22 May 2012 Dear Parent/Carer

22 May 2012
Dear Parent/Carer
St Thomas of Aquin’s RC High School
The City of Edinburgh Council
Recently, as you may know, my colleagues and I visited and inspected your child’s
school. Throughout our visit, we talked to parents and young people and we worked
closely with the headteacher and staff. We wanted to find out how well young
people were learning and achieving and how well the school supported young
people to do their best. The headteacher and senior staff shared with us the
school’s view of its successes and priorities for improvement. We looked at some
particular aspects of the school’s recent work. This included the impact of active
learning strategies and information and communications technology (ICT) on young
people’s learning experiences. We also considered the impact of wider
achievements and the effectiveness of alternative learning routes and partnerships in
supporting young people’s learning. As a result, we were able to find out how good
the school was at improving young people’s education.
How well do young people learn and achieve?
Young people benefit from a wide range of high-quality learning experiences. They
are highly motivated and enjoy their learning. Almost all are fully engaged in lessons
right across the curriculum. Relationships between young people and staff are very
positive. Young people demonstrate a strong work ethic in lessons. In almost all
classes, well-organised and stimulating collaborative learning is characteristic of
young people’s experiences. Young people have many suitable opportunities for
individual investigative learning and presentation of work. Teachers plan lessons
very well. They are developing the use of ICT well and young people are confident in
using ICT for a variety of purposes. Young people understand the nature and
relevance of tasks they are undertaking. Staff should continue raising learners’
awareness of how they need to improve their learning.
The school has a strong culture of achievement with young people achieving across
a wide range of skills and interests. The level of responsibility that young people
exercise for organising and carrying out activities, such as charity work, is notable.
Young people take pride in their achievements and are keen to build up a profile of
their experiences and skills relevant to their career aspirations. Staff give them good
support to plan personalised opportunities to help them develop their skills. Young
people are making good progress in most curriculum areas in S1 and S2. Most
departments have developed effective approaches to record young people’s
progress in their broad general education. The school has introduced a new system
Education Scotland
Greyfriars House
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Transforming lives through learning
for tracking and monitoring young people’s progress across most curriculum areas
until the end of S3. This helps staff identify young people who may need additional
support in their learning. By the end of S4, young people’s attainment in SQA
qualifications has been consistently above or well above the national averages. By
the end of S6, young people’s performance has been consistently well above the
national averages. Overall, their performance has been much better than schools
serving young people with similar needs and background. In the last three years, an
increasing number of young people have been moving on to higher and further
How well does the school support young people to develop and learn?
The school effectively supports all young people to develop and learn. In almost all
lessons, young people complete the tasks and activities successfully. In most
lessons, the pace of learning is appropriate and in a few lessons it is brisk. Most
young people feel that they are being challenged in their learning and that they are
supported effectively by all their teachers. Young people of all abilities are
encouraged to do the best they can and feel successful as a result. The school is
very inclusive. Young people with a range of additional support needs are included
fully in class activities. Learning support assistants give very good support to these
young people in mainstream classes and are deployed effectively. More work could
be done to involve young people in planning their own progress. The school should
review the practices of pupil support staff in helping young people in their learning.
Overall the curriculum meets young people’s needs effectively. Across the school,
staff are embedding their approaches to developing young people’s literacy and
numeracy skills successfully within lessons. At S1/S2, young people benefit from
relevant and useful coursework which helps them develop a broad knowledge and
skills base and prepares them well for national qualifications. Some areas of the
curriculum need to provide a more coherent learning experience for young people
with better progression as they move from S1 to S6. The school now has plans in
place to address these areas of the curriculum, including the implementation of the
recommended time for religious education. At S3 to S6, young people experience a
wide range of courses leading to national qualifications and other awards which
enhance their learning. At S5 and S6, young people volunteer for extra work within
the school and the wider community. These and related activities are developing
young people’s life skills. The school has established successful partnerships with
local schools, further education colleges and the community to provide young people
with choices to study other subjects. It has well-established links with primary
schools and should develop these further across the curriculum.
How well does the school improve the quality of its work?
The school is strongly committed to improving the quality of young people’s learning
experiences. It has clear evidence of improvements as a result of self-evaluation
approaches. Across the school, learning and teaching is more stimulating and
active, young people are involved more in their learning and tasks and activities are
more challenging. The headteacher provides very strong and effective leadership
and has a very clear vision for improving the school. She has developed practices
that have improved the quality of young people’s learning experiences and staff’s
teaching approaches. The depute headteachers and heads of departments are
contributing effectively to school improvements. The ‘Practitioners Research Team’
lead the ‘Sharing Excellence Rounds’ where teachers have observed learning and
teaching across the school. This has helped teachers to share good practice and
reflect on how they can help young people learn better. Young people are taking on
roles of responsibility which help develop their leadership qualities and social skills.
The school has established systematic approaches to track and monitor young
people’s performance across the school. These are helping ensure that young
people are making appropriate and relevant progress in their learning. Staff have
participated in ‘Cluster Learning Rounds’ and are working with their primary schools
to organise joint activities for sharing good practice.
This inspection of your school found the following key strengths.
Polite, motivated and responsible young people.
The overall quality of young people’s learning experiences, progress and
The school’s systematic approaches for improving the quality of its work.
The inclusive, nurturing learning environment built on values of the faith
The leadership of staff and young people in improving the school.
The impact of the headteacher’s leadership.
We discussed with staff and the education authority how they might continue to
improve the school. This is what we agreed with them.
Continue to develop the curriculum in line with Curriculum for Excellence.
Review the practices of pupil support staff in helping young people in their
Implement the school’s plans which are in place to meet the national
requirements for religious education in denominational schools.
What happens at the end of the inspection?
We are satisfied with the overall quality of provision. We are confident that the
school’s self-evaluation processes are leading to improvements. As a result, we will
make no further visits in connection with this inspection. The local authority will
inform parents about the school’s progress as part of the authority’s arrangements
for reporting to parents on the quality of its schools.
Hakim Din
HM Inspector
Additional inspection evidence, such as details of the quality indicator evaluations,
for your school can be found on the Education Scotland website at
Please contact us if you want to know how to get the report in a different format, for
example, in a translation. You can contact us
at enquiries@educationscotland.gsi.gov.uk or write to us at BMCT, Education
Scotland, Denholm House, Almondvale Business Park, Almondvale Way,
Livingston EH54 6GA.
If you want to give us feedback or make a complaint about our work, please contact
01506 600200, or write to us at the above address or e-mail: