This report is the result of a review of learners’ experiences and meeting learning needs carried out by Oban High School between November 2011 and February 2012. Based on the evidence identified, it details headline areas of strength and development, and provides further information on specific aspects of the themes evaluated.
The review was organised as part of new education service procedures put in place in August 2012 aimed at building supportive and robust school improvement partnerships involving the quality improvement team and schools. It was felt by the partnership that the time was right following the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence to take stock and evaluate aspects of learning and teaching throughout the school.
A strategic steering group was set up, which met regularly during the review period to plan and reflect on the process and its outcomes.
The review included consultation with all members of staff on areas for evaluation, a self evaluation task carried out by every department, consultation with 150 pupils through a series of discussion groups led by the Senior Pupil Leadership Team, and 45 full lesson observations conducted by a group representing all levels of responsibility within the partnership.
The steering group consisted of members of the Senior Leadership Team, a Principal Teacher, representatives of the Senior Pupil Leadership Team, members of the Quality Improvement Team, a parent, a local primary Head Teacher and two members of the Senior Leadership Team from a secondary school within Highland Local Authority.
A summary of the parental consultation findings are detailed in Appendix 1
The review process is detailed in Appendix 2.
Members of the steering group are listed in Appendix 3
- The positive learning climate
- Teacher-pupil relationships
- Range of opportunities for pupil achievement
Headline areas for development
- Consistency in promoting classroom rules and routines
- Active and co-operative learning
- Use of formative assessment strategies
Climate for learning and relationships
Pupils value the positive spirit and ethos within the school, with the burgeoning clan system contributing to this. Pupils would like the clan system to be further developed to include a wider variety of activities and a system of merits/points to be reintroduced. Pupils feel that relationships amongst pupils will be reinforced and sustained through the new tutor system.
In most classes observed, there was a good atmosphere for learning. In these classes, pupils quickly settled and were engaged on task. Overall throughout the school, there is a calm and purposeful environment. In some classes there were issues that affected the learning environment. For example some classes were slow to settle and motivation and attention was not sustained. During some of the observed lessons, there was low-level disruption throughout which affected the pace of learning.
Teacher-pupil relationships are good. Teachers know pupils well. During observed lessons there were some very good examples where the teacher-pupil relationships were conducive to a very positive climate for learning, with strong mutual respect clearly in evidence. This included the use of humour to manage pupils effectively and engage them in their learning. Pupils feel that most teachers are approachable. They say many teach with enthusiasm and motivate pupils well. Pupils feel that this could be more consistent across the school. Pupils find Guidance staff very approachable. They value the supportive and positive relationships that they have with non-teaching staff.
In almost all observed lessons, teachers were well prepared and resources were organised appropriately. In the majority of cases pupils knew and followed rules and routines, and were encouraged to do so. In many of these classes, there was evidence of well-embedded positive habits in independent learning, with no prompting required. In the best practice, good starter exercises were used to immediately settle the class, and engaging resources used to gain the pupils’ immediate attention. There were inconsistencies in other classes, for example pupils allowed to keep coats on, hoods up or chew gum throughout the lesson. Pupils also highlighted these inconsistencies in ensuring rules and routines were adhered to.
Pupils feel that a variety of methods of learning is an important aspect of their overall experience, including the use of visiting speakers and experts. Pupils would wish more of these experiences to be provided. Pupils highlighted the variety of course and opportunities offered, including: the school’s Pathways Programme; Skills for Work; leadership opportunities / qualifications; and general work experience.
During the majority of lessons observed, pupils were actively engaged in the learning activities and their interest maintained throughout. In the best of these examples, lesson activity was brisk and there was a good mix of teacher-led and pupil-led activity. There was limited evidence of purposeful collaborative or co-operative learning. Staff identified a need for further training in active learning approaches.
Pupils enjoy the wide-ranging educational trips, believing them to be valuable to their learning and inspirational. Staff and pupils highlighted the wide range of out of school hours activities as a strength of the school. Staff feel that learning is enhanced through links with outside agencies, which could be further developed. Pupils highlighted the benefits of upgraded facilities such as the all-weather playing field and the new stage production facilities in the assembly hall.
Meeting learning needs, including assessment for learning
During observed lessons, differentiated needs were not always met with all pupils in some classes carrying out exactly the same task. Some departments indicated that they have taken steps to group classes to ensure pace of learning is appropriate and matches pupils’ needs. Pupils feel there is a need for more after school exam support to be provided. Pupils would like to be made aware earlier of further education possibilities beyond school. They would like more access to the library facilities.
Staff and pupils valued the input of senior pupils as learning mentors for S1 and S2. Pupils felt they would benefit from more peer mentoring and support from S6 prefects.
Staff identified structures being developed at whole school and departmental level that are supporting the formative assessment process. In relation to formative assessment, staff identified areas for further development. These included a need to provide more pupil feedback and to plan learning accordingly.
