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Ullapool High School inspection highlights a "need to build leadership skills" in the school

By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Ullapool High School and headteacher Caroline Boyd.
Ullapool High School and headteacher Caroline Boyd.

An inspection report for Ullapool High School has highlighted the "need to build leadership skills" in the school, as well as praising the "caring and supportive environment" for learning.

Ullapool High School caters for around 200 pupils from across the rural west coast, including Scoraig, Lochinver, Achiltibuie, Badcaul and Dundonnell. In June 2022, Caroline Boyd was appointed as the new headteacher for the school, and previously taught in Aberdeen and Moray.

In November 2023, Education Scotland inspectors visited the Wester Ross high school to evaluate its key strengths and weaknesses. As a part of their visit, the inspectors spoke to parents, carers and young people, as well as working closely with the headteacher and staff.

The inspection report, published on January 23, gave the school two overall 'Good' ratings for Raising Attainment and Achievement; and for Ensuring Wellbeing, Equality and Inclusion. However the school also received two overall ratings of 'Satisfactory' for Leadership of Change; and for Learning, Teaching and Assessment.

According to the inspection report, key strengths of the school included the "caring and supportive environment" for learning, and a refreshed vision, values and aims for the school thanks to new headteacher, Caroline Boyd.

The Education Scotland report said: "Young people learn in a caring and supportive environment. Young people look after each other.

"The headteacher has led on refreshing the vision, values and aims. This is beginning to improve the strategic direction of the school.

"Partners work effectively with the school to support young people’s wellbeing, leading to positive outcomes such as improved progress for those who require additional support.

"Senior leaders and staff are putting in place successful approaches to raise attainment in areas such as literacy. Almost all young people leave school to go to employment, higher or further education.

However, the inspectors also highlighted areas of the school in need of improvement, which were discussed with headteacher Caroline Boyd and a representative from The Highland Council.

According to the inspection report, there should be an increase in pupils doing Gaelic (Learners) awards and qualifications, as well as "a need to build leadership skills" in the school.

The inspection report stated: "Teachers should take more account of information from assessment to inform their planning of teaching. Along with senior leaders, teachers should thoroughly check young people’s progress and have an overview of their skills, attainment and progress.

"Senior leaders should continue to work closely with all staff, parents and young people to ensure all improvement is well planned, resourced and evaluated. There is a need to build leadership skills across the school.

"Senior leaders should continue to plan strategically for Gàidhlig Medium Education, particularly given the welcomed increased numbers at the primary stages. The numbers doing awards and qualifications in Gaelic (Learners) should be higher.

"Staff should continue to plan progress in the curriculum to meet all needs. This should ensure that all young people attain their full potential, particularly the highest-attaining young people."

The Education Scotland Inspection Report concluded: "We are confident that the school has the capacity to continue to improve and so we will make no more visits in connection with this inspection. The Highland Council will inform parents/carers about the school’s progress as part of its arrangements for reporting on the quality of its schools."

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