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No change on results, but a new format

The new-style publication of this year's exam results shows performance of pupils has hit a plateau.

The tables, which contain national and local authority averages but not individual school results, reveal very little change in the key measures: 33 per cent of students were awarded five or more passes at Standard grade 1-2 or Intermediate 2 A-C, compared with 34 per cent last year, while 22 per cent gained three-plus Higher passes, against 23 per cent last year.

The figure for five or more Higher passes remains at 9 per cent for the third year running.

The respective figures for 1997 when Labour came to power were 29 per cent at Standard grade (there were no Intermediate exams), 20 per cent for three or more Highers and 6 per cent for five or more Highers.

The responses from Peter Peacock, Education Minister, and Ewan Aitken, the local authorities' education spokesperson, could have been taken from the same hymn sheet. Results are due to the hard work of pupils, parents and teachers but they are not everything, both commented.

While the Scottish Executive will publish results for individual schools on the web from next month, some authorities like East Renfrewshire will continue to publish them in the normal way. This will be against the advice of Mr Aitken who urged "those who publish league tables not to do so because they undermine all the good work done in schools".

Gaps in performance across the country remain as they have for several years. East Renfrewshire comes out top with 61 per cent achieving the top Standard grade and Intermediate awards compared with 20 per cent in Glasgow. The three-plus Highers table shows the same disparity, with East Renfrewshire on 43 per cent and Glasgow at the bottom with 13 per cent.

East Renfrewshire's results have steadily improved over the past three years, while Glasgow's have remained stagnant.

But a spokesperson for the city maintained that "exam attainment in Glasgow schools continues to make a steady improvement against the national average". Compared with schools in areas of similar disadvantage, Glasgow schools are doing well, she said.

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