Buckie High and Milne's enjoy bumper year for Higher grades
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IT has been a record breaking year for Higher results with local students doing their bit to join the party.
Nationally, Higher passes are at their highest level since 1999 while Advanced Higher passes have smashed all previous records since its introduction in 2001.
With exams again cancelled due to the pandemic, teacher assessments were used instead to determine students' grades. This meant lots of hard work by students to provide evidence for these assessments.
At Buckie Community High School (BCHS) and Milne's High School, there was plenty to celebrate across the senior phase classes.
For BCHS this included five straight A grades at Higher for Grace Lawson and Calum Risk as well as a wide-ranging strong performances over a range of subjects.
Rector Neil Johnson praised the school's students for coping admirably with the circumstances thrown at them by the pandemic, including rigorous class assessment which took the place of exams.
He said: "The pupils have been the most vigorously assessed group ever, they've had to do a lot more than a two-hour exam.
"They've done amazingly well and it's been fantastic to see how they and the staff have coped with the circumstances imposed by the pandemic.
"Everyone has had to learn to cope with a very different style of learning. However, teacher assessment has given a more holistic view of pupils' abilities rather than everything resting on an exam."
Mr Johnson went on to say that students' grades were checked independently within the school but also in schools across Moray and, where appropriate, with schools in other local authority areas. The process has been, he underlined, "really vigorous and thorough".
He continued: "The S4 year group, who are now S5, did particularly well and benefited from changes to the way we work which allow pupils to do more subjects, for example, we now offer two maths qualifications.
"There're more young people doing Higher in S4 and benefitting from the opportunity. However, this only happens if it's the right thing for them to do – it's not a race to get qualifications early. It depends on the subject too, and tends to favour those that can be crashed.
"Our priority area is the top end of S5 where we have many pupils who're capable of doing five Highers but, for various reasons, choose not to do so."
Over at Milne's High, there were record performances to laud for rector Trish Cameron, the staff and the students as the records tumbled.
No fewer than 75 per cent of S5s got at least three Higher passes – a record for the school – while over a third of the same year group attained five or more passes at that level.
Five students have five straight A grades at Higher to their name, with four boasting six passes.
Of the S6s leaving school, a stunning 63 per cent are doing so with at least five passes at Higher making them the most successful sixth year group in Milne's history. This was, Mrs Cameron, said, a testament to the high standards" set by staff, parents and the young people themselves
Those studying Nat 4 and 5, plus Additional Support Needs students undertaking Nat1, 2 and 3 courses also got in on the record-breaking act.
Mrs Cameron not only hailed the results themselves across the board but went on to pay tribute to staff and students for the "resilience, determination and hard-work" in the face of the Covid pandemic and the restrictions it brought, including school closures.
"There is cause for celebration at Milne's as attainment has continued to rise with many results record-breaking for the school," she continued.
"Our dedicated staff team have worked extra hard to support our young people, often being creative to find alternatives to overcome the challenges posed by the restrictions to deliver a high quality service and should be congratulated for a job well done.
"Our parents have endured all of the extra anxiety and their support and encouragement of both their children and the school has made all the difference. We don't forget all the partner agencies who support the work of the school.
"And, of course, there are the young people themselves who we wouldn't be able to celebrate had they not shown the maturity, determination, resilience and sheer hard work to succeed. We are so proud of all our pupils who have achieved their very best."
Mrs Cameron noted that last year's high-achieving S4 year group had kept their "remarkable" standards up in S5.
She added: "Although there can be a focus on pupils achieving at the top end, we are pleased to see some young people coming through who are taking more qualifications than necessary. Ryan Jones, for example, undertook far more qualifications than necessary, including Highers, last year and we are delighted that he is Dux for 2021.
"Well done to all at Milne's High – many causes to celebrate these wonderful achievements."
Buckie councillor and Moray Council education committee chairwoman Sonya Warren praised the achievements of young people across Moray.
She said: "Moray has done really well on the whole.
"It's great to see the hard work and determination of your young people being well rewarded, especially in what has been such a challenging year.
"Learning and support staff worked exceedingly hard to ensure all our young people managed to complete all their work, especially with practical subjects and projects. The young people themselves have shown great resilience over the last year or so in dealing with everything the pandemic has thrown at them and the disruption it's brought with it."