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November 8, 2002

Deaf pupil in running for exam 'Oscar'

From: Edinburgh Evening News, UK
Nov. 8, 2002

By JASON CUMMING Education Reporter

A DEAF teenager is in the running to be honoured at Scotland’s "education Oscars" for remarkable achievements in an English exam.

Mark McMillan, a pupil at Donaldson’s College, the city’s deaf school, will battle it out with Claire Anthony of Inveralmond Community High School, in Livingston, for the title of the Scottish Qualification Authority’s candidate of the year.

The Lothians pair have made it on to the final shortlist of three for the prestigious national competition.

Award organisers today praised Mark for "demonstrating a determination and commitment to his studies which is second-to-none" and achieving unprecedented grades.

Deaf since birth and using British sign language to communicate, 18-year-old Mark is believed to be Scotland’s first hearing-impaired person to earn marks topping 85 per cent in Higher English.

Mark admitted he was "shocked but pleased" with the honour and credited his family for his academic success. He said: "A lot of deaf people have problems with English but when I was younger my parents gave me lots of books. They thought it was important for me to read as much as possible.

"I'm really interested in helping deaf children to learn. It’s harder to learn in a mainstream school and I think it's important for deaf children to have deaf teachers as role models."

Donaldson’s College principal Janet Allan said: "Mark’s first language is British sign language and he doesn’t have access to hearing English so it is a tremendous achievement. I don’t know of any other deaf person who has scored at this level in English. It’s unique ."

Mark joined the renowned school for the deaf in 1998 after struggling in mainstream education. He has hopes of attending university next year to follow his dream of becoming a teacher.

In addition to taking Highers courses at Donaldson’s, Mark is now also studying part-time at Stevenson College.

However, he will face stiff competition from Livingston native Claire - who the judging panel credited for "giving a boost to the whole school" after earning eight Standard Grades in band one. Inveralmond Community High’s reputation was blackened during the late 1990s by reports of bullying, stories of drug dealing in the car park and allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as persistent under-achievement in exams and poor truancy figures.

But headteacher Gordon Ford, who was appointed to turn the school around about 15 months ago, today heralded Claire as a great role model.

He said: "She’s a very hard-working girl, level-headed, down-to-earth and modest. Hopefully, Claire is setting a trend that many others will follow."

The 16-year-old, an avid dancer, also achieved the rare accomplishment of earning a Standard Grade during her third year.

Claire, who hopes to become a primary school teacher, said: "I’m really excited but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I just studied really hard."

Claire and Mark will compete against Catherine Cormack of Berwickshire High in Duns, who has been recognised for her impact on the school community.

The three finalists will receive either a Gold, Silver or Bronze trophy.

SQA chief executive David Fraser today described the standard of entries as "simply outstanding".

Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall will host the gala event on November 25.