Don't leave the girls behind

do not forget the girls in the drive to push up boys' attainment. That is the message from a Glasgow east end secondary which has seen a significant increase in the number of fourth-year pupils who achieved good Standard grades this year.

The performance of all Scottish secondaries was published last week on each school's website on www. - a device intended to comply with freedom of information legislation but frustrate media attempts to construct league tables.

The lack of real information in such tables is well reflected at Smithycroft Secondary, which had 80 per cent of S4 pupils achieving five or more Standard grade Credit or General awards, compared with 68 per cent last year. This was largely accounted for by an improvement at General level, although the figures also include Intermediate 1 and 2 passes.

The school's figures compare with a Glasgow average of 67 per cent for five-plus Standard grades 1-4 and Intermediate 1-2 passes, against 63 per cent last year; the Scottish figure remained at 76 per cent for the two years.

David Cumming, the headteacher of Smithycroft, said the starting point was drilling down through the Scottish Qualifi-cations Authority's statistics.

"We discovered in our analysis last year that boys were doing better than girls in subjects you would not expect, such as English, modern languages and art," he said.

"This suggested that the focus on boys' attainment had allowed the girls to operate too much in their comfort zone. So we upped the ante with the girls for 2006, and we believe that accounts for the improvement this year," Mr Cumming said.

The outcome was that the school moved from the eighth decile of performance in Standard grade 1-4 Intermediate 1-2 to fifth: the number of girls attaining at that level went from 67 per cent to 88 per cent, while boys'

improvement increased from 68 per cent to 76 per cent.

Generally, however, the 2006 exam results are little different from previous years. Schools in better-off areas continue to do well, while those in poorer neighbourhoods languish.

But the changing quality of differing year groups also makes an impact. For example, St Paul's High in Glasgow, despite its "streaming" policy, saw a drop in the numbers getting Standard grade 1-4Intermediate 1-2 from 71 per cent to 52 per cent. In turn, last year's better fourth year made their mark in S5 by pushing up the numbers with three or more Higher passes from 4 per cent to 7 per cent.

The Scottish average for three-plus Highers in 2006 saw a drop from 23 per cent to 21 per cent.

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