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One in two Scots takes up student place

Almost half of the 60,381 leavers from Scottish state schools went to + university or college last year - and the numbers taking up a higher education + place have increased despite the row over tuition fees and student grants.The + 47 per cent who entered full-time higher and further education compares with 43+ per cent three years ago. Leaver destination figures show that 29 per cent + went into higher education, 25 per cent found a job, 18 per cent opted for FE + and 11 per cent took a place on a training programme. The 29 per cent entering + higher education represents a 1 per cent rise on the previous year, suggesting + that tuition charges and the ending of student maintenance grants do not appear+ to have had a deterrent effect. The data was compiled in October, three + months after the Government announced its student loan proposals.Otherwise + there are no major surprises in the figures which show, as expected, that East + Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire continue to top the table for university + entrance, at 43 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.Sir E Scott School in + Harris sent more students to higher education than any other education + authority secondary, 63 per cent compared with 32 per cent three years ago. + But this is a classic reflection of fluctuations produced by small numbers. The+ school had just 19 leavers last year.Glasgow continues to languish at the + bottom of the higher education league. With 17 per cent of leavers going on to + university, the city is the only education authority with fewer than 20 per + cent of leavers entering higher education. But some Glasgow schools, notably + John Street and St Leonard's secondaries, sent significant numbers to higher + education for the first time in three years - just as the council prepares to + shut them down.Stewart McLachlan, head at John Street, said the school had + taken specific steps to raise pupil aspirations. The improvement was "the + result of sustained staff effort over a number of years. We try to operate a + praise and reward system based on the three As - attendance, attitude and + attainment."Aberdeenshire showed the largest increase in numbers opting for + higher education over the past three years, up from 28 per cent to 36 per cent.+ Mearns Academy had 17 per cent more leavers going on to higher education than + three years ago, at 33 per cent. But the school also recorded a 12-point fall + in the numbers entering employment since 1995 and had nobody on training + programmes. There were, however, only 68 leavers.Local factors were also at + work in Shetland where there was an eight-point fall in the number of leavers + going into higher education over the three years alongside a 13-point rise in + those going into a job. The proportion of Shetland youngsters entering + employment stood at 37 per cent last year, the highest in Scotland and two + points ahead of Aberdeen and Highland.HMI's commentary offers the usual + cautionary note that higher education intakes may reflect the abilities in a + particular year group, that small numbers introduce distortions and that figure+ may be affected by the local jobs market.The experience of Brae High in + Shetland illustrates these points perfectly, with an almost exact reversal of + the 1995-96 position when 40 per cent of its 42 leavers went into higher + education and 20 per cent found jobs. Last year 19 per cent entered higher + education and 40 per cent were in employment.Andy Carter, principal careers + officer in Shetland, said that while the islands always had a high level of + entrants into jobs and training the number of leavers is small causing + considerable fluctuations in destinations: 303 last year and 350 the year + before."There has been a great deal of concern here about student finance," Mr + Carter said. "In addition to that, school-leavers know it is possible to get a + job and there has always been a tradition of 'I'll bide hame for a year and + make a bit of cash before going south'."Jobs account for the lowest proportion + of leavers in South Ayrshire where only 12 per cent took that route, 13 per + cent below the national average and half the figure even for the jobs blackspot+ of Glasgow. Local factors are at work there too, according to David Mowat, + Ayrshire's principal careers officer. "There has always been a greater number + of leavers going on to university in South Ayrshire compared with North and + East," Mr Mowat says. The figures are also affected where a high proportion of + leavers find a Skillseekers place with an employer and are therefore counted as+ being in employment rather than training.Further education is the most popular+ option in the Western Isles, at 29 per cent. Combined with the 37 per cent + moving on to higher education, this means that 66 per cent of Western Isles + students leave school for college and university, more than in any other + education authority. FE is also popular in the Borders where a recent research + report noted the lack of higher education and job opportunities. Some 26 per + cent of leavers went to college last year and all nine secondaries sent more + than one in five pupils to FE. Jedburgh Grammar provided the highest number, + sending 36 per cent to FE which represented an 8-point rise for the college + route and a 15-point fall in higher education in one year. But, like Mearns + Academy, the number of leavers was small (78).Independent schools continued to + have a high proportion of leavers entering higher education, with eight schools+ recording figures of more than 90 per cent. The grant-aided Jordanhill School + in Glasgow had 71 per cent going on to higher education, an 8-point increase on+ three years ago.

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