15th October 2019
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Poor inspection report returned for Sandwick Junior High School

Sandwick Junior High School and its nursery class have received a poor report from Education Scotland inspectors.

The school has been classed as weak in three key areas and satisfactory in only one.

Meanwhile, the nursery class was said to be weak in its “leadership of change” and satisfactory in other areas.

Inspectors acknowledged that the school had experienced “considerable challenges” around staff changes and recruitment difficulties.

They also said the school was now in a more stable position and well placed for the head teacher to provide stronger leadership.

Additional support has been allocated by Shetland Islands Council’s children’s services to help Sandwick make improvements.

The inspection team is due to make a return visit within nine months to see what progress has been made.

SIC education and families committee chairman George Smith voiced his disappointment over the report.

But he said the school had faced “significant challenges” – including the threat of closure during the last council.

“I recognise that all those involved with the school and who care deeply about it may well be disappointed with the conclusions reached by Education Scotland contained in their inspection report,” Mr Smith said.

“It is the case that Sandwick Junior High School has faced some significant challenges over the past few years, not helped by the uncertainty around potential school closures across Shetland during the last council.

“The school has also had problems recruiting and retaining teaching staff, especially in the secondary department.

“Added to that, the last few years has seen a number of changes in the delivery of education with the continued bedding in of Curriculum for Excellence and new assessments and qualifications, so there are a number of factors which have come together to lead to this inspection report.”

Inspectors did find a number of strengths at the school, however.

The report stated that staff were caring and nurturing in their interactions with youngsters, creating a “positive and welcoming” learning environment for children, young people and their families.

As a result, they were included well in the life and work of the school. Partners also supported all children and young people to achieve widely in the school and community.

Mr Smith added: “I’m very pleased that inspectors have highlighted a number of areas of strength in the school.

“This is reassuring but no-one should be in any doubt about the need to address the areas highlighted for improvement.

“To that end, staff both in the school and within children’s services have already started work on an improvement plan for Sandwick, with additional support being provided at all levels.

“I welcome this and would thank everyone concerned for their efforts.”

Overall, the school was evaluated on four so-called “quality indicators”.

• Leadership of change – weak;

• Learning, teaching and assessment – weak;

• Raising attainment and achievement – weak;

• Ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion – satisfactory.

“Learning, teaching and assessment”, “securing children’s progress” and “ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion” were all classed as satisfactory within the nursery setting.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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