Teachers ‘turned blind eye to smoking and racism’

Inspectors listed a string of concerns after spending time at Burnhouse School in West Lothian
Inspectors listed a string of concerns after spending time at Burnhouse School in West Lothian
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A SPECIAL school in the Lothians has been blasted after teachers were found to be “accepting” of pupils being racist and smoking.

Burnhouse School in West Lothian, which caters for pupils with severe behaviour problems, had already been described as “weak and unsatisfactory” following an HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) assessment last year.

But a confidential report intended for senior managers has emerged that highlights serious concerns, including “a too ready acceptance by staff of smoking, spitting, swearing and use of racist language”, inappropriate use of financial rewards to persuade young people to comply with rules, and poor tracking of the progress of individuals.

The inspection team’s record of findings (RIF), which was obtained under a freedom of information request, also criticises the school for lessons that focus too much on textbook or workbook tasks and providing limited opportunities to use technology.

West Lothian Council has acknowledged the problems highlighted in the secret report, but said the school’s new head teacher, Laura Quilter, was helping it move in the right direction.

In December last year, the News reported how inspectors described the school as “weak and unsatisfactory”, adding that the pupils’ progress was “slow” and they were “not learning as well or as much as they could”.

It was an unexpected turnaround for a school that had previously been described as one of “ambition”.

It won accolades at the Scottish Education Awards in 2007, having been placed in the Labour-led scheme for improvement.

But that failed, and the school was accused of forcing out then-head teacher Margaret Gibson, who had been off with depression following the death of her husband.

At the time, she told the Evening News she was “devastated” at being pushed into retirement, and since then the school appears to have gone downhill.

The report also stated there were “regular violent incidents” and a lack of awareness of additional support for learning.

Despite the criticism, the report does praise Ms Quilet, stating she had a “clear and appropriate vision”.

She only took up the post shortly before the initial inspection in October last year, but the RIF said she was “setting out suitably challenging and high expectations for young people’s attendance, behaviour and achievements”.

A spokesman for West Lothian council added: “Inappropriate language and behaviour are completely unacceptable.”

The area’s education leader Cllr Andrew Miller added: “We know that steps are in place to address the issues raised in the report by the inspectors.”