How a once-troubled Edinburgh secondary school was transformed

Head teacher says the city secondary has improved its attainment for eight years in a row

The story of Castlebrae High School shows how Edinburgh has been able start cutting its poverty-related attainment gap.

A decade ago, the secondary in the Niddrie area was considered one of the worst performers in Scotland. Local education chiefs earmarked it for closure, amid rocketing absence and exclusion rates, a plummeting roll, and underwhelming exam results.

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But councillors overruled officials in 2013, voting to save the school, after a campaign by parents. At the time, the school had just 165 pupils on its roll, including only 17 in S1, and the numbers got worse before they got better.

Castlebrae pupils at work on a projectCastlebrae pupils at work on a project
Castlebrae pupils at work on a project

But now, after several years of progress and relocation to a £28 million facility last year, its roll is expected to top 1,000 in the coming years.

Head teacher Norma Prentice said the school had been on a “big journey”, in part due to the support of Government funding initiatives, such as the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) and Pupil Equity Fund (PEF).

“We really have been on a journey, but for the last eight years we’ve had a year-on-year improvement in attainment,” she said. "That was before the SAC, but being a SAC school has definitely accelerated the improvement for us.

"We managed to appoint certain positions through PEF and SAC, which has really helped to focus on attainment.

"Castlebrae was always very good, and we still are, at the softer skills of supporting pupils, of putting props into position. But that hard focus on attainment, how can we support them throughout the year to actually achieve what they are capable of, I think that has been a big difference.

"We’ve got a post called an attainment development officer, and right away we’ve identified pupils at risk next year of not achieving what they should achieve, and he will then work with pupils, work with staff, looking at how they can get them there.”

Ms Prentice added: "When I went to Castlebrae, pupils weren’t proud to be there. Now I would say they are really proud of their school and they are proud of what they are achieving.”



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