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The difference a year makes

The news from Rothesay Academy makes fascinating reading (page five). After the claim and counter-claim that greeted the streaming policy at St Paul's High in Glasgow, should we suggest that the remarkable increase from 9 per cent to 45 per cent in the number of pupils who gained five or more Standard grade Credit awards at Rothesay is a triumph of mixed-ability class organisation?

When the question is posed in that way, it does rather indicate that the Daily Mail fraternity should pause and reflect on what factors make for success in schools. Neither of those two schools would surely claim that the approach of the other, in terms of class organisation and ability groupings, was the only thing that mattered. Rothesay Academy's apparently remarkable progress will not, we predict with some certainty, be given the same media exposure as St Paul's, although its achievement is no less remarkable. To be fair to St Paul's, it is not claimed that streaming is the only ingredient in its success. There is the small matter of the quality of teaching and the resources put behind it.

When schools are on on a downward spiral or already at the bottom of the heap, there is only one way to go and that has to be an incentive to improve. But schools know that, apart from the catchment in which they have to work, the other deciding factor is the variable nature of each year group. Both St Paul's and Rothesay had a poor S4 in 2004 and a rather better one in 2005.

Coincidence, or what?

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