PUPILS across East Renfrewshire have been praised by education chiefs after their school work produced “outstanding” results.

Attainment has continued to rise across the area, with very strong National 5 results and record-breaking performances in S5 and S6.

Thousands of East Renfrewshire pupils celebrated their results yesterday, although in the most unprecedented of circumstances, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the Scottish Government announcing in March that this year’s SQA exams would not go ahead, it meant a new experience for youngsters as they were marked on the work they had done over the previous months.

Among those celebrating was a Barrhead volunteering champion who is now aiming for a career where she can make a difference to other people’s lives after landing nine As in her National 5 subjects.

St Luke’s High pupil Elise Kelly was delighted when the text message came in and confirmed she had been recognised with top grades across all the subjects she’d studied, including English, maths, French, history, biology, PE, practical cookery, drama and chemistry.

Despite it being an unprecedented year, the 15-year-old Neilston girl has kept busy throughout lockdown by being part of a team volunteering with charity Include Me 2 Club, based in Barrhead.

Elise was involved in preparing, packing and delivering food parcels as part of the charity’s community meals programme, which continues to provide food to those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

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She said: “When the exams were first cancelled, I was quite scared about what was going to happen and, because this was meant to be my first year of exams, I was a bit unsure about what it would mean.

“It’s been a strange experience and not what I was expecting but, because I knew the results were going to be based on work from throughout the year, I knew I had been trying hard and so hoped I’d get the results I wanted.

“I’m absolutely delighted. I’m already hoping to go into a career in law, or any job where I can help people and make a real difference. I volunteer a lot because it’s really important to me that people are treated equally and have the same rights.”

Jennifer Jones was “over the moon” to get five As at her Higher subjects of English, maths, computing, design manufacture and music.

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Despite still keeping her options open, she is now considering a potential career in film-making.

The 17-year-old St Luke’s High pupil said: “I was anxious about not having exams but I spoke to my teachers and they reassured me that I’d worked hard throughout the year and would get the grades I deserved.

“I’m so happy to have got five As but it felt weird getting my results when I’d not actually sat the exams.

“I hope to go to university but I’m stuck between quite a few ideas at the moment. I like film-making and the idea of directing, so I’m going to look into that more but I would also consider teaching.”

Zainab Alani was overjoyed when her results came through and confirmed she had gained five As at Higher.

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It has been a tough year for the 17-year-old St Ninian’s High pupil, having been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition called myasthenia gravis.

Despite these challenges, Zainab worked extra hard to ensure she sat all her prelims and was preparing fully for the exams before they were halted.

This included returning to school after undergoing intensive surgery in early December 2019 at the Golden Jubilee Hospital. The operation – a thymectomy to remove the thymus which controls the immune system – was carried out to help minimise the symptoms of her condition and give her the best quality life possible.

Zainab, from Newton Mearns, said: “Having the support of my family throughout has been amazing and the school have given me a lot of support too.”

Meanwhile, Eden Thornton was feeling a sense of relief and delight when her results came through to confirm five As at Higher level.

The Williamwood High pupil is now setting her sights on a career in engineering and will return for a sixth year to do Advanced Highers in maths, physics and maths of mechanics.

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Eden, 17, said: “I was so delighted when I saw my results and there was definitely a huge sigh of relief that I had achieved the grades I wanted.”

A total of 85 per cent of S5 pupils achieved at least one Higher (up from 81 per cent last year), with more than two-thirds gaining at least three Highers (up from 66 per cent) and almost half being awarded at least five Highers (up from 44 per cent).

Barrhead High and Woodfarm High had their best results for one or more and three or more Highers, whilst Eastwood High had its best ever S5 results across all the key measures.

Mhairi Shaw, director of education at East Renfrewshire Council, said: “It has certainly been a year we will never forget but I’m delighted and confident that our systematic approach to supporting pupils has ensured their achievements have been fairly recognised in these exam results.”