HERMITAGE Academy’s head teacher says his profession needs to get “back to basics” by ensuring that pupils’ spelling and grammar is up to scratch.

Robert Williamson told Helensburgh and Lomond councillors recently that he believed the focus of English teaching needed to move away from creativity and back to making sure pupils can get the basics of English right.

Mr Williamson was speaking in response to a lament from depute council leader Gary Mulvaney, who said too many employers were still receiving job applications from young people riddled with mistakes.

Cllr Mulvaney, who also runs a business in the town, told Argyll and Bute Council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee: “I’m probably speaking more as an employer than a councillor here, but in my view the number of job applications and Cvs from school leavers with basic grammar and spelling errors is an issue for employers.”

Mr Williamson replied. “I understand that, and I think there is a need to get back to the basic tools for reading and writing.

“As a profession we worked for decades on creativity, but I do think the basics are very important for young people – and for teaching as a profession.”

Presenting a report on the school’s latest performance statistics, Mr Williamson said there were “lots of encouraging things” in the achievements of the academy’s pupils.

The report sets out the exam results achieved by Hermitage pupils over the last three years – showing that in many cases the school’s performance is ahead of both the Argyll and Bute and Scotland-wide averages.

At Higher level, the school’s A-C pass rate was 79.5 per cent – ahead of the Argyll and Bute and Scotland-wide rates of 75.9 and 77 per cent – while the National 5 pass rate at A-C, 86.35 per cent, was well ahead of both the council-wide and Scottish averages.

The academy’s “school leaver destination” figures have also improved over the last three years, with almost 91 per cent of pupils entering higher or further education, employment or training, up from 88.9 per cent in 2013-14 and 87.4 per cent last year.

Away from academic achievement, the number of pupils receiving free school meals at Hermitage – a measure widely used as a key indicator of deprivation – has fallen to its lowest level in five years, while the number of pupils in receipt of clothing and footwear grants has fallen to 151, or 11.7 per cent, from a high of 190 (14.5 per cent) two years ago.

The school roll at Hermitage for 2016-17, however, was also the lowest for five years: 1,296 pupils attended the school last year, down from a high of 1,362 in 2013-14.

Mr Williamson said the school had plans to review its values, vision and aims as a result of attaining Rights Respecting School ‘level 1’ status earlier this year.

Committee chair, Councillor Ellen Morton, told Mr Williamson: “The academy is of vital importance to Helensburgh and Lomond and is of great interest to all elected members so please do keep us informed.”