Castlebrae High slammed by inspectors

Pupils and parents from the Craigmillar School protested over a planned closure earlier this year. Picture: Neil Hanna
Pupils and parents from the Craigmillar School protested over a planned closure earlier this year. Picture: Neil Hanna
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INSPECTORS have heavily criticised one of Scotland’s most under-occupied schools, just months after it was saved from closure.

Earlier this year, Castlebrae Community High in Edinburgh – which was less than a third full – was allowed to stay open after parents mounted a campaign to save it.

But a report published yesterday by Education Scotland said there remained “considerable headroom” for improvement, with the performance of children actually “weaker” in exams than in previous years.

Officials at Edinburgh City Council had recommended the Craigmillar school, which has some of the worst exam results, truancy and exclusion rates in Scotland, should close this summer, with pupils moved to other secondaries.

But in March, councillors went against the recommendation and decided to keep it open following a long-running campaign by parents.

Inspectors from Education Scotland visited the school in May, following up earlier visits in 2012 and 2011. In its report, the agency states: “Overall, at all stages, there has been insufficient improvement in young people’s attainment.

“Currently, the school is not yet in a position to provide a clear picture of young people’s progress across all aspects of learning at S1 to S3. At S4 to S6, young people’s performance in national examinations across most subjects is not improving and is weaker than in previous years.”

The report adds: “Across the school, too many young people, including those with additional support needs, are not making enough progress in their learning.

“In too many lessons, teachers are still not planning tasks and activities which engage or motivate young people or meet their needs well. The quality and frequency of homework remains too variable across the school.

“Teachers’ expectations of what young people can learn and achieve are not yet consistent or high enough.

“Some young people continue to perform well in certain areas but there still remains considerable headroom for improvement in young people’s learning experiences and attainment.”

Last year, only 5 per cent of pupils at Castlebrae achieved one or more Highers, while the figure across Scotland as a whole was 46 per cent. No pupil achieved three or more Highers.

But while about 15 per cent of pupils in Scotland receive free school meals – one of the few reliable indicators of deprivation – the figure for Castlebrae is more than 50 per cent.

Derek Curran, the school’s headteacher since June, said changes were already under way to address some of the concerns highlighted by the inspectors, including replacing around a quarter of the school’s staff.

“It was to be expected for a range of reasons,” he said. “A lot of energy has been taken up with the threat of closure and a lot of the young people were involved in that campaign.

“This is a school that was built for 800 to 900 pupils and there’s 130 kids rattling around in it. A lot of the things we’re doing are about bringing a heart to the school.

“When I was a maths teacher here in 1983, it was a thriving comprehensive school, where the bulk of the local community went. The introduction of the Parents’ Charter [which gave parents more choice over which school to send their child to] totally destroyed that.”