Denny High School
Falkirk Council
1 March 2011
HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) inspects schools in order to
let parents1, young people and the local community know
whether their school provides a good education. Inspectors also
discuss with school staff how they can improve the quality of
At the beginning of the inspection, we ask the headteacher and
staff about the strengths of the school, what needs to improve,
and how they know. We use the information they give us to help
us plan what we are going to look at. During the inspection, we
go into classes and join other activities which young people are
involved in. We also gather the views of young people, parents,
staff and members of the local community. We find their views
very helpful and use them together with the other information we
have collected to arrive at our view of the quality of education.
This report tells you what we found during the inspection and the
quality of education in the school. We describe how well young
people are doing, how good the school is at helping them to learn
and how well it cares for them. We comment on how well staff,
parents and young people work together and how they go about
improving the school. We also comment on how well the school
works with other groups in the community, including services
which support young people. Finally, we focus on how well the
school is led and how staff help the school achieve its aims.
If you would like to learn more about our inspection of the school,
please visit Here you can find analyses of
questionnaire returns from young people, parents and staff, and
details about young people’s examination performance. We will
not provide questionnaire analyses where the numbers of returns
are so small that they could identify individuals. Where applicable
there will also be a report on the learning community surrounding
the school.
Throughout this report, the term ‘parents’ should be taken to include foster carers,
residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.
1. The school
2. Particular strengths of the school
3. How well do young people learn and achieve?
4. How well do staff work with others to support young people’s
5. Are staff and young people actively involved in improving their
school community?
6. Does the school have high expectations of all young people?
7. Does the school have a clear sense of direction?
8. What happens next?
1. The school
Denny High School is a non-denominational school which serves the
town of Denny and the surrounding villages. The roll was 1265 when
the inspection was carried out in January 2011. This included 20
young people within Northfield. This on-site facility provides support
for young people with severe specific learning difficulties, particularly
those related to language and communication. Young people’s
attendance was in line with the national average in 2009/2010.
2. Particular strengths of the school
The success of the headteacher and senior leadership team in
leading school improvement.
Young people’s wide range of achievements.
The positive atmosphere for learning with a strong sense of pride
and community identity.
Staff success in improving the life and work of the school.
High-quality support provided by staff for young people with
additional support needs.
3. How well do young people learn and achieve?
Learning and achievement
Almost all young people are very positive about their school
experience. Productive teacher–pupil interactions ensure young
people feel valued, included and supported in their learning. Most are
well engaged and motivated to learn. Young people are increasingly
enjoying a variety of learning activities including the opportunity to use
information and communications technology (ICT) and to work
collaboratively. Staff should continue to plan learning which increases
young people’s independence and responsibility. Staff need to make
more effective use of questioning and feedback and sharing good
practice. Greater consistency in these aspects will help young people
to be clear about their strengths and what they need to do to improve
further. Learners value the opportunities to share their views about the
school but are not always well informed about what has happened as
a result. Most young people in Northfield are motivated and
successfully engage in their learning. They interact confidently with
adults across the school and enjoy the challenge of mainstream
Young people are increasing their confidence and self esteem through
their involvement in an extensive range of opportunities for personal
achievement such as musical, artistic, sports, cultural, community and
house activities, assemblies and leadership roles. They are positive
about how they are benefiting from these out-of-class learning
experiences. Many have achieved success individually and as part of
teams and groups in competitions and events. Young people develop
their skills very well on the excellent dance programme, including the
Dance Academy. Achievement award programmes improve young
people’s confidence and their capacity to contribute to the life of the
school and community. The school recognises the potential to
develop these further.
