I now study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. I have learned so many things which will be useful including the importance of time management and the art of delegation!

Marianne Watters
Head Girl 2010/2011

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HMIE reports

Hamilton College

11 May 2010

We published a report on Hamilton College in June 2008. That report set out key strengths of the school and main points for action.

This follow-through report is based on an inspection visit which was carried out in March 2010. It tells you about improvements since the original inspection in the quality of education which the school1 provides. It also comments on how the school is getting on with the main points for action. First we focus on changes in the core work of the school. We explain how the school has got better at helping children to learn and benefit from being at the school. Next we look at the key processes which enable this to happen, including the involvement of parents2. Our report also describes developments in the ‘ethos’ of the school, by which we mean how well children and young people are cared for and how much is expected of them in all aspects of school life. Finally we comment on improvements in leadership to help the school achieve its aims.

A copy of this report has been placed on the Education Scotland website.

Contents

1. The school

Hamilton College is a co-educational independent school, serving a wide area across Lanarkshire and beyond. At the time of the visit the roll was 692, including 41 children in the nursery. Since the original inspection, a new principal and vice-principal have taken up post. The school has continued to improve its facilities, particularly in the nursery and science laboratories and access to information and communications technology.

2. Particular strengths of the school

  • Children and young people who are keen to learn and have high expectations of what they can achieve, in and beyond school.
  • The very strong sense of community and mutual respect.
  • The development of the curriculum to provide young people with relevant and challenging experiences.
  • The very positive impact of information and communications technology (ICT) on the quality of learning experiences across the school.
  • The very effective leadership of the principal, and the positive impact of the senior leadership team in managing change.

3. How well do children and young people learn and achieve?

The school has developed a variety of new and successful approaches to involve children and young people more actively in their learning. Across the stages, children and young people are highly motivated by challenging activities which now give them responsibility for making decisions and seeing tasks through. Through the new ‘active start’ programme, children in the nursery and J1 are learning very well together, and developing their social skills further. In the junior and senior school, children and young people also work together very well on group tasks. At all stages, children and young people use ICT confidently to broaden their learning and develop independent learning skills. Children and young people are setting their own targets, which is also developing their independence well. They now have a say in making their learning better and appreciate the opportunities they have for giving each other feedback in lessons.

The school has continued to promote the wider achievements of children and young people very effectively. A particular highlight has been the commendable work done by the Transform teams, to improve the lives of others in Burkina Faso. Successful fund raising by young people in the senior school has helped improve facilities for physical education and personal fitness.

In the junior school, children’s attainment in reading, writing and mathematics has improved. A significant proportion of children at each stage now exceed expected national levels of attainment. Closer and more effective partnerships between the junior and senior school are helping young people in S1/S2 to build successfully on their prior learning. The school has maintained high standards of attainment at S4 to S6. The proportions of young people attaining five or more awards at Credit and Higher, and one or more Advanced Highers have improved.

Developments in the curriculum are meeting learning needs very well. In line with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, the school has enriched the experiences of children and young people through increased emphasis on active learning and through the strong promotion of education for health, citizenship and sustainable development. These important themes, along with imaginative inter-disciplinary projects, are helping children and young people to make meaningful links across areas of their learning. They now have well-planned opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in different situations, including fieldwork trips, educational visits and outdoor education. Improvements in ICT have had a particularly positive impact on young people’s learning. The school’s very effective development of its own ‘virtual learning environment’ has further enhanced young people’s experiences. This resource provides young people with on-line access to, for example, materials used in lessons, homework activities and revision questions. At S5 and S6, young people now have more opportunities to develop leadership and life skills.

4. How well do staff work with others to support children and young people's learning?

The school has built very successfully on its partnerships with parents, health professionals and the wider community to achieve recognition at gold standard as a health promoting school. It has developed effective links with other schools, for example to broaden experiences at J7 and support work experience at S4. The school now provides young people from local schools with the opportunity to study Advanced Higher level French. The Friends of Hamilton College have continued to develop their role in school improvement. They are more directly involved in supporting learning, sharing their skills and experiences with children and young people.

5. Are staff and children and young people actively involved in improving their school community?

The school now takes better account of the views of children, young people, staff and parents when planning improvements. New arrangements for pupil councils provide children and young people at all stages with opportunities to make a real difference to aspects of the school. Their commitment to protecting and improving the environment and to fair trade is having a very positive influence on the school’s ethos. Across the school, teachers are now sharing good practice and developing their professional skills to improve the quality of learning experiences. Under new arrangements, learning support and guidance staff work very closely and are meeting young people’s social, emotional and academic needs very effectively. The senior leadership team has helped staff across the school to reflect on what is working well and to tackle areas for development. A strong shared commitment to ‘growing together’ has helped the school achieve its improvement priorities.

6. Does the school have high expectations of all children and young people?

Children and young people have very high expectations of what they can achieve and how to conduct themselves. They are very proud of each other’s achievements, in and beyond school. Young people in S5 and S6 with leadership responsibilities and the Friends in S6 provide very positive role models. Individuals and groups lead assemblies very successfully, engaging others by their enthusiasm and commitment. Staff and pupils have developed a high degree of mutual respect, based on shared values.

7. Does the school have a clear sense of direction?

The principal’s visionary and energetic approach to improving the school has inspired the respect and support of pupils, staff and parents. She provides very effective leadership, which includes actively encouraging others to take responsibility for developments. This has invigorated staff who feel valued and eager to contribute to school improvement. The vice-principals and the depute head of junior school provide very effective support and lead important aspects of the school’s work very well. The senior leadership team works very effectively together, giving the school stability and helping to manage change well. The team also works closely with the Board of Governors to ensure that the school provides a high quality of experience for all children and young people. Children and young people now have a much stronger role in making the school better. The school is fully committed to continuing to improve the quality of its provision.

8. What happens next?

There is clear evidence of significant improvement since the original inspection. The Board of Governors, staff and parents share a firm commitment to continuous improvement. As a result of the excellent progress made by the school and the high quality of education it provides, we will make no further visits in connection with the inspection report of June 2008. The school and Board of Governors will continue to keep parents informed about the school’s progress and further development.

HM Inspector: Mary Ritchie

11 May 2010

When we write reports, we use the following word scale so that our readers can see clearly what our judgments mean.

excellent - means - outstanding, sector leading

very good - means - major strengths

good - means - important strengths with some areas for improvement

satisfactory - means - strengths just outweigh weaknesses

weak - means - important weaknesses

unsatisfactory - means- major weaknesses

If you would like to find out more about our inspections or get an electronic copy of this report, please go to www.hmie.gov.uk.

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 HMIEenquiries@hmie.gsi.gov.uk 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 www.hmie.gov.uk or alternatively you can contact our Complaints Manager, at the address above or by telephoning 01506 600259.

Crown Copyright 2010

HM Inspectorate of Education

Footnotes

  • The term 'school' is used to include the work of the nursery class, where relevant.
  • Throughout this report, the term 'parents' should be taken to include foster carers, residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.