Scottish private schools chalking up record results

Pupils at independents equal last year's 90+ pass rate for Highers. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Pupils at independents equal last year's 90+ pass rate for Highers. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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SCOTLAND’S private schools have achieved exam results which equal last year’s record, with the pass rate for Highers over 90 per cent.

Figures released by the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) show 93 per cent of pupils in S5 received at least a C at Higher, with 56 per cent of those passing with A grades.

The results are the same as last year, when pupils at independent schools received their best grades since analysis of results began in 2007.

Edinburgh all-boys school Merchiston Castle received the highest proportion of A grades, with 81 per cent. However, just 15 pupils sat Highers, with the majority of students at the £20,000-a-year school sitting A-levels in S6.

Another Edinburgh school, George Heriot’s, received the next best results with 69 per cent of exams sat by 175 pupils graded A.

Earlier this month, figures for Scotland as a whole showed the Higher pass rate had risen from 76.9 per cent last year to 77.4 per cent, with the proportion of students passing Standard Grades, Intermediates and Advanced Highers also on the rise.

The SCIS figures also show that 92 per cent of candidates in S6 achieved an A-C pass at Advanced Higher, of which 49 per cent achieved A grades. There was also a 12.3 per cent rise in the number of entries for Higher French compared with last year, despite a 9.6 per cent fall across all of Scotland’s schools.

John Edward, SCIS director, said: “This year’s SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] results, combined with those at A-level and the International Baccalaureate, recognise the purposeful learning environment that exists at Scotland’s independent schools. Pupils and teachers are to be congratulated for their hard work.

“At Higher and Advanced Higher level, more than 90 per cent of pupils achieved A-C passes which is a fantastic achievement, especially when you consider that most independent schools admit children of mixed abilities.

“It’s evident that our schools are keeping faith with a breadth of subjects and bucking the national trend, notably in modern languages such as French.

“An important factor in pupils’ exam success is that independent schools have the freedom to offer whichever curriculum and qualifications they believe best meet the needs of their pupils, and provide breadth and depth of learning and preparation for future studies and work.”

While the majority of Scotland’s private schools offer Highers, there is no uniformity across the sector, with some offering A-levels or the International Baccalaureate.

There are a number of schools missing from today’s analysis, notably Gordonstoun, which charges boarders more than £30,000 a year, and refuses to take part in the annual publication of the results.

Alistair Hector, headmaster at George Heriot’s, where fees are around £10,000 a year, said: “We are thrilled with these results and are very proud of our pupils.

“Breaking records, as this year’s cohorts at each level have, is not what exam results are about, though. The important thing is that each pupil does their best and achieves the highest grades they are capable of.

“Given the consistently good performance of our pupils in recent years, particularly at Higher, we were confident our pupils would do themselves justice this year, but in fact they have exceeded expectations and we are delighted for them.”

Earlier this week, a study found a majority of Scots would prefer to send their children to state schools rather than the private sector even if there were no fees.

The YouGov study found 62 per cent of those questioned in Scotland preferred council-run schools – the highest figure in the UK.