BHS under fire from inspectors

Berwickshire High School has come in for heavy criticism from Education Scotland inspectors who visited in February this year.

Berwickshire High School, Duns
Berwickshire High School, Duns

The inspectors graded the school’s leadership of change as unsatisfactory, its learning, teaching and assessment as weak, its ensuring well-being, equality and inclusion as weak, and its raising attainment and achievement was also judged to be weak.

However, inspectors were impressed by the school’s enhanced provision department which it said was very effective in meeting the needs of pupils with severe and complex additional support needs.

They also praised the “well-designed” school facilities.

Commenting on the report, head teacher, John Clarke, said: “We are disappointed with the inspection outcome.

“We have taken swift action to address a number of the priorities and have a strong plan for working with stakeholders over the coming months.”

Changes already made include: the introduction of a Wellbeing Hub for pupils on individualised timetables; reinstatement of the Pupil Council; introduction of a leadership academy; an increase in curriculum courses for 2019-20; a detention system to respond to low-level disruption.

Scottish Borders Council’s chief education officer Michelle Strong has spent four weeks in the school working with the senior leadership team.

She also wrote to parents on the same day as the school inspection report was made public.

She said: “The school has introduced a range of new systems and structures to more effectively support learners and to ensure a calm, purposeful learning environment.

“I am confident that these changes, combined with a number of others over coming months will ensure the pace of improvement and the quality of outcomes for young people will improve.”

When school inspectors visited Berwickshire High School they found “an urgent need to improve leadership at all levels across the school”.

Inspectors reported: “Across the school, poor behaviour is impacting negatively on learning. Senior leaders should ensure that, as a key priority, there is a whole-school focus on creating calm, safe and purposeful learning environments which are conducive to high quality teaching and learning.”

Writing to parents and carers, the inspection team said: “We think that the school needs additional support and more time to make necessary improvements.”

Their report published this week says: “As yet there is no shared understanding to underpin the required school improvement. Key stakeholders, such as staff, pupils and parents, need to be involved in reviewing the vision and values in order to have collective ownership.

“Senior leaders are devoting too much of their time to operational matters on a daily basis. The recent appointment of a principal teacher for Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) is having some early positive impact on raising awareness of DYW priorities. However, work in this area is well behind national expectations.

“The quality of learning, teaching and assessment in the school is too variable.”

After spending four weeks in Berwickshire High School the local authority’s chief education officer, Michelle Strong said: “I have met with the Parent Council on several occasions and will continue to do so over the coming year to ensure parents are kept informed of progress and can help drive improvements.

“The school will continue to benefit from additional support and expertise from a range of partners until the council and Education Scotland are satisfied with the improvement of the school.”

Berwickshire High Parent Council chair, Fiona Morris, added: “As a Parent Council we will continue to support our school’s efforts to address the issues raised in the report. We fully support the leadership team and the staff, and are encouraged by changes that have already taken place.”

In their letter to parents Education Scotland inspectors said: “We will return to carry out a further inspection of the school within a year of the publication of this letter.”