HMIE visited Dalkeith High School on Thursday, 28th March, 2019 as part of a national thematic inspection looking at empowerment for parent/carer and pupil participation. Their findings will contribute to a national report that will be published on the Education Scotland website. Verbal feedback was given to the Senior Leadership Team at the end of the visit and the comments received have been used to prepare the report below.
National thematic inspection: empowerment for parent and pupil participation
Dalkeith High School
Thursday, 28th March
Feedback from HMIE
HMIE visited Dalkeith High School on Thursday, 28th March, 2019 as part of a national thematic inspection looking at empowerment for parent/carer and pupil participation. Their findings will contribute to a national report that will be published on the Education Scotland website. Verbal feedback was given to the Senior Leadership Team at the end of the visit and the comments received have been used to prepare this report.
HMIE colleagues gave very positive feedback to the school at the end of their visit. Our work on pupil voice will feature in the national report as an example of effective practice. The school has also been asked to write a case study about the pupil leadership of the school show that will appear on the Education Scotland website.
The inspectors considered opportunities for participation by parents/carers and pupils in school improvements to be meaningful. The self-evaluation document prepared in advance of the meeting was seen as an accurate reflection of the school’s position with regards to empowerment for parent and pupil participation. The many strengths of the school were outlined in the document as well as next steps for further development.
Parents/carers are actively involved in the life and work of the school. Their views are welcomed, sought and acted upon. The variety of communication methods used by the school is appreciated by the parental community.
Tracking procedures in the senior phase are very well received by parents/carers. The introduction of Show My Homework has been welcomed and there is an understanding that its full potential will be explored in the coming sessions.
The development of pupil voice by the school is seen as a positive move by parents/carers. It is viewed as an example of ‘co-opted democracy’ in which all pupils are able to take part in the decision-making processes by being selected at random to attend the meetings of the Pupil Voice Forum to discuss issues relating to school improvement.
Involvement in Learning Walks in previous sessions was enjoyed by parents/carers and there is a willingness for this to continue in future sessions. Parents/carers participate fully in the recruitment of senior members of staff.
The enthusiasm of staff to do their very best for the young people was highlighted as a strength of the school by parents/carers.
Parents/carers would like to be equipped to support their young people further with their learning and would appreciate the development of materials to allow them to do so. Such materials could be shared on the school website or Show My Homework.
More opportunities for family learning would be welcomed by parents/carers. It was suggested by HMIE that this could also include opportunities for parents/carers to work towards attaining additional qualifications themselves or to gain work experience.
The structures and systems used to listen to pupil voice are inclusive and were commended by the inspectorate team. The random selection of pupils to attend the meeting led by Pupil Voice Leaders is appreciated. Pupils feel confident that their voice is being heard and that they are having an impact. Pupil Voice Leaders particularly appreciate the opportunity to meet with the Senior Leadership Team to complete the feedback loop.
The introduction of 5-a-day is a positive move and it was recognised by the inspectorate team that the conversations that take place during the meetings with the Senior Leadership Team are linked to school improvement priorities. This was commended as a very sophisticated use of the 5-a-day system.
Pupils are very articulate and can talk about many aspects of the school’s work. Their commitment to the school is clear. Pupil participation is an area of strength with many examples evidenced, including learners leading their own learning and the learning of others.
Recruitment of staff is an area in which pupils value the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making processes in the school. They believe that the school places trust in their abilities to carry out such an important task. Pupils also acknowledge the degree of trust placed in them though their inclusion in the recent rounds of Learning Walks in which they evaluated learning experiences alongside member of the Senior Leadership Team. Observation sheets used were devised by Pupil Voice Leaders based on challenge questions in ‘How Good is Our School?’ Pupil Voice Leaders accompanied the inspectors during class observations made as part of the inspection visit. The inspectors commented on the thoughtful way in which the pupils were commenting on the learning experiences observed. This demonstrates the strong, positive relationships across the school community.
The school’s approach to recognising achievement is positively perceived by pupils. This includes the use of the merit system, Learners of the Month displayed on doors, letters home to parents/carers. Achievement Tuesday takes place on the last Tuesday of the month and pupils find it motivating to be encouraged by House Captains to recognise and record their achievements out of school. They are able to talk about how the skills developed through achievement out of school can impact on their learning in school. The incentive of the House Prize is which the House with the greatest number of House Points wins a trip to Alton Towers (S4-6) or Blair Drummond Safari Park (S1-3) is valued by pupils. They approve of a recent change in which the ‘top achievers’ from each of the other Houses are included in the trips, along with pupils from the winning House.
The range of enhancement opportunities provided by the school is valued by pupils. The use of the Inclusion fund to break down financial barriers to inclusion is well embedded.
Pupils are proud of the many leadership roles that they engage with, including Peer Supporters helping with S1 transition process and the co-creation of the revised anti-bully policy, My World of Work Ambassadors leading the learning of pupils, staff and parents etc.
Pupils value the support given by staff very highly.
Departments/faculties gather the views of pupils to inform improvements.
The use of Show My Homework is embedded across the school and is being used well as a communication tool.
Partnership working to enhance the learning experiences is strong and is clearly linked to the attainment of qualifications wherever possible. This has led to the creation of wide range of curricular opportunities, such as Forest and Outdoor Learning Award, Duke of Edinburgh, STEM activities, Skills for Work courses etc.
The school should continue to ‘popularise’ pupil voice activities.
Pupil voice gathered by departments/faculties should be collated by the Senior Leadership Team and shared with all. This will allow for collaboration across the school in the use of the views of pupils.
The rationale for partnership working should be made explicit with anticipated benefits for both the school and partners clearly outlined. The school should continue to collate information about the many and varied partnerships that exist.
The school should move forward with plans to identify those pupils who are not engaging in wider achievement opportunities, with any barriers to inclusion identified and addressed.
Pupil voice should continue to be used to inform further development of the curriculum.