IT is the time of year again for league tables with information about Scotland's "top" state schools ("East Renfrewshire schools top Herald league tables", The Herald, December 19).

One is less than astonished to learn that it is congratulations once more to the schools in mostly leafy, suburban areas such as Bearsden, Newton Mearns, Jordanhill, Lenzie and Bishopbriggs or comfortably-off small towns such as Banchory.

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The children living in such locations generally start off by being privileged on a number of counts, for example:

n Their parents had sufficient means to ensure they resided in particular catchment areas;

n Resources can usually also be made available to provide extra tuition , if required; and

n Their home environment usually has a history of some kind of parental career success, which encourages them to be aspirational.

It is to the credit of The Herald that it acknowledges achievement in areas where the built-in privileges are less obvious and meaningful, such as the good news concerning Lourdes Secondary in Glasgow. I would suggest that The Herald should allocate more coverage to the schools in more deprived locations continuing to perform well for their children and the pupils of these schools excelling against the odds.

Highlighting the achievements of schools with so many initial advantages encourages so many parents, unable or unwilling to pay to send their children to fee-paying schools, to move into self-congratulatory mode on their having had the financial means and nous to buy property in areas served by top-of-the-table state establishments.

Ian W Thomson,

38 Kirkintilloch Road,


IN 2011 it was East Renfrewshire at the top of your tables of examination results with 33% achieving five-plus Highers and a free meals uptake of 9.7%. Glasgow was 7% (five-plus Highers) and 29.3% (free meals).This year the relevant figures for East Renfrewshire are 32 % and 9.8% while Glasgow's are 8% and 29.3% free meals. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (2012), published this week, reveals that free meal uptake is a primitive indictor of the powerful social and economic influences which must be considered when relative school examination results are judged.

I recognise that the timeline for implementing the Curriculum for Excellence initiative is such that any conceivable impact on such Higher examination results is far from fully established.

Nevertheless I expect there will be considerable disappointment and egg on faces if it transpires that, after all the upheaval and resources thrown at the new curriculum, we find this frustrating cycle of results is locked into the same familiar pattern of annual despair. The issue seems largely centred on a fixation by Education Scotland with university entrance qualifications. It is surely time to move on to a broader view of the function of secondary school education and how the measured output is calibrated.

I suggest that the elitist figure indicating the percentage of some pupils gaining five-plus Highers has always been more a measure of that minority of pupils who are highly motivated by an academic aptitude, self-promotion and have a mindset for passing exams; hardly an indicator of the effectiveness of our secondary schools. For the majority of pupils, the added value of the school-gained experience as progressive individual learners is a more legitimate indicator of an education authority's success. Even for East Renfrewshire this remains unpublicised, unevaluated, unvalued and unassessed.

Bill Brown,

46 Breadie Drive,