Glasgow starts to ask the questions

Glasgow's education directorate is to take a more interventionist stance with headteachers as part of a wide-ranging action plan to improve examination results which will include a yearly published report to councillors. National tables published last week show the city at or near the bottom of most of the 12 "leagues", although the authority was quick to issue its annual lament about the failure to take account of improvements in performance by individual schools or the impact of deprivation on achievement.

Ken Corsar, the director of education, told the education committee last week: "We do not want to take shelter in complacency, and neither do we wish to be a counsel of despair. Glasgow teachers work as hard if not harder than most and there is growing evidence of a year-on-year increase in levels of achievement in Glasgow schools, showing a consistent improvement in performance."

Councillors are being invited to a special meeting on December 17 at which this evidence will be put before them. In the meantime the education department will pile on the pressure to improve performance still further. Heads will agree with senior officers which areas need specific attention and annual review meetings will be introduced to discuss progress.

An action plan drawn up with heads will cover the key contributory factors: homework policy, departmental monitoring, attendance, articulation between S1S2 and S3S4, study skills or supported study and assessment of course work.

The education support service, which combines the inspectorial and advisory functions of the former Strathclyde's quality assurance system, will be responsible for identifying aspects of underperformance. It will comment on the quality of schools' self-evaluation and development planning.

The support service will also be expected to spread the message about subject departments which are turning in good or improved results. A report to the education committee noted: "Good performance in individual subjects in particular schools should be disseminated so that the improvement which has been a feature in many schools becomes the norm in most."

Mr Corsar's strictures on raw scores found support from John Young, Tory leader on the city council, who said: "League tables take no account of social factors which undoubtedly do have an impact on a school's performance."

But Malcolm Green, the council's education convener, stressed that the emphasis on exam results obscured "a very serious curricular point which is that people won't get the results unless they put in the effort and they won't put in the effort unless they have the motivation. That is an absolutely key point which we intend to address."

Dr Green added: "Crude tables are only useful as a starting point for asking questions. But it is up to us to ask the questions."

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