Almost 100% of pupils achieve one or more SQA qualifications

But being educated in a poor and deprived designated area costs them an average of 20 points each

By Bill Heaney

West Dunbartonshire pupils are alleged to be “celebrating after another year of record results with almost 100% of pupils achieving one or more qualification and schools outperforming the national average in all levels from N3 to Higher”.

At least that’s the spin coming out of West Dunbartonshire Council with barely a nod in the direction of the fact that hundreds of pupils are angry and dismayed.

They are dismayed with the way they have been treated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, who marked them down by almost 20 per cent, which will disqualify some of them from pursuing careers and taking up third level courses — unless they appeal.

West Dunbartonshire pupils are in Glasgow today protesting against the way they have been treated by by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the SNP government.

The reason for this marking down is that Dunbartonshire’s place near the foot of the poverty and deprivation league for all of Scotland has been taken into account, which means that if you went to a school where results you had achieved were better than others had got there in the past, you would be dragged down by them.

In other words, if you went to what might previously have been deemed [by the authorities] a “sink” school and lived in a poor area, where unemployment was unacceptably high, your own teacher’s estimation of how well you would have done has not been believed.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Education Secretary John Swinney and Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration at West Dunbartonshire Council.

Naturally, teachers and pupils are furious at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Education Secretary John Swinney, for having allowed the Scottish Qualifications Authority tyo get away with it.

This year’s SQA diet was abandoned when the coronavirus pandemic struck and instead of sitting traditional exams, teachers were asked to grade students based on their overall performance and past results.

The SQA used these assessments and previous school and area performance to finalise gradings for pupils.

2,136 pupils were entered for exams this year in West Dunbartonshire with 2,110­ — 99% — achieving one or more qualification, in a single exam which any child would be expected to pass.

Results published today show a record pass rate in National 5 exams with 3,883 passes (84%) out of 4,628 entries — up 2% from last year, and 92% of these students achieving one or more qualifications.

The National 4 pass rate was 93%, an increase of 5% on last year’s figures.

Students sitting Highers also achieved strong results, with a 79% pass rate and 89% of pupils gaining  one or more qualification. At Advanced Highers, 84% were passed, up 7% on last year’s results with 87% achieving one or more qualification.

In addition, the percentage of passes in literacy and numeracy across West Dunbartonshire schools has risen from 80% to 82%, which means that nearly 20 per cent of local pupils may be leaving school without being able to read or write to a reasonable standard.

Schools have been working in partnership with WD Leisure, Working4U and West College Scotland to present young people across a range of 187 courses from National 2 to Advanced Higher, from ‘Accounting’ all the way to ‘Travel & Tourism’ offering modern routes to further education and employment.

Schools with 100% pass rate across West Dunbartonshire include:

Vale of Leven Academy: Advanced Higher Chemistry; National 5 Administration and IT and Higher Spanish.

Dumbarton Academy: National 5 Administration and IT; Art and Design and Music Technology.

Our Lady and Saint Patrick’s High school: Advanced Higher English; Higher Art and Design; National 5 Design and manufacture and Physical Education.

Clydebank High School: Advanced Higher Art and Design; Higher Music; National 5 Early learning and Child Care.

Saint Peter the Apostle: Advanced Higher Chemistry; Higher Politics; National 5 Administration and IT and Practical Metalwork.

Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “It’s important to recognise the huge and unstinting efforts of  all of our  pupils and  staff in what has been an extremely challenging  end to the school year. 

“Despite this, it is very encouraging to see the great progress being made by our pupils.  I am also pleased to see progress being maintained in results for literacy and numeracy  and also improvements in all from National 4 to Advanced Higher.

“I would like to sincerely thank all of our dedicated teachers and support staff who have continued to support our pupils through the pandemic and all of our parents who supported their children at home.

“As Education Convener it is reassuring to see  schools continuing their consistently strong performance, further highlighting  the hard work of our pupils and the dedication of the teachers who support them.”

She said nothing about the fact that so many pupils had been marked down and were preparing to appeal or that they were backed by their parents and politicians who were not members of the SNP.

The Mason Dickson line was much the same – playing up the positive while ignoring completely the negative reaction of hundreds of pupils and their parents.

Councillor Ian Dickson, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “These results are testament to the hard work and commitment of all our pupils and our dedicated teachers. It is really encouraging to see the result for Highers increase by 2% and also  a rise in the numbers of pupils achieving  Advanced Highers.

“I want to congratulate all our pupils on their achievements this year and wish them every success in the future whether they are staying on at school or moving into further or higher education, employment or training. ”

Cllr Jonathan McColl once again had no comment to make to The Democrat, but Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer, said: “These positive results are a reflection of all the hard work by both our pupils and all our teaching and support staff over the year.

“The end to this academic year has been like no other, but our students continued with their studies and they thoroughly deserve recognition  today.  We are extremely proud of all of our young people.  

“These results demonstrate the dedication, care and attention of all our school staff, who continued to motivate and inspire their pupils to learn and achieve despite the challenges they faced with the ongoing pandemic. Pupils can now contact their school for advice and guidance on their future educational journey.”

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