MORE pupils gained better awards at Higher over the past five years and girls have done particularly well, figures released by the Scottish Executive show.
Despite a national panic last August over an apparent decline in performance in maths and English in the 2001-2002 exam diet, the statistics show a steady improvement since 1997-98 in students gaining five or more Higher passes in fifth year - the gold standard for entrance to a higher education course at university or college.
Five years ago and before the full Higher Still programme was introduced, only 6.2 per cent of the S4 cohort gained top Higher passes.
The overall increase in performance bottomed out last year at 9.3 per cent, more than three percentage points up on the baseline figure. By then, 7.8 per cent of boys and 10.8 per cent of girls had gone through the five-Higher mark.
Girls have therefore made twice as much progress over five years at the top grades.
Over the same period, numbers achieving Credit level in Standard grade, and now Intermediate 2 as well, have risen steadily from 30.4 per cent in 1997-98 to 34.1 per cent in 2001-2002, with girls again making marginally better progress.
Significantly, there is a 10-point gap between girls and boys in the top Standard grades. Some 29 per cent of boys and 39.3 per cent of girls gained five or more passes at level 5 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "Cumulative attainment is greater for females than males in all stages and in all categories. This has been the case from 1997-98 to 2001-2002."
"School attainment and qualifications of school-leavers in Scotland 2001-02" is on the Scottish Executive website.