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Anderson High asked to inspire other schools

Anderson High School as seen from the sky. Pic. John Coutts

LERWICK’S Anderson High School has been asked to share best practice with the rest of Scotland following a glowing report by HM education inspectors.

The 900 pupil school particularly impressed the inspection team with their use of video technology in PE classes to improve performance, and the way children of all abilities and support needs are involved in learning modern languages.

Shetland Islands Council described the report as “exceptional”, after inspectors said the school was coping extremely well with current changes around the government’s Curriculum for Excellence.

Head teacher Valerie Nicolson welcomed the report, saying inspectors had told her the school was “holding its own” with other schools throughout Scotland.

She added: “I feel a sense of relief as this is a time of real educational change with quite a bit of uncertainty out there about Scottish education at the moment.

“It was very reassuring to have these visitors come along and say we are really heading in the right direction in how we are coping with change and planning to get the best for our pupils.”

The inspection took place as the Lerwick school was accommodating an influx of more than 100 new youngsters from the Scalloway secondary department, which was closed last summer to save money.

There has been added uncertainty about the future of the Anderson High itself, after plans to build a new school at The Knab were dropped in September 2009 after workmen were already on site.

The council is now approaching the Scottish government for funds to build a new school at Lower Staney Hill.

The inspection report, published on Tuesday, highlighted:

  • well-behaved, responsible and enthusiastic young people;

  • a safe, caring, inclusive and supportive environment;

  • high quality support for young people with learning needs;

  • enthusiastic and dedicated staff; and

  • strong leadership from the head and her deputies.

Councillor Betty Fullerton, who chairs the education and families committee, said she was particularly “heartened” that the inspectors reported that the Scalloway pupils felt included and were able to progress their learning well.

However the greatest accolade was for the PE and modern languages departments, whose innovations are to be the subject of a repeat visit to gain ideas to inspire other schools.

In PE the school videos pupils as they take part in various sporting activities, so they can immediately see how they could improve their performance.

“This technology was used in golf to film your swing and compare it to Tiger Woods. We use it to give immediate feedback to young folk, it’s much better than someone trying to describe how to achieve a higher standard,” Ms Nicolson said.

The modern languages department also impressed inspectors with the way all pupils, regardless of ability or support needs, were encouraged to keep up a language until they were 16 years old.

“They considered this to be a very inclusive school, but they thought the modern language department was making a really good effort compared to others nationally,” the head teacher said.

“Anderson High is a Shetland-wide school with young people from Unst to Fair Isle so we want to do the best for the whole community.”

Highlands and islands list MSP Jean Urquhart has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the school for its report.

“The Anderson High School consistently delivers education of the very highest order, and the latest HMIE report once again, confirms this. The head teacher, staff, pupils and parents can all be very proud of what their school is achieving,” she said.

The report can be found at