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Attendance makes results grow stronger

The positive effect of good attendance on attainment seems to have been borne out by the exam results at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow, writes John Cairney.

The southside school, which has been among the best attended schools in Glasgow for the past three years, is only one point (37 per cent) above the city average for the number of pupils entitled to free meals, the recognised barometer of poverty.

But it has 10 per cent more S5 pupils gaining three-plus Highers than the city average, 23 per cent against 13 per cent. Its improvement has been steady: the percentage of pupils gaining three or more Highers for the previous two sessions was 15 per cent and 20 per cent.

This year's achievement puts it in joint second place in that particular "league" with Notre Dame High School for Girls, just behind Hyndland Secondary, both schools where numbers entitled to free meals are lower - 31 per cent and 19 per cent respectively (the Scottish average is 16 per cent).

The proportion of Hillpark pupils gaining five or more Highers is 7.6 per cent, again beating the city average of 4.7 per cent. This is in a school described by Joan Donnelly, the headteacher, as "a real comprehensive with a very mixed catchment area".

Other factors affecting results, Ms Donnelly believes, include a well-attended study support scheme for four nights a week from October to May and an eight-day course revision programme in the Easter holidays.

The role of the school staff in the revision programme is crucial, Ms Donnelly says. "We feel that our own staff are best placed to support our young people in the run up to the exams."

She also credits the school's course options policy and the curriculum support available. "We ensure that courses are both challenging and appropriate and that no one opts for anything less than they are capable of doing.

"The school's pastoral team provides excellent curricular support and sets targets for all youngsters which makes them more focussed."

The pathway to the Highers begins immediately after the S4 prelim exams in December. Following the prelims the pastoral care team is issued with recommended progression routes for all pupils by subject principals.

The pastoral staff discuss the recommendations with each pupil and set individual targets in January. Shortly after entering S5, the targets are reviewed with pupils and a report issued to parents and pupils in October.

In November, subject principals issue further pupil reports and this is discussed at a parents' meeting at the end of the month. The early start is vital, according to Willie Todd, the depute head.

"From January of the fourth year every pupil is very focused, has high expectations and is aware of the progression routes available in terms of Highers," he said.

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