Secondary education was in the spotlight at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee today. Councillors questioned the three local head teachers about the results among senior pupils.
Councillor Ian Mollison said later: “I have to say I was concerned, even worried, by the results from Portlethen Academy. They were lower than those from similar academies. However I was reassured by head teacher Neil Morrison whose presentation was inspirational. And jargon-free, which was refreshing.
“He acknowledged there were “significant concerns” regarding comparative schools. However there were many positives. Secondary 5 pupils pulled up in some measures, and Secondary 4 pupils performed better than expected.”
Mr Morrison also pointed out that young people were very successful at getting jobs or going to college when ideally the staff would like them to stay on longer at school. The concern is that initially they have been very successful but four or five years down the road in their careers they may hit a ceiling in their careers.
Turning to another issue, Mr Morrison said he was very worried about girls at the academy. They are not attaining as they should. One reason could be that a number of female pupils do not have breakfast. Efforts are being to address this, with encouraging results … for example the school canteen is testament to that before the school day begins.
In order to improve standards at the academy, staff have been visiting other schools, such as Mearns Academy and Craigie High in Dundee. Maths have been a particular concern. The teachers have come back with a wealth of ideas, he said.
Portlethen Academy has seen a number of successful appointments in the past year. He told councillors that the staff are very focussed on attainment: “We will ensure all our people attain their very best. We need to increase aspiration.”
Among the other issues he mentioned were career academies where pupils are mentored by business people. He also said that behaviour in the school is significantly better.
I pointed out the obvious – that pupils only have one chance at receiving a secondary education. There is no reason that PortlethenAcademy should not have as good or indeed better results than similar schools. Mr Morrison gave me the confidence that this is achievable.
The Mearns Leader and the Evening Express had journalists at the meeting, so hopefully reports will appear in both papers.
The council meeting also heard reports about progress with dealing with flooding around the Mearns, including Stonehaven, Fettercairn, Portlethen, and St Cyrus.
Planning permission was given for the replacement of a house at Batchart Cottages at Blairs.
A £5000 grant was agreed for the Dickson Hall at Laurencekirk to support Scotland’s only Tea Festival. The three-day festival will mark Aberdeenshire’s links with the tea industry, and is part of the Homecoming 2014 series of events.
A £100,945 tender was accepted to repair and refurbish the Stonehaven Clock Tower in the old town.