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Results are stuck on a performance plateau

Neil Munro looks at this year's school exam figures, which were published on Wednesday

EXAM performance in 2002 shows the same relentless picture since results were first published exactly 10 years ago: the same schools are at or near the top in terms of attainment and the same are at or near the bottom.

The figures also show that schools have hit a performance plateau. Comparisons with previous years are complicated, however. Not only do the 2002 figures not take account of appeals, but the data for Standard grade is inflated by the results of pupils taking Intermediate and Access courses.

Despite that, there has barely been any change over three years. Those achieving five or more awards at level 3 and above (Standard grades 5-6 and Access 3) remained at 91 per cent; 76 per cent gained five or more awards at level 4 and better (Standard grades 3-4 and Intermediate 1 A-C), a marginal drop from the 77 per cent of the past two years; and those with the top S4 award of at least five-plus passes at level 5 (Standard grades 1-2 and Intermediate 2 A-C) remained virtually the same at 33 per cent.

There has none the less been a steady if unspectacular improvement at Standard grade since data was made available in its present form in 1994. Then only 25 per cent of pupils gained five or more Standard grades 1-2, compared with 33 per cent this year. And those with five-plus Standard grades 1-4 stood at 69 per cent against 76 per cent.

Twenty schools across Scotland, from the largest to the smallest, achieved the perfect score with all S4 pupils recording 100 per cent in having at least a Standard grade 6 or better, compared with the national average of 91 per cent.

Yet again, the influence of the varying quality of different year groups is apparent. In Glasgow, for example, Springburn Academy has seen a major increase in numbers achieving Standard grades 3-4 Intermediate 1 - from 31 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent. Holyrood Secondary, by contrast, has seen a slump from 80 per cent two years ago to 68 per cent.

Higher results show the same plateau. There were 22 per cent with three or more Higher passes at A-C, compared with 23 per cent in each of the past two years and the 17 per cent of 10 years ago.

At the top end of the range, 9 per cent gained five or more Higher passes which is barely any change on the 8 per cent of two years ago and the 6 per cent of 10 years ago.

The picture in each of the 32 authorities varies widely as usual. The best results for the top Standard gradesIntermediate 2 exams are in East Renfrewshire at 59 per cent and the poorest in Glasgow on 20 per cent.

The range for three or more Higher A-C passes in fifth year is the same, East Renfrewshire being the top performer with 41 per cent and Glasgow at the bottom with 12 per cent.

If attainment at the end of sixth year is the Higher measure, Glasgow's figure rises to 18 per cent - but so does East Renfrewshire's to 50 per cent.

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