Behind the headlines

8th October 2004 at 01:00
A notable event took place last week, and it passed off peacefully. The exam results were published and hardly anybody noticed. Certainly they were in their new form for the second year running, at education authority level only. The rather more "sexy" school results will not appear until December, on www.scottishschoolsonline.gov.uk, and not in tabular form. Such media coverage as there was did, of course, have its predictable aspects: Glasgow was once again at the bottom of the education authority tables, East Renfrewshire came out top. But this is because the results themselves have become predictable: hence the relative lack of interest.

It is not just that we can safely anticipate the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged: the trends over time are not the stuff of headlines either. The benchmark performances at five-plus Standard grade Credit and three-plus Higher levels, for example, have barely moved in any direction, whether it be in Scotland as a whole, Glasgow or East Renfrewshire.

One unsung contribution to boosting these grades is made by the sixth year.

In Glasgow, not traditionally fertile ground for the Higher, another 6 per cent of youngsters are able to add three-plus Highers to their portfolio and more than double the numbers emerging with five-plus Highers by the end of S6.

But what the media headlines frequently forget is that we are in the era of lifelong learning. While the first chance of exam success may still be the best chance, it is no longer thankfully the last chance.

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