IN A FORMER life, I served 18 years on East Lothian’s education committee.

Of all council responsibilities, none is more important than educating our children. Awkward questions therefore need to be asked. But the present administration avoids any unpleasantness by anodyne reports to the committee, recommending: “East Lothian results represent a continuing good profile in comparison to the national and comparator grouping averages.”

Such smugness is disturbing and typical. In 2014, I pointed out we were barely keeping pace with Scottish averages. Three improving schools were masking declines in three others. Individual statistics were merged “to avoid victimisation”. Rather than support teachers and staff to raise attainment, support focused on inclusion, anti-bullying and other social priorities.

East Lothian Courier:

The table above shows SQA statistics on ‘progress’ over the last decade. While exam results don’t tell the whole story, careers depend on them. Fee-paying schools know this, and ensure they excel.

Musselburgh and Ross High show good recent progress. However, the upper three have fallen, relative to their peers. PL is underperforming, despite an effective headteacher and serving a demographic now similar to other catchments.

The Scottish average for five-plus Highers has moved from 20 to 26 per cent over the decade. So East Lothian claims to be keeping pace, with 23 per cent rising to 34 per cent.

Official comparison council figures flatter us, as they highlight middling performers, like Stirling and Angus.

True ‘comparators’ would be like us – pleasant commuter areas. Over the decade, East Dunbartonshire upped its score from 36 per cent to 50 per cent; East Renfrewshire from 42 per cent to 51 per cent. They boast five high schools in Scotland’s top 10; we have none. Yet both have areas of deprivation comparable to ours.

The explanation may lie in primary school attainment. Despite intervention a decade ago, with additional P1-P3 teachers, Place 2B, etc, East Lothian barely tracks national average, while both the councils mentioned in the previous paragraph track five to 10 per cent above throughout primary.

Now that Lesley Brown has had three months to get her feet under the desk as head of education, perhaps change will replace decades complacency.