By the end of S2, young people are making appropriate progress in
their learning with the majority of young people achieving appropriate
standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Most do so in listening
and talking. In recent years the performance of young people in
national examinations from S4 to S6 has improved in most key
measures of attainment. By the end of S4, the school’s performance
varies between being in line with and below national averages. At
general and credit level or equivalent the school performs in line with
or better than schools serving young people with similar needs and
backgrounds. By the end of S6, the school performs in line with those
schools but overall below national averages. The school is aware of
and has begun to address the gap in attainment by the end of S6
where girls significantly outperform boys in most of the key attainment
measures. Young people in Northfield and those with additional
support needs are making appropriate progress.
Curriculum and meeting learning needs
The school’s vision and values have been reviewed to take account of
the expectations of Curriculum for Excellence. At S1, the curriculum is
broad and well balanced. It provides opportunities for young people to
specialise and choose additional study from a range of options.
The school has consulted well with parents and staff in implementing
these changes. The S1 Scottish Identity project helps young people
understand Scotland better and its place in the world and to link their
learning across subjects. At S3/S4 there is a wide range of course
options with a number of flexible programmes which provide very good
progression and meet young people’s needs well. The Cloybank and
Topps Farm rural skills courses are effective in motivating young
people who are less engaged in the classroom context. The Alcohol
Social Norms project is an innovative approach to informing young
people about the myths surrounding drinking habits. All young people
in S4 undertake work experience and this is continued to S5 for those
who want to participate. At S5/S6 young people can further broaden
their studies through a range of free standing units and vocational
courses. All young people in S5/S6 do not yet have a continuing
experience of religious and moral education or physical education in
line with national expectations. Overall, the school’s work in
Curriculum for Excellence is at an early stage of development and
should be progressed more quickly.
Teachers know their young people well as learners. Staff receive
critical information about young people in order that they can plan
effective learning and provide appropriate support. Staff use a wide
range of courses, materials and resources, including ICT, well to
provide suitably challenging learning for higher achieving young
people. Young people’s emerging interactive use of materials on the
school website such as ‘Snowork’ helps them to extend and
consolidate their learning. Overall, many of the in-class tasks and
activities meet the range of pupil’s needs well. In a minority of
lessons, tasks required to be more difficult and planned more carefully
to meet the range of learner’s needs more effectively. An extensive
team of dedicated and skilled specialist staff provide very good and
well-coordinated care and curriculum support for young people
including those with more complex needs. Support for learning staff
and Northfield staff support young people successfully through a range
of curriculum options and qualifications. They have supported staff
well across the school to develop their curriculum, courses and
materials. Further targeted use of these processes should now be
used to support the development of Curriculum for Excellence.
Individualised educational programmes should be reviewed to ensure
they are used more effectively to support learner’s progress.
4. How well do staff work with others to support young people’s
Support for learning staff work with a number of different agencies and
initiatives to effectively meet the additional support needs of young
people, including speech and language therapy and Seasons for
Growth. Central Scotland Youth Service, Emergency Services and the
Royal Bank all make effective contributions to the personal and social
education programme. The school has developed partnership working
well to support vulnerable young people and their families. The locality
team based in the school provides a useful link to the wider community
through the community policeman and family support workers. Further
partnership work with Community Education and the Wider Access to
School Project (WASP) needs to engage parents more in their life-long
learning. Very effective school-college partnerships with Forth Valley,
Oatridge and Cumbernauld Colleges enhance course choice options
for young people. The Parent Council enjoys good relationships with
the school. It is positive about the level of discussion and their
involvement in the school’s new vision statement, homework policy
and Curriculum for Excellence.
5. Are staff and young people actively involved in improving
their school community?
The school’s approaches to ensuring continuous improvement are
both well-considered and well-developed. Processes are structured
clearly and informed by staff, parents and learner views and classroom
observations. Staff regularly reflect on their own practice and are
increasingly involved in discussions with other colleagues about how
to improve. They use the school’s tracking system ‘on the button’ to
check young people’s progress effectively and to set realistic targets
for improvement. In a few departments the approach to target setting
and discussing young people’s progress needs to be more regular and
consistent. A small number of senior young people are being
mentored to help with their progress. Detailed analysis of each
department’s attainment statistics is undertaken annually and priorities
are identified where action is necessary. As a result of these initiatives
attainment and the consistency and quality of learning and teaching
are improving. Staff support each other well in contributing to whole
school improvements such as the re-organised House system which is
enhancing young people’s sense of belonging and achievement. The
school is aware of the need to engage more parents more often in
effectively evaluating the work of the school.
