Strategy plan to improve results

New strategies are to be put in place to help improve exam results in local academies.

Peterhead and Mintlaw Academy’s SQA results were discussed at the Buchan Area Committee on Tuesday.

Councillors voiced their concerns by saying the latest figures were “disappointing” and “depressing”.

At Peterhead, the improved levels of attainment at S4 in 2011 were not maintained, resulting in levels well below the national and comparator school averages. In general, the level of attainment at S5 is below the national average. This is also the case at S6, where, in 2012 most of the figures at Advanced Higher and Higher level were down compared with 2011.

At Mintlaw, the percentage of boys attaining at least 5 awards at SCQF Level 4 was well above the national and comparator school average. At S5, levels of attainment at Higher level were below the levels that might have been expected and were not as strong as they were in 2011.

The improvement appears to be more to boys’ attainment than girls. There was a notable improvement in the attainment at Advanced Higher level in S6, resulting in the highest level achieved since 2001.

Present at the meeting to talk about the measures being taken were Audrey Hendry, quality improvement officer for Aberdeenshire Council and acting headteacher of Peterhead Academy, Evan Ritchie.

At the start of discussions, it was announced that there were big discrepancies in results and something needed to be done to fill the gap. Mrs Hendry said: “There are targets planned within the schools which will be rolled out at the start of the next session. Medium and long term plans will take some time to impregnate but there are a lot of strategies in place.”

Councillor Alan Buchan voiced his disappointment with the numbers, saying: “I have seen the figures over the past five to six years and there has been no improvement. We need to see something done about this.”

Councillor Stuart Pratt agreed but said: “Work has been done and put in place. You can’t just turn it around over night.”

Councillor Jim Ingram asked whether a lack of staff had added to the figures, to which Mr Ritchie replied: “I don’t believe it is. We are making headways and at the moment we only have one vacancy to fill and we are looking to find a suitable candidate.

“The morale of our staff is increasing - even in the recent adverse weather we had high numbers of staff come in and possibly this will be passed on to pupils.”

Councillor Stephen Smith noted the successes of the recent Rock Challenge competition and said: “We need to promote encouragement and motivation through to those not doing so well.”

A focus on keeping attendance numbers up, training and refresher sessions for staff as well as weekly staff meetings focusing on the performance and concerns of pupils are all included within the strategy for Peterhead Academy.

It is also looking to become a ‘Career Academy’ in which pupils can go on placements with professional coaches and focus on subjects that will help them with their future career aspects.

At Mintlaw, there will be an improved student support around the senior course choice process to ensure pupils are able to take the number and range of courses that allow them to maximise their full potential.