The rhythm of six years at secondary school is changing. While the Government works on stretching out the two-term dash toward Highers, the days of floating carefree through S6 could soon be history. The Advanced Higher is growing in stature. In the two years since headteachers warned of its impending decline, entries have gone up by 10 per cent.
Pupils and teachers are getting their heads round Advanced Higher, increasingly taking advantage of its invitation to experiment and break free of textbook tedium; pass rates are up 2 per cent to a record 77.8 per cent. That confidence is bolstered by increased UCAS status; university entry for Scottish pupils is no longer just about Highers, a far cry from the days of the unloved Certificate of Sixth Year Studies. The centrality of Advanced Highers to the new baccaleaureates, too, is helping teachers persuade sixth years to forget about winding down their schooldays in the common room.
But statistics, as ever, can be misleading, and the EIS has warned against reading too much into the upsurge just yet. With A-levels no longer providing the golden ticket for Oxbridge, the figures have been boosted by independent schools' embrace of the Advanced Higher.
Signs, meanwhile, may be good for the science bacc, but what of its equally-vaunted languages equivalent? Entries for languages courses are way behind the sciences. Apart from a tiny increase in Spanish, every modern language offered at Advanced Higher saw uptake fall this year. English entries fell by 7 per cent, and if current trends continue next year, it will be overtaken by physics, meaning the four most popular Advanced Highers will be maths and the three main sciences.
The Advanced Higher has finally come into its own. But if you're not into science and you're not at the right school, it might still pass you by.