Early exams boost results

10th August 2007 at 01:00
Pupils have benefited from an extra year of preparation for English and maths Highers

OUTSTANDING HIGHER results have been achieved by pupils who sat Standard grades a year early.

Early indications from schools that pioneered early presentation at Standard grade suggest that pupils have benefited from an extra year of preparation for Highers.

Dalziel High, in Motherwell, this year became one of the first schools to present pupils for Higher English and maths who had sat Standard grades in third year. North Lanarkshire Council says this has clearly paid dividends, with fifth-year Dalziel pupils achieving 95 passes in Higher English at grades A-C this year, compared to 71 passes in 2006, and 60 passes in Higher maths at A-C, against 39 last year.

"The Dalziel High results clearly show the difference that the additional year of study can make for Higher pupils," said Councillor Jim Logue, convener of learning and leisures services. "And we know that it does not have a negative impact on the quality of Standard grade results, as our S3 Standard grade results compare very favourably with those in S4 across all our schools this year's results confirm that yet again."

Rebecca Brown, a 15-year-old pupil at Abronhill High in Cum-bernauld, achieved credit grades in maths and English after sitting the exams in S3. "I was looking forward to sitting my exams earlier," she said. "It gave me the experience to forward my learning. I felt like I was very well prepared by my teachers, and I was very confident."

At Keith Grammar, in Moray, all third-year pupils sit Standard grade exams in all subjects. This year's fifth years were the first to have been through Standard grades in S3, and headteacher John Aitken believes that Higher results are vindicating the school's choice.

It was too early for him to give exact figures, but he said he was particularly pleased with the number of pupils who were achieving five Highers and those getting As and Bs.

"I'm just delighted with this first cohort," Mr Aitken said. "The results are at the top end of our spectrum. Overall, we are happy."

Meanwhile, at Larbert High, near Falkirk, all third years sat Standard grade English this year. About half of the year group sat foundation and general maths papers. Previous years had seen selected third years sitting both English and maths Standard grades, but these were smaller-scale pilot schemes.

Out of a third-year group of 325, Larbert High saw 25 pupils achieve a grade 1 in English.

"The English results have been excellent at S3 and similar to those in S4," said Neal McGowan, the headteacher. "Really, if you're an English teacher in Larbert High, you would say there's a non-issue about whether kids are ready to take exams a year early."

But he stressed that the jury was out on the performance of those S3s who sat Foundation and General maths a year early, with more pupils getting grade 5s than had been hoped.

Brian Cooklin, vice-president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said one year's evidence was not enough to judge.

He accepts that doing Standard grades early might benefit some, but is doubtful about whether it is a good idea for an entire year group.

"The issue is maturity," he said. "If you take my subject, English, you might be able to go through a Standard grade course in third year, but would you be able to cope with the adult concepts in, say, Hamlet?

Mr Cooklin, headteacher at Stonelaw High in Rutherglen, is hopeful that A Curriculum for Excellence will provide the flexibility for schools to allow certain pupils to sit exams earlier, without forcing others to do so when they might not be ready.

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