Scotland’s best performing schools revealed

THREE schools in the same local authority which lie a few miles apart have topped a nationwide league table based on exam results.

St Ninians S5 pupils celebrate their table-topping achievement. Picture: Robert Perry
St Ninians S5 pupils celebrate their table-topping achievement. Picture: Robert Perry

St Ninian’s High School, Williamwood High School and Mearns Castle High School, which are all in East Renfrewshire, came first, second and third in a list of Scottish schools.

The figures, which are compiled annually by The Scotsman using data from the Scottish Government, allow state schools to be ranked based on the percentage of the S4 roll who go on to pass five or more Highers in S5.

Once again, the league tables illustrate the gap between schools in affluent areas and those in more deprived parts of the country.

While more than half of pupils leave the best-performing schools in East Renfrewshire – a largely prosperous local authority to the south of Glasgow – with five Highers or more, there are secondaries in parts of Scotland’s largest cities where not one child secured a similar result. Across the country as a whole, 13 per cent of pupils achieved five Highers or more in S5, the same proportion as last year.

In East Renfrewshire, that figure was 39 per cent, with 141 S5 pupils achieving five Higher passes at grade A.

East Renfrewshire’s director of education, Mhairi Shaw, said: “These results are a testimony to the phenomenal success of East Renfrewshire’s education service in never resting on our laurels and always striving for improvement.

“Everyone who contributes day in, day out across our schools to nurture and develop the young people should be proud of our achievements, and we are looking towards how we can build on these successes in the future.”

After the three East Renfrewshire schools, the next place on the list was taken by Jordanhill School in Glasgow, the only state-funded school in Scotland that is outwith council control.

The other schools to make the top ten were Dunblane High School, Tarbert Academy, Banchory Academy, Glasgow Gaelic School, Cults Academy in Aberdeen and Linlithgow Academy.

Common among all the best-performing secondaries was the relatively low numbers of children receiving free school meals, one of the few indicators of the level of deprivation of a school catchment area.

While only 6.2 per cent of pupils at St Ninian’s and 5.1 per cent of those at Williamwood received free meals, just a few miles away at Govan High School, 43.2 per cent of pupils received free school dinners.

Govan High was among those schools where none of the S4 roll went on to pass five or more Highers in S5, as was another Glasgow school, St Margaret Mary’s Secondary in Castlemilk.

In Edinburgh, not one pupil at Castlebrae Community High or Craigroyston Community High achieved five Highers or more, although another poor performer, Wester Hailes Education Centre, improved its score from zero per cent last year to one per cent in 2013.

At Northfield Academy in Aberdeen, where 27.9 per cent of pupils receive free school meals, no pupils left with five Highers or more. In contrast, 40 per cent of pupils at nearby Cults Academy – where only 2.9 per cent receive free meals – got five Highers or more.

Larry Flanagan, general-secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, said: “Merely looking at exam results, with no thought given to the particular circumstances in which any school operates, is a flawed approach that produces highly questionable results.

“Deprivation continues to impact adversely on the attainment of too many pupils and this is an area which needs to be addressed as we move forward with full implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.”

The Scottish Government said it believed ranking schools based on exam results alone was “an inappropriate method” for establishing performance.

Learning minister Alasdair Allan added: “While there will always be variations in how schools perform on an annual basis, the Programme for International Student Assessment figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development earlier this month not only showed a strong overall performance in Scotland, but also that we were beginning to address the attainment gap.

“This year has also seen Scotland’s best ever exam pass rates and 91.4 per cent of school leavers are now in positive destinations such as employment, college or higher education.”

Top 10 state schools

1 St Ninian’s High School 52.6

2 Williamwood High School 52.5

3 Mearns Castle High School 49

4 Jordanhill School 48

=5 Dunblane High School 43

=5 Tarbert Academy 43

7 Banchory Academy 57

=8 Cults Academy 40

=8 Glasgow Gaelic School 40

=8 Linlithgow Academy 10

Bottom 10

=1 Castlebrae Community High School 0

=1 Craigroyston Community High School 0

=1 Farr High 0

=1 Govan High School 0

=1 Maxwelltown High School 0

=1 Northfield Academy 0

=1 St Margaret Mary’s Secondary 0

=1 Tiree High School* 0

=9 All Saints Secondary 1

=9 Arbroath Academy 1

=9 Braeview Academy 1

=9 Drumchapel High 1

=9 Lochend Community High 1

=9 Torry Academy 1

=9 Viewforth High 1

=9 Wester Hailes Education Centre 1

=9 Whitehill Secondary 1

*School has just 28 pupils