Stranraer Academy is a school of approximately 1150
students, 90 teachers, 18 classroom assistants and 15
technical, auxiliary and clerical staff. The catchment
area, in the Rhins area of Wigtownshire, reaches from
the Mull of Galloway in the south, to Portpatrick in
the west, Glenluce in the east, and Cairnryan in the
North. It could be described as remote
its closest neighbouring secondary school is in Northern
The building that greets visitors is daunting - a dilapidated
concrete block surrounded by wire fencing that is, hopefully,
destined for demolition. Once past this eyesore, however,
the view gives way to our exciting main building, erected
in 1997, that resembles an up-market shopping mall (See
Picture A). The far end of our large campus comprises
a further three sixties-built concrete blocks and some
excellent sporting facilities - two football pitches,
a rugby pitch, swimming pool (See Picture B) and an
all-weather running track. Hopefully, renovation and
building work will be completed by 2007.
An outstanding feature of Stranraer Academy - in which
we take pride is that it caters for all students
in our community of all abilities and with special challenges.
It has three learning resource centres providing support
for students with, respectively; severe, profound and
complex learning difficulties, moderate learning difficulties
and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
The schools surrounding community is economically
dependent on two shipping lines to Ireland, agriculture,
a creamery and other small scale industries and enterprises.
Unemployment is high, and low paid and part-time jobs
are common. The school is subject to the benefits and
problems of both rural and urban life. The mix, then,
is one of varying needs and demands, requiring a wide
range of support systems. Twelve years of innovation
have strived to address these.
Varying the Curriculum
The curriculum has been a major challenge. Whilst most
of the curriculum suits the majority of students most
of the time, issues like relevance, motivation, pace,
rigour and level of the curriculum have challenged us
in relation to some students.
Some youngsters were unable to cope with Foundation/Access
3 levels in S3/S4. Year after year we seemed almost
resigned to this group - usually in double figures -
either failing to cope, becoming disaffected and even
in some cases being excluded. Alternatively, they were
supported in the more academically and socially restricted
context of a learning support centre. Last year we developed
an Access 2 Science course that was very successful
in motivating students, providing progression and making
them feel part of the mainstream curriculum. It is our
aim to develop Access 2 courses across the curriculum,
featuring them in our option forms equally alongside
all other choices.
This year we also linked up with the Stranraer campus
of Dumfries and Galloway College to provide an option
for S4 students experiencing significant disaffection.
In February twelve students began a series of vocational
taster courses comprising Construction, Hairdressing,
Care and Hospitality, with an option to choose one for
more intensive study in August. Seven students stayed
the course and, importantly, are far more confident,
positive and outward looking. Their future prospects
As elsewhere, it takes prolonged determination to get
scarce tradesmen in Stranraer, yet our curriculum offered
few clearly vocational choices. To combat this we became
an Authority pilot school, linking up with the local
college again to offer SVQ and SQA courses in Hairdressing,
Care, Hospitality and Construction. These opportunities
have been eagerly taken up by 35 students who, hopefully,
will have achieved Intermediate 2 standard by the end
of S4 and, importantly, will also have real experiences
on which to plan their future.
Like many schools we have also widened the academic
curriculum, introducing Media Studies, Psychology and
Sociology. Those have all been popular, providing competition
in the subjects market and generating controversy
among staff in subject areas that have lost students
to the new subjects.
Staff evaluations suggested that some learning skills
and attainments were weaker and in need of practise
by all students at all levels to ensure learning consolidation.
To address this we created a unique 30-minute, four
days a week, time-tabled slot named Extended Study.
This offers every student the opportunity to develop
and consolidate their Mathematical skills in S1, specific
technical English skills in S2, Learning, Study and
IT skills in S3 and Science skills in S4. A high percentage
of S5 and S6 students have part-time jobs - this development
gives them dedicated time for study either of a general
nature or in a curricular area of their choice - e.g.
Art. Our Library offers excellent study and IT facilities
(See Pictures C and D)
Extended Study allowed for extra study and preparation
for a variety of subjects - perfect for doing timed
responses in semi-controlled conditions. It was also
a set time when we were able to discuss our work in
details with staff and other students".
Study has without doubt become my most useful tool
in consolidating knowledge and understanding".
While we are only in the second year of this project
the improvement in national test results in English
Writing was dramatic - our best ever. Chemistry, Physics
and Biology also improved - partly attributable to the
science teachers being able to refresh learning
from units covered in S3 throughout S4 but without impinging
on the S4 course which ran as usual.
When parents of our students with severe, profound and
complex needs pressed us to extend inclusion by placing
the youngsters from their support unit into some mainstream
classes, we did so with some apprehension. However,
the extent of their participation and inclusion has
been highly encouraging. They simply operate within
a curriculum more significantly differentiated than
that of the other students in class, many of whom also
require some differentiation.
Extra-curricular activities have also expanded over
the last year, thanks partly to the appointment of a
sports co-ordinator for the school. There are 28 extra-curricular
options for students, from role-play to rugby, chess
to curling, as well as clubs for writers, art, debating
and, of course, football. Our girls 7s team will
be in the national finals at Hampden Park and the under-13
boys (see Picture E) will play Currie High School in
the Scottish Cup Final at Firhill. Many of our youngsters
progress through the school, both social and academic,
is underpinned by positive self-esteem acquired through
extra-curricular achievements reinforced by positive
feedback from highly committed staff.
curricular activities develop students sporting
and recreational interests across a wide range of
activities. They also promote personal and social
development of students and foster closer links between
students and staff".
A: Our modern central hall.
B: Our excellent facilities include
a swimming pool.
C: Our library offers an ideal study
D: The library with Success Maker software
and students' artwork displayed above.
E: Our under-13s were Scottish Cup Finalists.