Glowing reports for two rural primaries

STAFF and pupils at two rural primary schools on the outskirts of Brechin have been celebrating glowing HMI reports (writes Janet Thomson).

Inspectors who assessed Lethnot Primary School and Tarfside Primary School and Nursery class observed “confident, well-motivated children who are progressing well.”

They also listed high quality learning experiences for children at the primary stages; children’s wider achievements in sporting, musical and community events and the teamwork of the head-teacher and all staff as the schools’ particular strengths.

Both schools serve remote rural areas in Angus, with Lethnot Primary having a roll of five and Tarfside having 15 pupils, including three in the nursery, when the inspections were carried out in March.

The head-teacher has responsibility for both schools which recorded attendances above the national average for 2009/2010.

At Tarfside the inspectors found, across the school, children were keen to learn and work together well. In the nursery class children are secure and settled in their daily routines and across the school children are achieving well.

In the primary class children participate in a range of sports including football, hockey and rugby. A joint team with Lethnot Primary achieved success recently in the Angus Schools’ cricket finals.

Regarding the curriculum, they found children would benefit more from more challenging activities and that children in the nursery needed more opportunities to use information and communications technology learning. The curriculum in the primary class is broad and gives children effective opportunities to use their literacy and numeracy skills in a range of contexts.

Staff provide children with high-quality learning experiences, and visiting specialist teachers in art and design, music and physical education enhance children’s learning experiences. However, children do not yet benefit from two hours each week of high-quality physical education.

The head-teacher and staff are strongly committed to improving the school and all staff are very caring and committed, ensuring children are safe and secure.

The head-teacher has developed very positive relationships with children, staff, parents and the wider community and all staff work very well together as an effective team.

In their report on Lethnot Primary School, the inspectors found the children achieve very well in many areas of the curriculum and in activities beyond the classroom.

Many children achieve success in sporting and musical activities and take part in numerous local and national competitions and regularly reach the finals or win awards. The children are working together to achieve a silver award from Eco-Schools Scotland and the school has won an award for its work on health promotion. All children are developing a school garden.

Children’s attainment has been consistently high in recent years and the staff provide a stimulating, well-balanced curriculum based on active learning.

The curriculum is enriched by regular visits and visitors and by participation in many local and national events. However, as is the case at Tarfside, children do not yet receive two hours of high-quality physical education each week.

Whilst the children make good use of information and communications technology to enrich their learning, particularly when using the internet to research class topics, long standing problems with internet connection restrict children’s access.

Staff work very well with parents to support their children. Parents are very satisfied with all aspects of school life.

The head-teacher has established a clear sense of direction for the school.

She has developed very positive relationships with children, staff, parents and the wider community. She provides effective support for staff as they implement the Curriculum for Excellence and with the commitment of staff and the leadership of the head-teacher, the school is well placed to improve further.

The inspectors will make no more visits to either of the schools and recommended that, in both cases, the school and education authority continue to develop approaches to self-evaluation to ensure appropriate pace and challenge in children’s learning across the school, and continue to involve parent and children in evaluating learning and teaching and involve them more in improvement planning.