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City secondary credits great expectations with vastly improved exam performance

ONE school that does not appear in The Herald's league table, but which has transformed its performance in exam results, is St Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Glasgow.

Results at Higher have improved considerably, with nearly 14% of pupils achieving five or more Highers - double the percentage of five years ago. The school also saw 92% of its pupils leaving school to go to university, college, training, employment or other "positive destinations".

These achievements are all the more impressive because, although the school is in Jordanhill, in the city's west end, it is the 33rd most deprived secondary in the country, serving areas such as Drumchapel, Yoker, Finnieston, Whiteinch and Partick. It also has 31% of its pupils on free school meals, double the national average.

Andrew McSorley, the school's headteacher, said a number of different strategies had been employed to improve the achievements of pupils.

"It is about having really high aspirations for the pupils and consistently high expectations which is driven into them the minute they walk through the door," he said. "We improve the quality of the teaching through personal and professional development of the staff, which is very important.

"There is also the realisation that the school is part of a journey for the pupils, whether they are the highest attaining or those going on to other good destinations such as college or vocational training."

Mr McSorley said Glasgow schools which did not always feature at the top of the school league tables were able to deliver academically for their brightest pupils, despite the perception in some quarters that secondaries in leafy suburbs were more effective at getting pupils to pass exams.

He added: "We have a very mixed catchment area but we have youngsters every year who are going on to study to be doctors, dentists and lawyers.

"The ongoing study support we provide helps with that, and we also work with universities to widen aspirations for those not necessarily considering higher education. Our great strength is that we have a range of pupils of different academic abilities and we are able to deliver for all of their needs, as our destination figures show."

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