Aberchirder Primary School action plan after receiving ‘worst inspection report seen in 35 years’

© DC ThomsonPictured is Glen Reynolds, left, and Mike Roy - both councillors were involved in the Aberchirder Primary School action plan discussions.
Pictured is Glen Reynolds, left, and Mike Roy - both councillors were involved in the Aberchirder Primary School action plan discussions.

Teachers at a north-east primary school have defended an inspection report branded the worst in 35 years.

Inspectors visited Aberchirder Primary late last year, and ranked it weakly in all four categories. The nursery was also ranked weak in two sections.

Yesterday, members of the Banff and Buchan area committee were presented with an action plan on the improvement measures the school would be implementing.

Councillors admitted they had been shocked by the inspectors’ findings, with Fraserburgh representative Brian Topping describing it as the “worst report seen in 35 years as a councillor”.

Among the issues raised was the weak leadership of the school, and failures to raise attainment and achievement while ensuring the well-being of pupils and inclusion.

But members heard there have been major staffing issues at the school, with a large turnover and difficulties in recruitment.

Councillors heard retaining a head teacher had caused leadership problems, with a new one appointed every year for the last five. The existing permanent head was appointed while pregnant, and is currently off on maternity leave.

In their report, inspectors from Education Scotland state: “It has been difficult to maintain staffing at an appropriate level.

“This has had an adverse effect on the school’s capacity for improvement.

“As a result of our inspection findings, we think that the school and setting needs additional support and more time to make necessary improvements.”

At yesterday’s meeting, acting head Barbara Johnston – who had only been in post 10 weeks when inspectors arrived – presented an improvement plan to councillors.

She was accompanied by permanent head Lisa Campbell, who is currently on maternity leave.

Mrs Johnston acknowledged the issues, and admitted they were continuing.

She said: “There were many criticisms of the school but we tried to portray our strengths.

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“It was difficult as finding supply teachers is hard – after the inspection another member of staff left and her post was advertised, but we had to split her class and make composite classes as no one applied.”

Councillors examined the action plan designed to improve the school.

Committee vice-chairman Mike Roy said: “I’m aware of the changes and difficulties faced so I have confidence that the steps proposed will rectify the situation – it’s a lot of criticism but it’s things for the school to improve on.”

Brian Topping felt for Aberchirder Primary that “the only way is up”.

He said: “This is the worst report I’ve seen in my 35 years as councillor.

“Reading between the lines on the action plan and the report there is nothing that says what support the council has been giving the staff – I would say the council has let them down.”

SNP councillors including Charles Buchan and Glen Reynolds echoed his view.

But chairman Andy Kille disagreed, and said: “We don’t want to make assumptions on the support based on what’s there or not there so we shall request a report with additional information on the support given from the council.”

The report did commend the school for having an acting head who provided good leadership that could establish stability, and for establishing community partnership.

It also praised the staff’s commitment to the welfare of children with particular needs.

Mr Kille added: “I appreciate the struggles with staffing and we can only hope that going forward things will be better when we hear about them next time.”

A further inspection will be carried out by Education Scotland within the next year.