What needs to be improved

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More support will be given to Brechin High School to address weaknesses within the school following a report by the Inspectorate at Education Scotland.

Quality indicators are used to help schools, education authorities and inspectors judge what is good and what needs to be improved in the work of the school.

During the visit the Inspectors talked to parents and young people and worked closely with the head teacher and staff to find out how well young people are learning and achieving and how well the school supports young people to do their best.

As a result of the inspection Brechin High School, was marked “weak” in the three important quality indicators: Learners’ experiences; Improvements in performance; and Meeting learning needs.

Aspects of the work of the school were also evaluated, with the school receiving “satisfactory” for the curriculum and “weak” for improvement through self-evaluation.

HM Inspector Douglas Hutchison commented: “The quality of learning varied greatly both within departments and between departments.

“In a few classes where learning and teaching are effective, young people are motivated and engaged in their learning.

“Too often however, young people are not actively involved or taking responsibility for their own learning.”

Youngsters were praised for contributing well to the life of the school and wider community and experience success in sporting and cultural activities.

It was noted that many are involved in leadership roles outwith classes and achieve success in accredited awards.

In S1 and S2 pupils are making appropriate progress in a few areas, including mathematics and modern languages. At present it was noted that information on these pupils progress through the broad general education is not gathered well enough by teachers meaning progress is too variable.

“The Angus Council approach to tracking progress, although promising, is at the very early stages of being used by staff,” explained Mr Hutchison.

In S4 to S6, attainment on certain measures shows small improvements and a few subjects show improving trends.

Attainment at Advanced Higher level is in line with schools serving young people with similar needs.

Overall, on most measures at S4 to S6, the school performs notably less well than schools serving young people with similar needs and backgrounds.

In a few classes, young people enjoy well paced and challenging activities.

However, across the school, learning needs are not consistently well met so that young people can build on prior learning. In a majority of classes, learning tasks and activities are not set at the right level of difficulty with the pace of learning being slow.

Although teachers are given good information about young people’s additional support needs, these are not taken into account enough when planning learning.

Young people benefit from good pastoral support and those with complex additional support needs are well supported.

The school works well with a range of partner agencies to ensure vulnerable young people get the right support to stay engaged in education.

Those who spend almost all of their time in the support bases would benefit from the additional challenge of spending more time with their mainstream peers.

Staff show a high level of commitment to planning learning experiences in line with Curriculum for Excellence.

New approaches and courses are in place across all areas at S1 and S2 and all staff have plans in place to continue the broad general education into S3.

The school has worked well to ensure parents are aware of progress with Curriculum for Excellence.

Opportunities are available for youngsters to apply their learning across different areas of the curriculum.

Most staff take account of the need to develop literacy and numeracy in their subject area, however, the school needs to strengthen its strategic approach to developing literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across all areas of learning.

There are good links with Angus College and local business partners and it was noted that the Health workers and the Active Schools coordinator work very well with the school to provide good learning experiences in health and wellbeing and leadership.

Support is needed address weaknesses in the quality of learning and teaching at the school.

“Senior managers have worked very well to ensure staff and parents are involved in changes relating to Curriculum for Excellence,” continued Mr Hutchison.

“Along with staff at all levels, they have worked hard to ensure young people enjoy a richer learning experience outwith the class and beyond the school day.

“Overall, self-evaluation and improvement planning have had a limited effect on improving the quality of learning and teaching and raising young people’s attainment.

“All staff need to be much more rigorous in identifying strengths and areas for improvement.

“Once areas for improvement are identified, all staff need to take greater responsibility for ensuring improvement happens.

“Senior managers need to offer greater strategic direction to improving the quality of learning and teaching so that all young people benefit from consistently high-quality learning experiences.”

The inspection identified the following key strengths: The commitment of staff to developing and implementing Curriculum for Excellence; School staff and partners working to develop young people’s leadership skills; and Partnership working between the school, Parent Council and parent body.

As a result of these findings the school now needs addition support and more time to make necessary improvements to ensure that the school improves the quality of learning and teaching, increases expectations of what young people can learn and achieve and raise attainment, and ensures agreed targets for improvement are delivered through more effective leadership at all levels.

The inspectorate will return to evaluate progress within 18 months.