League table assessment for schools is a ‘crude measure’, says councillor

A table that assesses the performance of Scotland’s secondary schools using the percentage of pupils who pass five higher grades as a benchmark has been dismissed by a senior councillor.

Chairman of the education and families committee George Smith says the method of analysis used by The Times newspaper is a “crude measure”.

The Shetland South member says the table fails to take account of Shetland’s model of education, which will not always see pupils sitting highers.

The findings show less than half – 44 per cent – of pupils at the Anderson High School in Lerwick achieved five higher grades, while 36 per cent of senior pupils at the high school in Brae achieved the same result.

Both those figures are higher than equivalent schools in other island communities.

The figure for the Nicolson Institute in the Western Isles sits at 35 per cent, while in Orkney 33 per cent of youngsters at Kirkwall Grammar School got the five passes.

Topping the table is Glasgow’s Jordanhill School in the city’s west end, with 88 per cent of its pupils reaching the mark.

But Mr Smith has defended the SIC’s record on schools and insisted island authorities support “all pupils of secondary school age”.

George Smith:

“It’s one measure among a whole number of indicators that are in place, in terms of pupil performance,” he said.

“It doesn’t recognise the model of education we have.”

He highlighted the AHS, which includes pupils in additional support needs within its school roll.

“A lot of places will have support provisions in place for pupils with additional needs. Education at the Anderson High School is tailored to their particular needs. Those pupils wouldn’t be sitting highers.”

Another factor is the Virtual Academies scheme which allows pupils to take up vocational courses at colleges rather than follow a more academic path.

“If you take an NC in engineering at the NAFC, that means they forego two highers to get the national certificate,” added Mr Smith.

“We’re trying to ensure that the pupils get the best opportunity for themselves. It’s about fulfilling their potential.”

Mr Smith said there were “a whole heap” of other education performance indicators in which the council did well.

He said the SIC was among the highest in Scotland when it came to “positive destinations” – with some 96 per cent of pupils moving on to study or work once they have finished at school.

“Tables are all very well in terms of crude measures of results – but that’s all they are.”


Add Your Comment
  • Charles L. Gallagher

    • May 9th, 2020 16:50

    Mr. Smith makes some valid points but at the end of the day whatever system/s is decided upon it must ensure that youngsters from deprived areas are not further deprived by a misinterpretation of statistical evidence. In these trying times, they all deserve a fair chance.


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