6. Does the school have high expectations of all young people?
The school has high expectations of all learners including those who
have challenging home circumstances. It tracks carefully the
attainment of all young people including those who are looked after or
act as carers. Almost all young people behave well. Staff’s work in
resolving difficulties through its restorative practice approach, is
developing a greater sense of young people being included. The
number of young people excluded from school has reduced and is
below the national average. The school has appropriate procedures in
place relating to child protection and to dealing with allegations and
complaints. The arrangements for religious observance are
appropriate and are being developed further through the House
system. Young people’s awareness of diversity issues is being
extended through their in-class work in several departments across the
school but this good work needs progressed further. Young people in
Northfield would benefit from socialising with their mainstream peers
more often. Staff need to ensure that the school’s reward system is
applied consistently and fairly by all staff in all departments.
7. Does the school have a clear sense of direction?
The headteacher has a clear vision for enhancing all young people’s
confidence to achieve. He has actively encouraged staff at all levels to
be accountable and to take on more responsibility for improving their
practice. As a result many staff lead well a range of successful whole
school improvement groups. He has introduced a more effective,
reflective and collegiate approach to evaluating the work of the school.
He is well supported by the depute headteachers, principal teachers
and resource manager. Together they have ensured an appropriate
and sustained focus on improving the quality of learning and teaching,
on analysing attainment more rigorously and on providing more
effective support for young people’s progress. Denny High School is
an improving school. The headteacher, in providing a clear lead and
strong commitment to systematically evaluating the work of the school
and to continuous improvement, has enhanced its capacity for further
8. What happens next?
As a result of the very good quality of education provided by the
school, we will make no further visits in connection with this inspection.
The education 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.
We have agreed the following areas for improvement with the school
and education authority.
Accelerate the pace of implementation of Curriculum for Excellence
and ensure a continuing experience of religious and moral
education and physical education for all young people in S5 and
Engage more parents effectively in supporting young people’s
Continue to improve the quality of young people’s learning to
further raise attainment.
Quality indicators help schools, education authorities and inspectors to
judge what is good and what needs to be improved in the work of the
school. You can find these quality indicators in the HMIE publication
How good is our school?. Following the inspection of each school, the
Scottish Government gathers evaluations of three important quality
indicators to keep track of how well all Scottish schools are doing.
Here are the evaluations for Denny High School.
Improvements in performance
Learners’ experiences
Meeting learning needs
We also evaluated the following aspects of the work of the school.
The curriculum
Improvement through self-evaluation
HM Inspector: Donald A Macleod
very good
very good
1 March 2011
When we write reports, we use the following word scale so that our
readers can see clearly what our judgments mean.
very good
outstanding, sector leading
major strengths
important strengths with some areas
for improvement
strengths just outweigh weaknesses
important weaknesses
major weaknesses
If you would like to find out more about our inspections or get an
electronic copy of this report, please go to
Please contact us if you want to know how to get the report in a
different format, for example, in a translation, or if you wish to
comment about any aspect of our inspections. You can contact us
at [email protected] or write to us at BMCT,
HM Inspectorate of Education, Denholm House, Almondvale Business
Park, Almondvale Way, Livingston EH54 6GA.
Text phone users can contact us on 01506 600 236. This is a service
for deaf users. Please do not use this number for voice calls as the
line will not connect you to a member of staff.
You can find our complaints procedure on our website or alternatively you can contact our Complaints
Manager, at the address above or by telephoning 01506 600259.
Crown Copyright 2011
HM Inspectorate of Education

Denny High School Falkirk Council 1 March 2011