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Education / Sandwick school staff ‘working really, really hard’ after inspection report

An image of Sandwick Junior High School taken from uphill. Photo © Mike Pennington (cc-by-sa/2.0)

STAFF at Sandwick Junior High School’s “absolute commitment to improve” following a poor inspection report was praised in the council chamber on Monday.

A report on what is being done with the school and nursery following the report was presented to councillors at a meeting of the local authority’s education and families committee on Monday.

Acting quality improvement manager Robin Calder said “there’s absolutely a will and desire” within staff to improve on the school’s fortunes.

“They are working really, really hard on the school,” he said.

“There’s just an absolute commitment to improve.

“We will continue to work really carefully and constructively with all the teaching staff.

“There’s a really good ethos of striving for improvement at the school at the moment.”

The school was deemed ‘weak’ in three out of four categories after an Education Scotland visit in May.

The other category – ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion – was deemed to be satisfactory.

‘Weak’ ranks at number five out of six on Education Scotland’s scale, with only ‘unsatisfactory’ below it.

Inspectors, however, highlighted a number of strengths, including that staff across the school are caring and nurturing in their interactions with children and young people, creating a positive and welcoming learning environment.

It was said in September that uncertainty over possible school closures in the past and recruitment and retention issues contributed to challenges for the Sandwick school.

Following the report Shetland Islands Council said additional support would be allocated by children’s services to help Sandwick’s leadership team make the required improvements, with inspectors due to make a return by the end of June.

Children services director Helen Budge told Monday’s meeting that Jennifer Wadley, headteacher of Bell’s Brae Primary School, was appointed as the strategic lead for Sandwick’s primary and early learning and child care department as part of a one year secondment as a temporary quality improvement officer.

A quality improvement officer has also visited the school on a weekly basis since the inspection to “support the development of the school improvement plan to directly address the weaknesses” raised by inspectors.

Budge said staff at the school have “portrayed a very positive attitude through this whole experience”.

“They recognise the journey they are on and they are up for that.”

Westside councillor Theo Smith asked whether the inspection being carried out into the nursery and school at the same time in one report could have “diluted” the performance of either department.

Calder suggested that some areas of strength found by inspectors could have been masked by the overall ‘weak’ grades.

He gave members reassurance that not all teaching and attainment at the school was ‘weak’.

Board chairman George Smith, whose south mainland ward includes the school, said the report was “very disappointing” to read.

But he wished to emphasise how people around the school are coming together to work hard on turning things around.

“I’m hopeful that the actions being taken at all levels…will result in the improvements that they are expecting and we are expecting”.

Smith added that a report on the school prior to the inspection is due to be delivered to councillors early next year.

Scottish Youth Parliament member for Shetland Leighton Anderson commented that he was a former pupil of the school and credited it with helping him to get to where he is today.