A national education report endorsing improving attainment in schools has been welcomed the leader of Moray Council.
However, the comments from councillor’s on the ongoing review of education in the region will not be music to the ears of campaigners hoping to halt any suggestion of closure for Milne’s High School.
A report by Audit Scotland undertaken on behalf of the Accounts Commission has found that there were wide variations in pupils’ performance across the country and that councils must do more to raise attainment more evenly.
In Moray less than 75% of pupils go on to Standard Highers after S4, with the effect of an even lower percentage (17%) achieving at least 1 Advanced Higher.
The leader of Moray Council, Councillor Allan Wright, said that the performance gap has to be addressed, adding: “The report does state that there is evidence of improvement in attainment, and I welcome that, but it also clearly indicates there remains plenty of room for improvement.
“At best we in Moray are generally performing at just above average, but we are capable of so much more.
“In our comparison group Moray is placed just above average at S4, but we rapidly lose ground at S5 and S6, with one school sitting at the bottom of the table at S5 and S6.
“Only Forres Academy is regularly in the top ten of this group, both at S4 and S5/6. We must get more S4 pupils through that barrier and onto success in their Highers.”
A consultancy report by Caledonian Economics into education in Moray is currently being considered by a cross-party group of councillors and is due for wider discussion later this year.
The consultant’s plans have already sparked the formation of an action group in Fochabers including as it does plans to close Milne’s High School.
The consultant’s report proposes widespread changes to the way children in Moray are educated, with ‘campus style’ school groups being created on an area basis and several smaller primary schools amalgamating with larger schools.
In a report for the cross-party Area Based review group, the head of schools and curriculum development, Laurence Findlay, insisted that the world was changing “four times faster” than schools.
He added: “Those of us charged with leading education in the 21st century need to address this urgently. These changes require a major shift in mindset and in practice, and expect a great deal from our education professionals and school leaders.”
Councillor Anne Skene leads the steering group and agreed, adding “I sincerely believe that it is only by making our decisions on educational merit first and foremost, we can fulfil our duty to Moray’s children.
“The council has to look ahead – we have recently agreed a ten-year plan for Moray’s development and using our school estate in the most productive way is part of that strategy.
“If making some changes to the school buildings, building new ones or creating new zones achieves that I believe we are duty bound to do it.
“Over the last 100 years there has been massive change in how people live and learn, and these changes have accelerated in the last two decades or so.
“The council must ensure that it meets the challenges this rapid change in society presents to our education system and can produce well-rounded students fully prepared for their next steps beyond school.”
Meanwhile the Labour councillor for Fochabers/Lhanbryde, Sean Morton, who sits on the cross-party group considering the proposals, said: “We have a chance now to make sure we bring our schools into the 21st century to give every pupil the very best education.
“Moray Labour are involved in this Education Review to raise standards across the board. We want to improve levels of attainment without holding back those who are already achieving excellence.
“The report highlights that we need to raise levels of attainment but we must also remember that we shouldn’t just measure success through academic achievement – not everyone will flourish that way.
“Yes, it’s good that 50% of young people may go onto higher education but we’re in danger, across the UK, of overlooking the talents of the ‘forgotten 50%’ – those young people who wish to pursue a vocational route through education.
“Their future careers are just as valuable. Moray Labour want to see them reach their full potential through things like vocational education and modern apprenticeships. We aren’t prepared to leave any young person behind.”
Moray’s education performance report can be found online at http://www.moray.gov.uk/downloads/file90679.pdf while the Audit Scotland report is at