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Our School Story:
Banff Academy

Headteacher, Alan Horberry, took over at Banff Academy in 2017, inheriting a school with a negative culture and a bad reputation locally.

The learners were disaffected, there were a high number of behaviour referrals and staff were starting to feel directionless. A Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) visit early the following year identified that behaviour and relationships in S1 – S3 needed to improve. The challenge had been set.

Whilst researching behavioural strategies, senior staff at the school chanced upon “When the Adults Change Everything Changes” literature, and they have not looked back since. SLT got on board with the concept straight away, and after reading the book could see its relevance and alignment with the vision they had for the school. They wanted to use the practices to address the issues that had been identified in the HMIe report.

All teachers and support staff were issued with their own copy of “When the Adults Change Everything Changes”. These books helped direct conversations and were supplemented with 10 hours of professional learning, scaffolded around the book and delivered at faculty and whole school meetings. Staff buy-in has been intrinsic to the cultural shift of the school, with staff clearly able to see the value of the approach.

Back during the COVID lockdowns when staff found themselves ‘talking into the void’ on Zoom screens the school needed to be creative in how they engaged with their learners. The ‘When the Adults Change…’ training and approach was instrumental in developing and maintaining relationships. Banff Academy introduced an innovative ‘squad’ approach to pastoral care, a more targeted and relational approach to guidance, with each teacher supporting a small ‘squad’ of pupils. This squad approach continues today.

Hot Chocolate Fridays take place weekly, rotating around the different age groups, and with the criteria ever evolving and looking beyond academic success. Students now also get the opportunity to nominate their peers and celebrate their ‘quiet wins’. Hot Chocolate Fridays have been expanded into the termly ‘Golden Ticket’, which is incredibly popular with the pupils!

A large proportion of professional learning time was initially allocated to working through the ‘When the Adults Change…’ materials and embedding the ideas. It is not a once-and-done strategy and Banff Academy recognises that. The school works hard to maintain the profile of the principles. In-service materials are constantly revised to stay relevant. New members of staff are brought on board with the approach as part of their induction and they have attended bespoke training sessions.

The school has a different culture today, with the learning environment transformed from a shouty place with disengaged learning, to a calm nurturing setting. The number of negative behavioural referrals has reduced dramatically, and the number of Hot Chocolate Friday nominations has increased significantly! Practice has been changed not simply policy, with every decision being made by the school putting students at the centre.

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