Alness Academy transformation sees pupils embracing a bright future
Alness Academy Head Teacher Ms Nicky Grant has tackled the Academy’s challenges head on and is successfully creating future ready students through personalised learning environments.
When Ms Grant joined the Academy as Head Teacher back in December 2018 she determined that improved experiences and outcomes for children could be achieved through working together creatively with staff, students, parents and the wider community. This approach has served the Academy well in the last few months where many aspects of the schools vision are effectively being achieved as planned.
In March 2019 the Academy welcomed a glowing Education Scotland inspection report. The school was commended for its consistently high quality learning and teaching across the school; increased expectations for learners’ experiences and for placing student and staff wellbeing at the centre of the school.
The school introduced an innovative approach to curriculum rationale and design to tailor personalised learning environments. This was achieved through their in depth knowledge of students and the intergenerational barriers they face to learning. Significant progress has also been made in student attendance and closing the attainment gap. The Academy is also benefiting from improved community perception following a successful rebranding exercise, which facilitated an enhanced corporate image, with new uniform and crest, and instilled a sense of pride in students.
Says Ms Grant: “I am delighted with the progress of our approach to create ‘career ready’ students. Through successfully building connected, compassionate and authentic relationships we have been able to focus on staff empowerment and leadership skills; successfully incorporated a focus on social skills development in our curriculum design and are seeing pleasing increases in student attainment, achievement and leadership skills. Further, the Scottish Government’s initiative to ease the path to higher education will benefit many of our students. Currently 22% of our students go on to university study and the ‘Aspire’ branch of our transformation project will ensure that those who have aspirations for higher education are given the support and develop the skills required to realise this.
“With 48% of our students returning to work in the area, we want to equip our young people with the necessary skills and experiences to become the best workforce. Through our Workforce Academy we work closely with local businesses, such as the Firth Project, to support career readiness with foundation apprenticeships, mentoring and cross-sector work experience.”
Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson, said: “There is truly innovative work going on across our schools in Highland. Alness is a terrific example of this, where an exciting new model is being established, of a Workforce Academy involving community business partners and pupils. The school has an ambitious vision for getting young people career ready through a personalised curriculum, developing social skills, raising attainment, and connecting to the community through apprenticeship and local career opportunities. This year, our exam results demonstrate the success of innovative approaches like this at Alness.”
Following his visit to the school on Monday (2 September) Education Secretary John Swinney said: “At the heart of our education agenda is a persistent focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap. The innovative work taking place at Alness Academy is indicative of the projects I see in schools across the country as they continue to engage with the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
“This impressive programme demonstrates the positive impact that empowered teachers using their knowledge of their school communities to tailor programmes to meet the specific needs of pupils can have on their pupils’ attainment and educational outcomes.”
Looking ahead the Academy will continue to understand their role in the local community and embrace all opportunities, including increasing parental engagement in building a stronger school community and creating a sports academy to hone local talent alongside a coaching and mentoring scheme. In continuing to support improved attainment outcomes the school will work closely with a literacy development officer and collaborate on best practice across their associated school group (ASG).