A new approach to Standard grade computing appears to help pupils cover more ground and has challenged assumptions about the performance of girls.
The focus of Fastrack, in which seven teachers worked with 132 pupils in Lanarkshire, was on programming and Margaret Kirkwood of Strathclyde University's Jordanhill campus says it grew out of concern that able pupils were getting bogged down at the early stages and not completing the syllabus. Pupils were missing out on work that might have interested them and some were failing to achieve a Credit award.
Girls, who have been particularly reluctant to take up computing, did much better at programming, 49 per cent achieving a Standard grade Credit for coursework against 18 per cent of boys.
The likelihood of gaining the top award was increased if pupils had done some programming before they began the course in third year, mostly on home computers which again is assumed to be the province of boys. Girls, who are thought to work best co-operatively, appeared to make the grade at Credit level because they preferred working on their own.
Ms Kirkwood said the success of Fastrack in developing materials for able pupils in computing can be extended to maths and science. "If we are serious about developing skills in solving problems, we must make time for pupils to think."