By Graham Grant
The failure of Scotland’s state education system was exposed yesterday by figures that show only a handful of schools have met a key exams target.
A Scottish Daily Mail investigation found that there are only ten secondary schools out of nearly 400 north of the Border where at least half of pupils passed three of more Highers last year.
The benchmark is a vital threashold for youngsters hoping to go to university – but fewer than 4% of pupils attend schools where that rate was achieved in 2010.
Under the SNP, the number of schools hitting teh target has remained static for two years, suggesting the system has flatlined.
Last night, there were fears that a generation of children has been consigned to the educational scrap heap.
The news comes only days before 160,000 young Scots are due to recieve Standard Grade and Higher exam results, on Thursday.
Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Scotland’s state schools have become a total lottery. If you don’t live near a good one, it’s startingly clear from this data that your children could suffer – unless you can afford rising private school fees.’
He added: ‘This investigation should be a wake-up call for ministers who have failed to solve this huge problem.’
Tory education spokesman Liz Smith said: ‘These figures are hugely concerning. We have been calling for literacy and numeracy testing to be introduced in P7, rather than later in school as is currently the case.
‘It is essential we equip our pupils with these vital skills earlier or these figures could get even worse.’
Analysis of exam league tables for last year, based on Scottish Government figures for every school, shows parents face a postcode lottery when they try to find a decent school, despite pledges by the SNP, and its Labour and Lib Dem predecessors at Holyrood, to tackle the variations.
Most children hope to sit fiver Highers and experts believe passing at least three is a vital benchmark.
But a Mail probe of every secondary school north of teh Border found that last year there were only ten schools out of 376 secondaries – one in 37 – where at least half of pupils passed three of more Highers.
This means that onnly 10,889 children out of a secondary roll of 303,978 attend schools which meet this target – 3.6 per cent, or one in 28.
The ten schools meeting the target in 2010 were Cults Academy, Aberdeen (58% per cent passed three or more Highers in 2010), Bearsden Academy in Dunbartonshire (50%), Douglas Academy in Milngavie, Dunbartonshire (53 per cent), Mearns Castle High School in Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire (56 per cent).
Sixty-four per cent of pupils at St Ninian’s High in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire passed three or more Highers while at Williamwood High in Clarkston, East Renfrewhire the figure was 68 per cent. The others were James Gillespie’s High in Edinburgh (51 per cent), Gryffe High in Houston, Renfrewshire (53 per cent), Dunblane High, Perthshire (51 per cent) and Tiree High, Argyll (75 per cent) which has 45 pupils.
The SNP focused on slashng primary class sizes during its first term in office but met huge resistance from councail, effectively wrecking teh initative. It has shrunk its parliamentary ambitions to tackle class overcrowding due to funding pressures and remains wedded to the comprehensive system.
Education Secretary Mike Russell, has denied there is a ‘crisis’ at the chalkface despite figures showing widespread child illiteracy.
When he was Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell once claimed the country would have ‘the best education system in the world by 2020’.
In June, Mr Russell said ministers’ ‘priority is to raise ambition and attainment so pupils have the right skills and knowledge on leaving school to have more life chances.’
But our figures show the educational apratheid between the best and worst-performing schools endures, meaning many parents pay large sums to send their children to private institutions to improve their chances of exam success.
Across Scotland, only 24 per cent of all children achieved three or more Highers in 2010, up by only 1 per cent on the previous year.
Teh number of schools hitting teh benchmark of at least 50 per cent of pupils obtaining three or more Highers has improved slightly under the SNP as only seven schools met the target in the summer of 2008 – a year after it took power – while the figure was five in 2007.
But since 2009 the education system has stagnated, with only a fraction of children attending schools that meet the target, suggesting Nationalist policy is failing to make significant headway.
Geoff Mawdsley, of independent think-tank Reform Scotland, said: ‘These figures are further evidence we should be looking at how we structure and manage our school system.
‘The key to better education for all is more power for parents to choose where their children are taught as well as greater autonomy for schools.’
A Scottish Governmebt spokesman said: ‘Last year’s results show that attainment in exams is improving, with more young people than ever leaving school with good qualifications, including Highers.”