As HMIe inspectors visited Wick High School in September 2008, colleagues were simultaneously evaluating the community learning provision in the area. This is part of the inspectorate’s new joined-up strategy for evaluating the educational provision of local authorities – and the first of its kind to be carried out in The Highland Council.
Today (16th December) two separate reports have been published highlighting the strengths and development needs of the two.
In the report on Wick High School, inspectors highlight the polite, well-behaved and considerate young people and the commitment of staff and the community to develop a wider range of activities for young people as particular strengths of the school.
Inspectors acknowledge that the Head Teacher has worked hard and successfully with pupils, staff and the wider community to build morale in the school and recognise the calm and settled atmosphere which had been created. They report that the climate for learning within the school has improved over recent years. Most young people enjoy being in school and feel safe and secure. Pupils are experiencing increased opportunities to learn from a range of activities for personal achievement and are becoming more confident. Young people have a strong sense of pride in their school through the introduction of school uniform and positive approaches to encouraging good behaviour.
Strong links with local organisations increase the opportunities for pupils to broaden their learning and develop their personal and social skills. In the best lessons almost all pupils are motivated and enthusiastic about learning. Those with additional needs are well supported in their learning. However the inspectors found that the quality of learning and teaching varied and recommend that the school should ensure the best practice is in place in all departments. They also report that despite the hard work done to improve the public and dining areas, the school was not yet a welcoming, secure or positive environment for learning.
Mr Alister Traill, Head Teacher, said: “This is a balanced view of the school. It acknowledges the hard work put in by everyone in the community over the last two to three years in creating the right atmosphere for learning. A modest improvement in this year’s SQA results indicates that this work is beginning to pay dividends. The inspectors confirmed our own view that raising attainment is now our main priority and ensuring consistency in the quality learning and teaching is the way to do this. The school will be working hard to deliver on this throughout the current session and will keep parents fully informed of the progress we make.”
In the inspection of community learning and development (CLD) activities in the communities surrounding Wick High School, particular strengths highlighted by HMIe are the overall range of opportunities for young people and adult learners and the highly skilled community activists and volunteers. Pulteneytown People’s Project and Dunbeath Preservation Trust are identified as examples of good practice.
Inspectors report that the quality of provision in the area is good. There is a wide range of youth work provision to choose from across the area provide many different ways for young people to get involved in learning activities. Young people are becoming more confident, self-assured and developing new skills. There is also a wide range of programmes for adult learners to choose from helping them to develop new skills useful in their personal, family and working lives.
Groups are delivering quality services in a range of creative ways and meeting needs in relation to transport, heritage and rural regeneration. Community activists are highly skilled and are enabling local groups to influence decision making. However, inspectors reported there is scope for CLD partners to be more systematic in supporting a wider range of groups and services need to be more reflective to improve for the future.
As a result of the inspection CLD providers will in future share knowledge and skills, increase involvement of participants in reviewing progress and provide opportunities to inform local decision-making.
Chairman of The Highland Council’s Education, Culture & Sport Committee, Counillor Bill Fernie said: “The new format of HMIe inspection is in line with the Council’s drive to co-ordinate its approach to life-long learning. Primary and secondary schools already work in associated school groups to support the continuity from nursery through to secondary. The new HMIe model will help support the continuing integration of services across all sectors of the Education, Culture and Sport Service.
He added: “The report on Wick High School confirms the significant improvements made over the past few years and we are confident this will continue in line with HMIe recommendations. We are now working with the Parent Council and Head Teacher to spend £1million to upgrade and improve facilities and discussion with pupils, parents and staff are currently being held to decide how this could be used most effectively.
“This is the first of the new inspections for CLD in Highland and all providers, both voluntary and statutory were included in this process. We are pleased with the report which shows that projects, programmes and activities are making a difference to individuals and communities and will be working to further improve services in line with HMIe recommendations.”