Scottish school league tables 2020: Jordanhill top of the class in Times schools table again
The Times 6th May 2020
Scotland’s only state-funded high school has achieved the best exam results in the country for the fifth consecutive year, according to The Times Scottish school league table.
Jordanhill, the Scottish government grant-aided school in Glasgow, had 88 per cent of pupils leaving with five or more Highers in 2018-19, outstripping its previous chart-topping result of 82 per cent in 2017-18.
The Times Scotland will publish the full results for every mainstream high school tomorrow, accompanied by an online searchable table offering the only easily accessible, complete picture of attainment across the country.
Jordanhill’s performance eclipsed those of its nearest rivals, Mearns Castle, St Ninians and Williamwood in East Renfrewshire, Dunblane near Stirling, Boroughmuir in Edinburgh and the Glasgow Gaelic School, where between 70-75 per cent of pupils attained five Highers.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, describes five Highers as the “gold standard” of Scottish education as it is the benchmark for entry into many university courses.
Dr Paul Thomson, rector of Jordanhill, said: “Any success we may have reflects our philosophy of supporting and challenging each young person based on their individual strengths and needs.
“The only comparison we make is with what might reasonably be expected of each individual. The outcome of empowering our teachers, pupil support assistants, parents and pupils is that our pupils consistently achieve far beyond what might reasonably be expected regardless of their home background, gender, race, additional support needs or abilities.
“I should like to thank everyone who contributes to such successes for their efforts and commitment.”
The Scottish government published results for individual schools this week but they are not collated in a single document.
The Times analysis is based on data on the same exam results published by the government’s education analytical services division.
The Times will also aggregate data for all of Scotland’s councils to show which local authorities are keeping up with the pace, and which are falling behind the curve. Judging performance against the comparator of deprivation is described by the government as a “very fair” way of identifying strengths and weaknesses.
East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire remain the best-performing councils with five schools each in the top 20, while Edinburgh has seen a sparkling return to form with James Gillespie’s and St Thomas of Aquin’s joining Boroughmuir in the top 20.
Moffat Academy, in Dumfries and Galloway, is Scotland’s most improved school with 54 per cent attaining five Highers last year, up from 27 per cent the previous year, rocketing up the league table from 230th place to 31st.
While Edinburgh has some of Scotland’s most high-achieving schools, five Highers remains a distant aspiration for schools in the most deprived parts of the city.
Castlebrae Community High School has yet to have more than 5 per cent of pupils achieve five Highers, the lowest benchmark the Scottish government publishes.
Wester Hailes Education Centre, where John Swinney, the education secretary, made a speech this year pledging to improve attainment for deprived pupils, has slipped backwards from 12 per cent attaining the “gold standard” three years ago to zero last year.
Wester Hailes is one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, and the school has made great strides in improving reading, writing and numeracy at S3 in recent years. Castlebrae has yet to emulate Wester Hailes’ success in improving basic skills.
The gulf between top and bottom once again illustrates the link between poverty and attainment.
East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire have some of the most exclusive communities in the Scotland.
At Jordanhill about three quarters of pupils come from one of the most affluent parts of Glasgow, and less than 10 per cent are eligible for free school meals. Less than 30 per of pupils at Jordanhill have additional support needs, compared with over 60 per cent at Castlebrae and Wester Hailes.
Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said: “As much as one half of the variation among schools in attaining five or more Highers can be predicted from levels of affluence among the school’s pupils.
“Educated parents make a school’s job easier. Despite its official non-belief in league tables, the Scottish government’s agency Education Scotland encourages this kind of analysis through what it calls ‘virtual comparators’.
“Schools are expected to compare themselves with similar schools elsewhere in the country. What that shows is that a polite word for competition is emulation. And emulation is one of the many factors that truly do encourage pupils to do well.”
He urged parents, teachers, universities and employers “to pay special attention to the Times tables this year” as last year’s marks will be used to estimate this years results, after exams were cancelled following the closure of schools due to the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “This year all these calculations matter more than ever…students will get grades awarded mainly on the basis of teachers’ estimates of how well they would be expected to do.
“The problem is that each school can’t help basing their estimates on their own recent experience, which might not be a good guide to the standard expected across the whole country.”
(Additional reporting by Alexander Small)