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Academies in Turriff and Oldmeldrum commended for educational efforts with pupils in Aberdeenshire

By David Porter

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Staff at Turriff and Oldmeldrum academies were praised this week for their efforts in helping pupils achieve positive destinations post-education.

Turriff Academy
Turriff Academy

Members of the Formartine Area committee which was held in Daviot this week heard the annual attainment figures for the schools which covered the last academic session.

They also questioned the two heads on the contacts and development that the schools had engaged with in higher education and employment.

Turriff head teacher Lee Menzies explained: "Schools in Aberdeenshire are placing a real focus on literacy and numeracy as these are key gateways for pupils to achieve, both through academic qualifications and through apprenticeships.

"We have seen some 98 per cent of our pupils achieve a positive end destination.

"Turriff sees a proportion of pupils leave after S4 and many look to apprenticeships or college places, while others do continue into S5 and S6 and beyond to higher education."

Building further links with NESCOL and the Scottish Rural College had brought positive results for the school with pupils completing the Construction Crafts Skills for Work award at National 5, Health Sector Skills for Work award at National 5 and the

Rural Skills National Progression award.

She continued: "We are also building on the development of Foundation Apprenticeships using a variety of delivery models to meet the needs of our young people and this includes more flexible packages to provide more bespoke learning opportunities in S4 – S6."

On Meldrum, head teacher Ian Jackson was also positive on the results achieved: "We've seen 97 per cent of our pupils go on to positive destinations and we've been looking closely at the cases where this has not been the case.

"We've also looked at pupils who have suffered long term absences and what we can do to help them achieve, including one to one tuition where it was appropriate.

"Like Turriff, we are also focusing on literacy, with reading programmes for targeted S1 pupils being widened to target the whole year."

Both of the heads stressed that this was a vital skill set that pupils had to attain as Mr Jackson explained: "While many of the employers that our pupils go on to work for do still look for a level of what would be considered old fashioned practical skills, in this day and age the ability to deal with information technology and the sheer volume of information that goes with it in any business setting are outpacing the learning of the employers themselves, so it is vital that youngsters are capable."

The links between social background and achievement were also brought forward by councillors, who queried the levels of pupil equity funding being accessed.

In both instances there had been an increase, with Mr Jackson noting: "Meldrum has seen an almost 100 per cent increase in equity uptake.

"In particular we've seen a significant uptake on the social breakfasts at the school which have had a massive uplift.

"There has certainly been a change in the demographics and there is a significant increase in deprivation within our catchment that perhaps doesn't appear on the radar."

The heads were notable concerned about those who were borderline, with those just above the line considered to be in the most difficult situation as they could not access assistance.

Councillor Anne Stirling raised the issue of parental involvement at secondary level, with the heads responding that it was a challenge to continue to get parental involvement.

Both schools were praised for the work done by the parent councils, but Mr Young noted: "At primary school parents are very hands on and get involved in the learning process.

"At secondary that doesn't happen and parents only really see us when they need to."

Mrs Menzies said: "It is a challenge to ge parents involved especially with family learning."

On the issue of course choice councillor Karen Adam asked if as had been perceived there was a reduction in choices for pupils.

Both wer adamant that this was not the case, with over 190 possible subjects across the levels achievable through links with the colleges, but as Mr Jackson pointed out: "Actually in school it comes down to physically having the staff."

In schools, modern technology continued to offer potential new solutions, including subjects where there were no staff available locally as had been the case in looking at bringing forward a course in Gaelic language.

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