Western Isles residents have always prided themselves on education, and the quality of education, that can be delivered to pupils living in the region.
Each year when the exam results come out they are quickly followed by an assessment of the achievements of Western Isles pupils in attainment compared to the national average.
However, there was a shock in store for Uist and Lewis parents this week when a league table for Scotland’s 339 secondary schools - based on the percentage of schoolkids gaining five or more Highers and listing them from best to worst was published - and put Sgoil Lionacleit in Benbecula at a lowly 256th place with 25 percent of pupils gaining 5 awards and the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway at 227th place with 28 percent of pupils gaining 5 awards or more.
The figures, according to an analysis by The Times newspaper, saw Glasgow’s Jordanhill Secondary School top the chart, with 83 percent of pupils attaining five or more awards.
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The analysis based on Scottish Government figures showed that it was not all bad news for Western Isles, as other secondary schools in the region were much further up the league: Castlebay in Barra was ranked in 43rd place with 50 percent of pupils gaining 5 awards and Sir E. Scott in Harris was ranked at 77th place with 44 percent of pupils achieving the 5 award target.
The article sparked concern with one local parent describing the results as: “a shocking performance”.
When asked about the league table and how Western Isles schools had been ranked in comparison to other Scottish secondaries Western Isles Council could offer no comment about pupils’ progress and the quality of education in the region.
However, other local authorities, where schools had also achieved relatively poor results, summed up the information in the article as ‘only one indicator to measure progress’ and that ‘simple statistics such as league tables do not reflect the rich and varied strengths of schools or the communities they serve’.