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Michael O'Neill, North Lanarkshire's director of education, says:

"Third year Standard grade courses in English and maths have now been piloted in two of our schools. We have a fair number of schools where it is under discussion. We are encouraging them but we want them to do it at their own pace, when they are ready.

"It is not just for schools in affluent areas or more able kids. At Standard grade you can study Foundation, General or Credit. Then you can go on to Intermediate 1, 2 or Higher. There are courses for everyone and everybody benefits."

"All 26 North Lanarkshire secondary schools now offer vocational opportunities to children making third year option choices.

"The idea is to provide a core of vocational courses, like construction and hairdressing and beauty, and to expand into areas like call centre training, horticulture, sports and leisure.

"There is an important issue that has to be addressed for schools and authorities offering vocational courses. The more pupils who do City and Guilds or Scottish Vocational Qualifications, the less successful that school looks in the league tables. There is as yet no equivalence for these qualifications in the tables. So the very success of these schools in getting more pupils to get more appropriate qualifications is, at the moment, shown as a failure."

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