Tributes as Shetland pupils excel themselves in exams once more

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The schools service has paid tribute to pupils in Shetland after they excelled themselves in this year’s exam results, once more doing better than the national average.

Most pupils received the good – or bad – news through the post yesterday, although around a quarter of the 160,000 Scottish pupils sitting exams this year received their results via text message or email on Wednesday.

In all, 3,689 exams were taken by 655 candidates in Shetland, down slightly from 3,888 last year, with arguably the standout performance coming from Robert John Anderson, a former Aith Junior High pupil from Sandsound who managed to achieve four A grades at advanced higher level. AHS head teacher Valerie Nicolson described his performance as “truly exceptional” and “very unusual for us”.

The schools service said initial analysis of the results pointed to an improvement in the proportion of candidates achieving credit level passes (grades one and two) in standard grades up to 58 per cent compared with 56 per cent in 2009.

Of those sitting “intermediate two” qualifications, 82 per cent of candidates achieved a C grade or better in at least one subject, also up two per cent on last year. There was a four per cent increase in the proportion who achieved an A grade at intermediate two level.

At higher level, 80 per cent of candidates achieved at least one C grade or better, up one per cent on last year and comfortably above the 75 per cent Scottish national average, while 34 more candidates achieved an A grade compared to last year. There was also a five per cent increase in the number of those attaining an A grade at advanced higher.

The very picture of modesty despite his formidable academic achievements, Robert John, 17, expressed gratitude towards his teachers and classmates for helping him to do so well. He achieved the top grade in maths, physics, applied mathematics and chemistry and is off to the University of Glasgow to study maths and science in a few weeks’ time.

He said: “I’d like to say a big thanks to my teachers, and also my classmates because those you are around when you are studying make a big difference. [The teachers] put in a phenomenal amount of work and whenever I needed help they were always there.

“I liked the format of studying in sixth year, there’s not so much structured homework [and it is] a lot more like university in [the] respect that you’re left to work at whatever pace you feel necessary.”

As to his future career plans Robert John is keeping his options wide open for the moment: “For now I just want to continue with my favourite subjects at university. At university you’re allowed to take a spread of the subjects, so I took maths, physics, economics and computer sciences – those are the subjects or industries I’d be interested in working in; it could range anywhere from research to the oil and gas industry – I have no idea.”

Another good performer was Ashley Leaper, 17, from Mossbank. Given that she had to contend with moving to a new school for fifth year, her results of straight A grades came as a welcome surprise. Having moved to the AHS from Brae High at the end of fourth year, Ashley said she had faced quite a hard year with her studies, adjusting to new surroundings and making new friends.

All her hard work paid off, though, and she received four A grades: for highers in music and art and her two “intermediate two” subjects, English and admin studies. She had not expected such good results but was “so excited” to have received them. Ashley plans to stay on at school for sixth year with the aim of eventually studying Scottish music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

Fourth year student Danny Garrick, 16, from Tingwall, was relieved to see good results for his standard grades: “I’d been quite worried about them, but they’re better than I expected,” he said. After achieving five grade one results in art, biology, French, geography and maths, along with grade twos in English and physics and an A in music, he was “very happy” and now plans to stay on at school and study four highers in fifth year.

Mrs Nicolson said she thought the AHS results were “looking good” on first sighting: “It is early days in terms of detailed analysis, but it does seem that our young people of all abilities should be proud of their achievements. It is satisfying to see young folk, from all over Shetland – many with specialist support needs – doing well at this stage of their life.”

Some 132 AHS secondary four pupils took standard grade exams and Mrs Nicolson said it appeared that more of them have achieved credit level passes – grades one and two – than was the case last year. Some 170 students in secondary five took exams, with higher results appearing to be “in line” with previous years, with 10 students attaining five A grade passes at their first sitting.

Mrs Nicolson said that if any pupils wanted to discuss their results they should phone the AHS to make an appointment for Monday 16th August.

Brae High School head teacher Colin Kirkness said he was “very pleased” with the set of results from the 81 students at the school who took exams in May, which was a recognition of the hard work of pupils and staff.

“We had a lot of very good performances, really just right where we expected but maybe slightly up on last year,” he said. “There were a couple of pupils who got five As in their highers, but as I say there’s lots of good performances from folk at lower levels; for them it was an excellent performance as well.”

SIC services committee chairman Gussie Angus said he was delighted with the results which showed “consistent improvement, particularly in those attaining the top grades at all levels”. He congratulated all the young folk and staff for their hard work throughout the last session to gain these results.

Scottish education secretary Mike Russell extended his congratulations to students, teachers and parents for their high levels of attainment after a 75 per cent pass rate at higher was achieved across Scotland. Mr Russell reminded pupils that the national exam helpline will be open until 28th August to provide advice and information on a range of options.

Chief executive of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Damien Yeates said the helpline provided “vital, expert advice at what can be an anxious time for young people and their parents”. “It may be that individuals have done better than expected or perhaps not got the grades they anticipated,” he said. “SDS will be working to ensure that every Scottish youngster is signposted towards a positive destination, whatever results they get.”

• The exam results helpline number is 0808 100 8000 and is open from 8am until 8pm tonight and from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and from 9am until 5am at weekends until 28th August.

Additional reporting: Louise Thomason


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