Kids' plans 'blocked' by private finance

Ask pupils to propose changes to the design of their school and the response from some might be to ask for a quicker route to the exit. But in fact the kind of suggestions pupils come up with are often far more constructive - and unexpected. Synthetic grass, more pegs for coats and bags and even a soil-less garden are among ideas received by architects working with Scottish schoolchildren.

Pupils should be consulted over new school building design, claims the government. But a leading ecological architect warns that this risks being little more than a box-ticking exercise under the current system of public private partnership (PPP).

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Kids who succeed at BOG standard comprehensives

Families refusing to turn their backs on local schools are reaping the reward, finds Jackie Kemp There is barely an inch of wall in David and Patricia Beveridge's sitting room that is not covered with photographs of young people dressed in mortar-boards and graduation gowns, holding rolled-up scrolls. For the couple's eight children are a formidable bunch, bristling with top-class qualifications.

Youngest son Martin, 20, is no exception. Now in third year of law at Glasgow University, he left school with seven Highers - six As in English, French, history, computing, Latin, music, a B in maths and two Advanced Highers.

So what did sea captain David and his homemakerwife Patricia have to shell out on school fees forMartin's education? Or did they pay a premium to live in a leafy suburb near to a "good" school?

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Home schooling

At noon, the winter sun is still above Ladhope Hill in the Borders, throwing shadows across the playground of Yarrow Village school below. The door opens and out come three fair-haired children, backpacks and jackets on.
For Simeon, Rachel and Natan Siroky, lessons are already over for the day. After a muddy walk home beneath the rowan trees, still red with a last crop of autumn berries, they will spend the afternoon pursuing their education under the guidance of their minister father, Samuel, and home-maker mother, Ester.

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The former inspector calls

The establishment want to say that everything in the educational garden is lovely and the failures are the fault of feral children and feckless parents. The politicians at the moment just seem to accept that. I don't know why they are so lily-livered. After all, they wouldn't be with any other industry."

Chris Woodhead is in combative mood.

But as the mention of his name alone is enough to induce high blood pressure in many staffrooms, this is little surprise. He's been railing against the status quo since he was chief inspector of English schools in the late 1990s.

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Highers pass A-levels as Oxbridge gold standard Jackie Kemp and Camillo Fracassini

Oxford and Cambridge universities say they consider the Advanced Higher as a more testing qualification and will accept students with lower grades than in equivalent A-level subjects.

It is a further indication that the A-level, once regarded as Britain's “gold standard” qualification, has been discredited.

A-level results released last week showed pass rates rising for the 23rd consecutive year to a new high of 96.2%. Almost 23% of candidates are now awarded an A grade. The Advanced Higher pass rate stands at 74.5%, an increase of just 1% since the exam's introduction in 2000.

Read more: Highers pass A-levels as Oxbridge gold standard Jackie Kemp and Camillo Fracassini