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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK


Inspectors condemn 'gang fight' school

Inspectors arrived unannounced at the school

Inspectors have issued their most scathing report on a Scottish school after witnessing a gang fight and hearing how pupils were concerned for the personal safety.

Officials who arrived unannounced at Musselburgh Grammar School said they felt obliged to extend their visit amid serious doubts over standards of discipline and security.

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Inspectors said they witnessed "a fight between rival gangs at the entrance area of the school" in East Lothian and were aware of other "serious incidents".

And in a survey of pupils' views, one third of those who responded "expressed concerns about their safety in school".

A similar number said the school - which is a comprehensive, though it has retained its historical name - failed to deal effectively with the problem of bullying and parents also complained about poor behaviour.

The inspectors said: "The serious incidents in and around the school had a disturbing effect on its general atmosphere."

They also cited difficulty by some staff in dealing with pupils "who presented severe behavioural problems and a larger group of pupils who displayed minor but more persistent problems including an unwillingness to work".

Half of those parents interviewed "felt the school did not have a good reputation in the community".

Major weaknesses

The HM Inspectors of Schools report identifies major weaknesses in safety, security, care and welfare - although the staff are praised for trying to cope with what are described as unusually difficult challenges.

East Lothian Council and the school's headteacher, Terry Christie - who is also the manager of Alloa Athletic Football Club - say the report is unfair in its representation of the school.

But the inspectors say they want action taken immediately.

They call for improvements in security and pupil safety "as a matter of urgency" and want the headteacher and staff to develop a strategy for dealing with "serious weaknesses in the school's ethos and arrangements for care and welfare".

Prior warning

Douglas Ostler: Seeking "highest possible quality" education
Scotland's Chief Inspector of Schools, Douglas Osler, said the decision to turn up at the school without prior warning had not indicated prior concern over standards at the school.

"There has always been a view with perhaps some of our inspections we should turn up unannounced, partly because it relieves the stress on teachers in the preparation period," he said.

"And also because it allows us to compare with inspections that are announced."

Improve security

East Lothian Council Leader, Norman Murray, said measures are already being taken to improve pupil safety and he expressed unhappiness at the way the school has been portrayed to the media.

He said: "We are improving security at the school and are looking very closely at installing closed circuit television. That's not an over-reaction to the situation we were looking at doing that anyway.

"But I do want to get away from the idea that Musselburgh Grammar and Musselburgh itself is a lawless town."

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