were well met. Pupils' learning experiences were consistently very good and at all stages pupils experienced a good range of enjoyable learning activities."
Jean Cairns, headteacher at the school for nine years, pinpointed good relationships among staff as a key part of the school's success. "You've got to be open and honest with each other," she says.
Staff are expected to shadow each other's jobs. This could be stressful, Ms Cairns acknowledged, but staff appreciate the opportunity it gives them to observe colleagues at work.
She will now take charge of extending work shadowing to all the primary schools in the Bannerman High learning community, to which Mount Vernon belongs.
Inspectors singled out "the collective skills of teaching and support staff, and their commitment to the continuous improvement of learning and teaching" as one of the strengths of the school. Praise was also heaped on "the high-quality leadership provided by the headteacher and management team, and their effective focus on evaluating the work of the school and improving pupils' learning".
The result was motivated, confident pupils who showed a strong commitment to learning and a highly positive climate for learning within the school, the report said. Attainment in reading and maths was particularly good.
The only action required was to increase pupils' access to ICT to support their learning, and to continue to implement plans to improve their writing.
The quality of curriculum content was "very good", allowing pupils at all stages to develop "very good skills in technology and enterprise" and for each class to undertake an enterprise activity. One of the activities which enabled pupils to become "successful and independent learners" was the opportunity to work in pairs to share their thinking and to evaluate each other's work .
At P1, with the support of parents, pupils were presented with imaginative and stimulating planned play activities which helped their learning.
Pupils at all stages engaged in high-quality discussions with each other and staff over a range of issues which affected them - helping their progress towards being "effective contributors and confident individuals".
P6 pupils had won a national anti-bullying competition and donated the winnings to help design and develop a "peace garden" within the school grounds. Citizenship skills included the regular production of a pupil newsletter and supporting others as playground pals.
Across the school, pupils had very positive attitudes to reading, HMIE said. "Most read regularly and could tackle new texts with confidence.
Their skills in questioning what they read were very well developed. Pupils wrote regularly for a good variety of purposes.
"Their technical skills, including spelling and knowledge of language, were developing very well. There was room for further improvement in applying techniques, which they had learnt through reading a range of texts, to their own writing."
Attainment in maths had been consistently high, with a significant number of pupils at almost all stages achieving appropriate national levels earlier than might normally have been expected.
Ms Cairns and Lindsay McLennan, the depute, were described as "highly effective practitioners who provided excellent leadership".
"They had fostered very high-quality teamwork with staff, placing learning and teaching at the centre of all improvements," the report stated.
"Jointly, they displayed exemplary management and organisational skills."
An ingredient of that exemplary skill is the quality of empathy with others, Ms Cairns said. "You might be the cleverest person around but if you don't have the ability to interact with people and get them on your side, you won't be a successful headteacher."
"You have also got to enjoy what you do, particularly working with your colleagues and working with children."