East Renfrewshire's ferment of analysis takes place despite a comfortable background in which only 18 per cent of its secondary pupils are on clothing grants (against Glasgow's 56 per cent) and 57 per cent of secondary pupils are from social classes I and II. Five of the seven secondaries have over 60 per cent of pupils from the top two social classes, making the area the most advantaged in the country.
The authority does use clothing grants and social class to establish a "predicted norm" for each school, showing whether it is achieving better or worse than expected given its circumstances. SCE results, however, are analysed on the basis of "national comparison factors" (the national average performance or presentation or ability range in a subject) and "relative ratings" (how some pupils fare in a subject compared with how they do on average in all their other subjects). These produce norms for "similarly performing schools".
Mr Wilson says: "There is a relationship between a school's performance and the proportion of clothing grants. But we must never get into a situation of saying that you only get what you expect. The critical issue is what's happening in the classroom, not where the pupils are coming from."
But, once a predicted norm is established, schools are placed in bands ranging from 1-7 to illustrate their achievement given their social circumstances; bands 3-5 are average.
Barrhead High, one of the most deprived in the country, moved this year from the lowest band 7 to 4 as a new head, Kenny Dykes, began vigorously accentuating the positive from uniforms to attendance to achievement. The result is a 98 per cent attendance rate and completion of Standard grade levels 1-6 which has gone up 16 points, from 12 points below the national average to four above. Such an impressive record could not be detected from this week's national tables.