Inspectors label school ‘weak and unsatisfactory’ in damning report

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A SCHOOL which was accused of forcing its previous award-winning headteacher out of her job has suffered a damning report by inspectors.

Burnhouse School for children with severe behavioural problems was given three “weak” and two “unsatisfactory” ratings in categories including learners’ experiences, improvements in performance and the curriculum.

HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) described the progress of pupils at the school as “slow” and said they were “not learning as well or as much as they could”.

The Whitburn school was visited by inspectors in October. They found that while the pupils enjoyed sporting activities such as fishing, climbing and martial arts, they were not motivated to take part in class activities.

They also noted that only “a few” had achieved one or two standard grade qualifications at the lowest levels.

The school came under the spotlight at the start of the year when the Evening News revealed the then headteacher Margaret Gibson was forced into early retirement after being off work with bereavement and depression and also because bosses highlighted a critical HMIe report from 2009.

However, it emerged that the inspection report was bogus, with the last HMIe report having been published in 2006.

Ms Gibson told the Evening News in January she has been left “devastated” by being made to give up her work, particularly as it followed the deaths of her husband, son and mother which had led to her taking an extended period off work. She has now retired after initially fighting the school’s decision.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Gibson described the damning HMIe report as a “great pity”.

She said: “In December 2008, HMIe were holding a conference at Burnhouse as a centre of excellence, so this is a dramatic change. It’s just so disappointing and I hope the staff and the kids are OK. The new head will certainly have a big task on her hands.”

Headteacher Laura Quilter started at the school in August. Although she was praised by school inspectors for the start she has made, HMIe raised a number of concerns. In a letter to parents and carers, HM inspector Norma Wright said: “Young people are not learning as well or as much as they could. They spend most of their time taking part in a variety of activities outside of school. Most of the tasks young people do involve completing textbook or worksheet exercises.”

She added: “Young people are not receiving a broad general education. Approaches to develop young people’s skills in literacy, numeracy and looking after their health and well-being are not effective enough.”

School bosses say they have an “action plan” to turn the school around.

Ms Quilter said: “There is no doubt that this is a disappointing report. However, I am pleased to note that the HM inspectors recognised that the school has a clear vision and that senior management is intent on making changes.

“The report also highlights that staff give good attention to the young people’s care and welfare and that most of our pupils feel that staff encourage them to do the best they can.”

Councillor Andrew Miller, West Lothian’s education leader, added: “We know that steps are in place to address the issues raised in the report by the inspectors, and Burnhouse is well placed to take the recommendations forward.”