Pupils find feedback from teachers useful in their learning but feel that feedback on progress should be delivered earlier, on a more regular basis, and serve to motivate them more. Pupils feel that more meaningful one-to-one dialogue, in both subject and tutor classes, would benefit their learning.
At the beginning of most observed lessons, the purpose of the learning was explained to pupils, in the main verbally. Thereafter, in the majority of lessons observed, pupils were not reminded of what a successful outcome would be.
During observed lessons, teachers regularly checked for understanding by circulating the class carrying out 1:1 dialogues. They were fairly consistent in using questions to check understanding, and in some classes, teachers made very effective use of open questions to extend thinking.
Overall, there could have been more AiFL techniques used to evaluate understanding and engage pupils in evaluating their understanding and progress.
In some of the classes observed, pupils were engaged in a meaningful plenary of their understanding. In most cases, plenary consisted of a teacher-led brief summary of learning. More engagement with pupils in explaining or sharing their learning is desirable.
Pupils feel that there are inconsistencies in the implementation of the system of tracking learning and achievement, and that this system could have more impact on improving pupil performance.
At the commencement of the review process, members of the Steering Group joined a wider body of pupils, parents and staff to engage in a thought-provoking self-evaluation activity. At the conclusion of the activity participants took part in an exercise which measured their initial assessment of the school, based on their group discussions and self-reflection. The group is aware that further analysis is required to triangulate these findings. The conclusion of this exercise was that most participants determined the school to be good to very good, with a few rating it as excellent.
The Steering Group members wish to thank all the pupils, parents, staff and external partners for their time and effort throughout this extensive review.
The school will reflect on the outcome of the review. Staff, senior pupils and parents will work on sustaining and further improving the areas highlighted as strengths of the school. A variety of methods including CPD, mentoring and departmental improvement planning will be used to address the areas highlighted as those in need of development. The Quality Improvement Officer will work in partnership with the school to support this process.
Oban High School Review Steering Group
How can the school help parents help pupils at home?
Meeting held in Oban High School, 19th March 2012
Ideas from consultation:
- Workshops to support parents and pupils at transition from Primary 7 to S1.
- Fact sheets for parents and pupils.
- Workshops to help parents support their children at home. Recent Maths workshop including both parents and pupils has been successful in engaging all groups with over 70 parents and pupils attending recent Higher maths workshop.
- Support for parents with pupils who are staying in Oban High School’s hostel should be explored.
- Workshop format was felt to be a good way to engage with parents and pupils.
- Topics suggested for workshop – health and wellbeing and literacy P7– S3.
- How this should be delivered – by school teaching staff with promotion by Parent Council.
- Agreed that this should be taken forward by steering group.
The Review Process
||Meeting to discuss new model and establish good practice of School Review attended by OHS HT, Partnership QIO and Rothesay Campus Principal.
||Meeting of Steering Group to open discussion the Review and agree on the scope of the Review.
||Staff notified of the Review and invited to join the review team.
||Department self evaluations completed.
||The Steering Group, volunteer members of teaching staff and all the senior pupil leadership team met for a morning session to explore the themes and format of the review process. In the afternoon the steering group distilled the information from the morning session into headings for the pupil discussions and the criteria for the lesson observations. At this stage the format for the discussions, the number of lessons to be observed and personnel to be involved was agreed.
||Pupil Discussion Forums cancelled due to extreme weather conditions.
Pupil Discussion Forums
||Meeting of Steering Group to discuss findings and formulate conclusions.
||Head Teacher, Oban High School
||Partnership Quality Improvement Officer, Oban High School
||Depute Head Teacher, Oban High School
||Depute Head Teacher, Oban High School
||Depute Head Teacher, Oban High School
||Principal Teacher, Science Faculty
||Vice Chair, Parent Council
||Parent Council representative
||Head Boy, Oban High School
||Clan Leader, Oban High School
||Clan Leader, Oban High School
||Head Teacher, Rockfield Primary School
||Head Teacher, Kinlochleven High School, Highland Council
Post Review Action
Since the Review, a new operational School Review Group has been established and has met on four occasions, including three twilight sessions and one In-Service day session. The purpose of this group in the first instance was to establish a dialogue with all teachers over the issue of basic learning and teaching practice that must be adhered to across all lessons for the purpose of consistency.
Additionally, Gerry Geoghegan, Educational Support Officer and behaviour specialist, was invited into school to work with nearly all the subject departments individually to explore classroom management and learning strategies that would be useful in dealing with low-level indiscipline, where appropriate. Also, a steering group consisting of volunteer parents has been set up to organise the P7-S1 transition parent workshops proposed at the parent consultation.
The School Review Team will continue to meet over the coming months to evaluate the progress being made in relation to the Headline areas for development arising from the School Review. This will include analysing the success of the “Basics” work currently under-taken; and using forthcoming In-Service days to take forward AiFL techniques in a consistent manner across all departments.
Glossary of Terms
The following educational terms have been used within this report. Detailed information explaining these can be found by visiting www.educationscotland.gov.uk
Curriculum for Excellence
Skills for Work
Assessment is For Learning (AiFL)