FIFE Council's Educational Services have made outstanding progress in meeting objectives and have become the most improved service in Scotland.
That's the message that has come through the latest HMIE (HM Inspectorate of Education) report published this week which follows up the council's report from 2002 where a number of major improvements were recommended. This latest report highlights just how far Fife has come and how much progress has been made
Education's Psychological Service has also been very highly praised within their own report for the "significant impact made on Fife's children, young people and their families". The report talks about the service's "major strengths and outstanding features of practice" and inspectors praise the "excellent levels of professionalism, commitment and high quality teamwork from all staff." The service has now been asked to showcase its work nationally so that others can learn from Fife's best practice.
Chair of the Council's Education Committee, Councillor Douglas Chapman, is delighted with both reports' findings.
"A huge amount of hard work and effort across services has helped the inspectors reach their conclusions and congratulations are due to everyone involved.
"One of the council's top priorities is "Improving educational attainment and achievement for all" and I think this report proves that we are well on the way to doing that. This reflects very much the hard work, commitment and strong leadership which is coming from the senior management. Ken Greer, Executive Director Education, has been singled out by inspectors for special praise."
Fife's vision for education is "Excellence for All" and one of the council's key priorities is to improve education and attainment and opportunities for achievement for children across the Kingdom. The HMIE report praises the strong leadership and very effective teamwork within the education service and the focus on its key priority - improving the educational experience for every child in Fife. However, the report does point out the service faces challenges including having the second largest pupil population in Scotland and providing consistent high quality services against a background of constant efficiency savings
According to the report pre-school provision in Fife is very strong and children in almost all nurseries were making "good or very good progress." And over the last three years primary school pupils have also improved significantly in the main areas of reading, writing and maths. Most are now achieving or exceeding the national 5-14 levels in these areas. In secondary schools S1 and S2 pupils are also making "good progress" in reading, writing and maths. However the report does point out that the service has to focus on improving attainment for pupils in S3-S6 although this is broadly in line with the national averages.
Ken Greer, Executive Director, said: "Raising attainment remains a key priority for us. We're working hard to increase attainment levels across every stage. It's worth remembering that a lot of our work till now has been about improving the service we provide to schools through a focus on learning and teaching. We are now seeing the results of this at the first nine years of school, but it will take some time for the full impact through improved results for our pupils at every stage."
Inspectors were impressed with the scope and range of extra-curricular activities on offer in Fife - part of the service's Excellence for All vision which promotes wider achievement. They also praised the work of staff working in community learning and development to provide young people with development opportunities beyond the school day.
The report highlighted an achievements website which helps celebrate success and promote good practice across the service. And there was praise for the fact that all primary schools have Pupil Councils to help promote active citizenship and the wide range of sports and music opportunities on offer.
Fife's track record on dealing with discipline and behaviour was another area where inspectors felt good progress has been made. The service has successfully reduced exclusion levels in secondary schools, preventing difficulties by promoting positive behaviour and introducing the "Cool in School" project in primary schools.
Schools were also praised for their positive relationships with local communities. Added Councillor Chapman: "The strength of Fife's partnership working is one of the areas the report specifically mentions as being outstanding. It's through working in partnership with many different organisations, schools, teachers, pupils and parents that we can broaden the educational experience for our children, giving them every possible opportunity.
"This report paints a very positive picture of education in Fife. We are proud of everything we've achieved so far and we now have to build on all that good work to make sure that attainment levels continue to rise, we open doors of opportunity for all our Fife's children and our performance continues to improve."