Opening the exams result envelope can be amongst the most stressful experience of a young person’s life. The results inside are the accumulation of years of individual hard work and joint experiences, and they can determine the future path and choices people take as they move into adulthood.
So, I was delighted to see so many pupils from Edinburgh’s schools achieving their goals, and I’ve met so many teachers who are extremely proud of the results from across the city. There has been improvement across the board here in Edinburgh, and I am extremely encouraged that the initial evidence suggests that improved attainment has been enjoyed by both the lowest achieving young people as well as the highest achieving. Although national data is not available until September, the early indications are that Edinburgh has performed better than the national average.
The results in English and mathematics for the lowest level of attainment by the end of S4 have improved and are now likely to be better than the national average in English for the first time in over six years. Similarly, the performance in mathematics exceeded the national average last year and is likely to remain ahead.
The attainment of the highest achieving young people has been maintained and it is likely these statistics will compare equally positively with the highest performing authorities in Scotland. The gap between the lowest and highest attaining candidates is also likely to have narrowed.
And the overall picture will almost certainly improve further. The performance figures do not take into account appeals and do not include attainment gained by pupils who participated in school-to-school or school-to-college partnerships.
All those working in education within our schools and within the council’s children and families department strive year on year to deliver better results and as well as the hard work of pupils, there are a number of factors contributing to these improvements. The quality of teaching and learning in schools is crucial, as is making sure that the curriculum on offer meets a variety of pupil needs. The curriculum needs to be strong academically but also provide a good range of wider activities that help pupils develop other interests and skills. All our schools are expected to promote a positive ethos with high expectations, and effective leadership is central to driving up standards.
Other changes that have helped to bring about improvements have included early accreditation for some pupils. All schools now have in place tracking and monitoring systems that measure pupil progress every six weeks, and targeted mentoring is designed to provide additional support to those pupils requiring a little extra help. At the same time, the quality of education in all schools is monitored very closely.
In 2011, 22 per cent of the city’s secondary schools provided a very good quality of teaching and learning. This has increased in 2012 to 43 per cent. 95 per cent are rated as offering teaching and learning that is either good or very good.
As reported in the Evening News yesterday, Wester Hailes Education Centre, has made very good overall progress in both S4 and S5. WHEC has made excellent use of mentors for pupils, giving help to those that need it most and helping build confidence. It has also looked innovatively at ways to encourage students, with an offer of free swimming helping boost attendance rates.
As well as WHEC results from Tynecastle, Drummond and Craigroyston are also very pleasing.
I know that within days of the results being published headteachers are discussing with colleagues what they can do to improve next year. For the moment, staff are to be commended for their commitment to delivering high-quality teaching, and pupils are to be congratulated for all their hard work and success. Overall it’s a record of continued improvement and success of which parents, pupils and teachers can be very proud.
• Councillor Paul Godzik is Edinburgh’s education leader