Record Number of Highers Awarded

5 August 2014, 09:23

School pupils have been awarded a record number of Highers - despite a slight drop in the overall pass rate for the exams.

More than 140,000 youngsters across the country are receiving their results today, the first time the new National 4 and 5 qualifications have been awarded.

The new qualifications were brought in as part of the Curriculum for Excellence reforms, with the bulk of pupils in S4 now sitting these instead of Standard Grades.

The pass rate for the National 4 was 93%, with 114,173 passes recorded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Meanwhile, pupils achieved 173,131 passes at National 5 level, resulting in a success rate of 81.1%.

Students across the country passed 147,899 Highers, with the Scottish Government hailing this as a new record.

Candidates sat more than 9,000 more Higher exams than last year, although the pass rate fell slightly, from  77.4% to 77.1%.

A total of 18,171 Advanced Highers were awarded, as well as 144 Scottish Baccalaureates, giving pass rates of 81% and 81.8% respectively

For Intermediate levels 1 and and 2 the pass rate dropped, going from 77.8% and 81.8% respectively last year, to 73.2% and 77.9% respectively this year.

Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said "The fact that there has been such a marked increase in the number of Highers attained is a real success story.

"Students are now sitting a greater number of Highers, demonstrating real ambition and aspiration among young learners to achieve the best qualifications they can.

"I am also encouraged to see so many young people attaining National Qualifications, which are an important component within Curriculum for Excellence.

"This is a significant achievement for our learners and our schools, and clear evidence of continued improvement in Scottish education.''

He congratulated the "thousands of young people who have worked so hard, their families who have supported them and the teachers who have worked tirelessly to prepare them''.

Mr Allan added: "Our education system has taken another significant step forward today.

"The new National qualifications represent a shift towards deeper learning and a greater emphasis on analysis, engagement and understanding.

"Scotland's teachers have been key to delivering our new curriculum and new qualifications. They have worked outstandingly hard and I thank them for all they have done.

"I know it has been a challenging year for them and, once again, I've been hugely impressed by their commitment to supporting Scotland's young people.''

He continued: "Clearly not everyone will have received the results they had hoped for while others may simply be unsure of what to do next.

"Rest assured, help is available through the exam results helpline on 0808 100 8000 for those who may not have got what they needed.''

SQA chief executive and Scotland's chief examining officer Dr Janet Brown said: "I congratulate all candidates on their achievements.

"We would like to wish all candidates continued success as they set out on a wide range of different pathways - whether that is moving into the workplace or a training scheme, returning to school or taking up a college or university place.''

She gave "special thanks'' to those involved "in developing and implementing the new system, at the same time as delivering an existing set of qualifications''.

Dr Brown said: "There has clearly been a tremendous amount of work put in by candidates across Scotland and their commitment has been rewarded.

"It reflects a growing understanding of the value placed on qualifications in what remains a tough economic environment.''

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: "It is gratifying to see the positive attainment rates in the new National qualifications, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances in which these new courses were introduced.

"It is of great credit to the work of our schools, pupils and teachers that the diet has been so successful at a time when budgets have been declining and workload pressures increasing.

"Scotland's pupils and teachers deserve high praise for a strong set of exam results which have been achieved during a very significant period of change for Scottish education.''

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union in Scotland, said: ``The excellent results show that schools and teachers have once again pulled out all the stops to ensure that despite the challenges and difficulties, students have been supported through the reforms and pupils have been able to achieve their best.

"However, this has been achieved in a context where the poorly thought through implementation of the reforms has resulted in ever-increasing bureaucracy and excessive workload for teachers.

"It also comes against a backdrop of increasing attacks on teachers' pay and conditions.

"If teachers are to continue to be able to support pupils in achieving such high standards in public examinations, it is critical that they are given the working conditions to enable them to ensure children and young people are able to receive the highest standards of education.

"For too long, teachers' dedication and commitment has been exploited.''

If students don't get the results they were hoping for, help is at hand in the form of a free call to the Skills Development Scotland Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.