Glasgow revolt on targets

20th November 1998 at 00:00
Half of Glasgow's 31 secondary schools are digging in their heels over key Standard grade targets set by the Scottish Office.

The schools, with the city's backing, say that even if targets are cut by 1 per cent they would be impossible to meet because of the nature of their catchment areas. Initial targets were set taking account of previous performance and the poverty factor expressed through the number of free meals.

Sixteen secondaries are claiming "exceptional circumstances" in the hope of persuading the Government to accept reduced targets for increasing the number of pupils with five or more Standard grades at levels 1-4 and 1-2. The city acknowledges that even the revised targets are "ambitious".

Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, expressed concern at the last meeting in September of the national action group on standards. Mrs Liddell "noted" that some authorities had set lower targets than she might have expected and asked HMI to investigate.

The national target for pupils attaining five or more Standard grades 1-4 by 2001 is 77 per cent, a 5.5 per cent increase. For five or more Standard grades 1-2, it is 33.6 per cent, a 5.3 per cent rise.

But Glasgow, battling against endemic deprivation and deep-seated disaffection with schooling among young people, says the Government's mantra of setting "challenging but achievable targets" requires these two measures to be 60.5 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively. These represent increases over the next three years of 5.4 per cent and 3. 2 per cent.

Fifteen Glasgow secondaries are also unable to meet the most basic of the provisional targets, requiring 94 per cent of pupils to have at least a Standard grade 6 in English and maths by 2001.

Glasgow has agreed that the average target for secondaries in Standard grade English should be 88 per cent over the next three years, a 5 per cent improvement. But two schools, Smithycroft and Woodside, will have to increase their Standard grade output in English by 11-15 per cent to meet lower targets of 81 per cent and 85 per cent respectively.

In maths, the city is aiming for average increases of more than 5 per cent for Standard grades 1-6 to reach a target of 87.7 per cent. But Smithycroft and Woodside will each have to improve by more than 10 per cent - respectively, 81.5 per cent and 85.5 per cent of their pupils gaining at least a Standard grade 6.

The position at Higher grade is not so far out of line with Scottish Office expectations, with 10 secondaries able to accept the initial proposals for three or more Higher passes and 18 agreeable to the provisional targets for five or more Higher passes.

SCHOOL WATCHTHE MISSING FACTOR

The reasons cited by Glasgow for decreasing a school's targets by more than 1 per cent are:

* A higher than average number of pupils with emotional and behavioural problems.

* A higher than average number of special education pupils with a record of needs.

* A high proportion of pupils in care.

* The effects of school closures.

* A higher than average migration in and out of school, particularly in S3 and S4.

* Major variations in exam performance over the past three years.

* Large numbers of bilingual pupils.

* Higher than average variations in staying on rates from S4 and S5 between schools with similar characteristics.

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