PUPILS whose education was disrupted by a major fire at Woodmill High have helped turn it into one of the country's most improved schools.

The Sunday Times league table shows that, for the first time, half of the leavers in 2023 attained five or more Highers - the Scottish Government's 'gold standard'.

The top performing senior pupils were among the 1,400 kids forced to travel all over West Fife for lessons when the school went up in flames on August 25, 2019 and had to close.

Dunfermline Press: Fire ripped through Woodmill High School on August 25, 2019. Eighty firefighters worked through the night to tackle the blaze.Fire ripped through Woodmill High School on August 25, 2019. Eighty firefighters worked through the night to tackle the blaze. (Image: David Wardle)

They also had to learn at home when the pandemic hit, making their achievements all the more impressive.

Woodmill rector Sandy McIntosh told the Press: "I am really pleased that the success of our young people has been recognised, demonstrating excellent improvements in the number of our school leavers achieving five or more Higher results last year, comparing well across all secondary schools in Scotland.

"There were massive efforts from those young people to enjoy that success.

"They faced significant disruption not only through the fire in 2019, but also like every other young person in Scotland, going straight into Covid lockdown the following Spring."

Back in 2016 only 28 per cent of the school's leavers achieved the gold standard, this progressed to 37 per cent by 2022 and, last year it hit 50 per cent, helping to lift Woodmill from 160th place to 54th in the league table.

This confirmed its status as one of Scotland's most improved schools, ahead of this summer's move to the new £220 million Dunfermline Learning Campus.

Dunfermline Press: Rector of Woodmill High School, Sandy McIntosh. Rector of Woodmill High School, Sandy McIntosh. (Image: Contributed)

Mr McIntosh recalled: "All of our staff were really motivated during that time, keeping a focus on the learning and wellbeing of our young people, doing their best to make sure that our students were well supported, and any disadvantaged was minimised.

"The local authority were also fantastic in supporting us, pulling out all of the stops to get the best solutions for us, during and after the fire, to help us return to our school building to us as quickly as possible. "We were also well supported by the local schools that hosted us at that time. "All of this has helped our students to enjoy their current success."

One of the biggest fires in Scotland that year, more than 80 firefighters worked through the night to battle the blaze and the extensive damage meant the school had to close.

Fife Council faced the huge logistical headache of finding alternative accommodation for 1,400 pupils and more than 100 staff members, with space found at Beath, Queen Anne, Inverkeithing and St Columba's high schools, the Vine Centre and Fife College while the Department of Additional Support moved into Blairhall Primary School.

Temporary classrooms were installed but it wasn't until October 2020, more than a year after the fire, that all pupils were back on site at Woodmill.

The cost was put at more than £1 million and a 14-year-old boy later appeared in court in connection with the incident.

Mr McIntosh recalled: "Through this period of disruption there was massive support for our young people, from their families and the wider community.

"Woodmill has always had a strong sense of community, and through that period we had an even greater focus on our school values of 'We Are Woodmill', something we believe in strongly."

Looking to the future, the rector said he was "really excited" about the move to the new campus in August, which will be shared with St Columba's and Fife College.

He added: "Through employment, training, college or university, we want to equip all of our young people with an education that will open doors for them and create options and opportunities for their next steps and so that they can all enjoy a positive destination.

"There are some great opportunities ahead with what will be an amazing new school building, and I want to make sure that this creates a springboard for even greater opportunities for all of our young people to enjoy academic and personal success.

"We have some of the very best young people in Scotland and will have a new school building and facilities that will match our shared ambition."