Castlebrae exam results down despite £800k boost

Castlebrae High. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Castlebrae High. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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EXAM performance at crisis-hit Castlebrae Community High School has continued to tumble – despite an emergency cash injection worth more than £800,000.

New figures indicate performance on most measures has fallen or flatlined compared to 2013, as the Craigmillar secondary battles to get back on track after narrowly avoiding closure last year amid poor test results and plunging rolls.

The number of S4 pupils achieving basic English and maths passes at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level three by the end of S5 has collapsed from 90 to 53 per cent. Only two per cent of youngsters obtained a Higher pass by the end of S5 – down from 12 per cent in 2013 and trailing the city-wide rate of 54 per cent.

Around £820,000 has been spent on turning Castlebrae around, including a decision to splash £60,000 on providing iPads to every pupil and removing a £388,000 overspend from the school’s budget. The disappointing data comes after former head Derek Curran, 54, was released on bail after appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in connection with domestic abuse allegations.

Biology teacher Gavin Atkinson, 56, has been charged with sending inappropriate 
messages to a pupil and assaulting another student, both understood to be under the age of 16.

Norma Prentice, previously headteacher at Drummond High, was appointed to lead Castlebrae through 2014-15.

Susan Heron, parent council vice-chair, said: “We were led to believe that it was all on the up.

“The fact that there have been four temporary headteachers since 2013 must play a part in this. We need stability within the school. It is unrealistic to think that attainment was going to be rectified within one year.”

Education experts stressed it could take years to turn around a struggling high school.

Terry Wrigley, editor of Improving Schools journal, said: “Generally, it takes four to five years to transform a secondary school. That’s because of the complexity of secondary schools, with more teachers involved with each class.”

City bosses said indicators including S1 enrolment and exclusions had shown improvement and that they were committed to ensuring the school has a strong future.

Councillor Cathy Fullerton, deputy education leader and chair of the Castlebrae Working Group, said: “We have high expectations that further positive changes will be seen in the next year as everyone at the council, the school and the local community are committed to working together to ensure pupils get the best education possible.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com