Two years ago Warout Primary School, with an unwanted history of low achievement and poor attainment results, was facing the very real possibility of being axed as Fife Council’s education department enbarked on a root and branch review of the school estate.
The outcome instead resulted in the town losing Tanshall Primary which finally closed for the last time in July 2015.
Warout Primary lived on to see another day - although the dark cloud of closure remained over staff, pupils and parents alike - with the proviso that if improvements were not made, and attainment levels not significantly advanced, then a similar fate to that of Tanshall was a distinct possibility.
Fast forward two years and Warout’s fortunes couldn’t be any more different.
Runaway improvements in excess of 20 per cent in some core areas, has this week brought praise and a personal visit from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and with it a £67,000 share of a £4 million Scottish Attainment Scotland fund.
The First Minister witnessed for herself the new approach being taken by the school and spent over an hour and a half on Monday morning engaging with pupils in a number of classes as they took part in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) projects as part a new science-based approach to learning.
“The Attainment Scotland is already supporting schools in the most deprived areas to implement projects to raise literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing,” Mrs Sturgeon told the Gazette.
“We want teachers and pupils to get creative, be excited about learning and come up with imaginative approaches to it.”
She added: “A lot has impressed me here at Warout school today, for the instance the P1 and P2 pupils cookery class where children were improving their literacy, numeracy and also learning a valuable life skill clearly shows how the initiative is working for pupils.”
And the visit and praise of the First Minister was a reflection of just how far the school had come in just two years, according to Craig Munro, executive director of Education and Children’s Services.
He said: “Warout Primary has worked incredibly hard to implement a range of approaches and strategies to improve literacy and numeracy throughout the school.
“The commitment of former headteacher Carole Storrs and acting head Marie Hagney and the nurturing environment of the whole school have brought about great improvements and, while everyone will agree that there are challenges remaining, they deserve to be recognised for the efforts and the improve-ments which have been made to date.
“The school has made a significant difference to the outcomes for these children and their families.
“It has used a number of strategies which have been specially tailored to meet the needs of that particular school community.
“They have worked closely with Ladybird Nursery and Auchmuty High School to improve their approaches to transition, making the change from nursery to primary to secondary as smooth as possible for the children and ensure a consistent approach.”
While Warout Primary School’s current core statistics may be below the Fife average, it is no less a seismic shift in where the school was in 2013.
Peter Grant, Glenrothes and Central Fife MP said the improved results were the evidence that all troubled schools could achieve significant improvements with the right support.
“The social problems are well documented, but as the staff and the pupils have proved in recent times, with the right approach and support, anything is possible, that’s the message other struggling schools should take from Warout’s lead,” he said.
“The pupils and staff are the true stars here and should be rightly applauded, long may it continue.”
As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised last week that education would be “front and centre” in her election campaign, she also announced that a new testing framework for primary schools would be introduced in a bid to bridge the gulf between the best and worst performing schools.
New funding, announced as part of her visit to Glenrothes, was also confirmed including a £4 million to improve educational attainment in schools across Scotland and a £1.5 million innovation fund.
“I’m announcing today the availability of a £1.5 million fund for which schools will be able to apply for a share of to help fund a range of projects they think will have an impact on pupils literacy and numeracy and health and wellbeing,” explained the First Minister.
“This will also help with things that they have indicated have been successful.
“This is all about being open minded in ways of closing that stubborn gap between attainment levels for schools within the most deprived parts of our country and schools in less deprived communities.
“Schools are at the absolute heart of what we need to do to raise attainment, nobody knows better than teachers and head teachers on how to get the best out of children to make sure that they benefit most from their education.
“This is encouraging schools to come forward with imaginative, innovative and creative ideas of how they can further raise education standards.
“I don’t want schools to be scared of trying something new, to see what works and to achieve those results.”