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Secondary pupils are praised over improved exam results


By Alan Hendry

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Nicky Grant, Highland Council's executive chief officer for education and learning.
Nicky Grant, Highland Council's executive chief officer for education and learning.

Secondary pupils, their families and teachers have been praised after a new analysis of exam results across the Highland Council area.

Schools saw a significant improvement in attainment in S4, S5 and S6 SQA results in August, despite the difficulties posed by the coronavirus crisis, with youngsters having to work from home during the lockdown.

The chairman of the education committee, Councillor John Finlayson, said: “I wish to congratulate our young people, their families and our school staff across Highland for the significant improvement trends in attainment in S4, S5 and S6 year groups.

"This is an excellent result and it is a real achievement to see our schools focus on individual young people, which makes a difference at the individual, school, and council level to results and exam performance.”

The initial results, released on August 4, showed that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) moderation process had led to numerous changes to the estimates submitted by teachers. All Highland secondary schools had instances of grades being lowered.

Despite the large number of downgrades created by the SQA’s initial moderation process – nearly a quarter of all grades awarded were downgraded from the estimate – the first run of results showed increases in attainment in the region and nationally.

Across the Highland Council area, an analysis of the initial results from August 4 showed an improvement from last year – and across a five-year trend:

  • 49.5 per cent of S4 students achieved five or more National 5 awards (up from 46.2 per cent in 2019)
  • 22.2 per cent of S5 students achieved five or more Highers (up from 21.9 per cent in 2019)
  • 38.3 per cent of S6 candidates achieved at least one award at Advanced Higher (up from 37.1 per cent in 2019)

On August 11, in a dramatic U-turn, Scotland's education secretary John Swinney announced that pupils whose exam results had been downgraded were to receive new grades based solely on teacher estimates. He issued an apology after the situation led an outcry among parents and pupils.

The revised attainment results, from August 11, are:

  • 52.1 per cent of S4 students achieved five or more National 5 awards (up from 46.2 per cent in 2019)
  • 23.5 per cent of S5 students achieved five or more Highers (up from 21.9 per cent in 2019)
  • 39.2 per cent of S6 candidates achieved at least one award at Advanced Higher (up from 31.7 per cent in 2019)

The council's executive chief officer for education and learning, Nicky Grant, said: “In the Highlands, a strength of ours is a curriculum that is responsive to the contribution the community can make towards the skills and attributes of young people and keeping them on track with their learner journeys.

"The improvement in results is a tribute to our candidates and their families, and these have been achieved due to the immense efforts of our classroom teachers, our principal teachers, faculty heads and senior management teams in schools.”



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