Edinburgh above average as Scottish Higher exam pass rate falls nationwide

Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney with celebrating school pupils. Picture: PA
Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney with celebrating school pupils. Picture: PA
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The nervous wait is finally over as pupils across the country received their exam results yesterday.

8,000 pupils in Edinburgh alone received their exam results in over 84 subjects ranging from Accounting to Urdu.

While exam pass rates have fallen at every level except National 5, according to this year’s Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results, Edinburgh’s results are above average.

43% of Edinburgh students taking National 5s passed with three or more exams at levels A to C, which is up 2% from last year.

Edinburgh pupils also achieved a pass rate of 76% in their Highers at grades A to C which is above the Scottish average this year of 74.8%.

The attainment rate at Higher has now fallen for four consecutive years but Education Secretary John Swinney defended the results, arguing if pass rates were to regularly increase “people would rightly question the robustness of our assessment system”.

In total across the country more than 54,000 skills-based qualifications have also been achieved, providing learners with the skills needed to help them move into employment, further or higher education.

Councillor Alison Dickie, Education Vice Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “I want to congratulate all our pupils who sat exams this year and remind everyone that there is no wrong pathway for our young people as everyone’s learner journey is different.

“School is about ensuring all our young people are able to fulfil their potential by attaining the highest level of achievements possible and by receiving the best possible experience.

“Our curriculum is designed to ensure our young people become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors in an inclusive learning environment.”

Councillor Ian Perry, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, welcomed today’s results: “Once again the initial indications show that this year has been another really positive one for our pupils, with performance rising in several key areas, especially when compared to results from five years ago.

“By the end of S6, 49% of the S4 roll had achieved three or more Higher passes (A-C) which is a two percentage points up on last year and a six percentage point improvement since 2014.

“Thanks should go to the dedicated teachers and staff who have been working extremely hard to prepare our pupils for the exams. Our young people should be very proud of themselves for all their hard work, and praise should also go to parents who have supported their children over the past year.”

Despite the overall fall in pass rate, the gap between the number of students from the least and most deprived areas gaining a place at university continues to close.

The number of 18-year-olds from the most deprived areas accepted to university has remained the same as last year’s record high, while the total number of acceptances to UK educational providers from the most deprived areas is the second highest on record, UCAS data shows.

The number of Scottish students gaining a place at a Scottish university is the second highest ever, while international students from outside the EU rose by 9% to 2,330, the highest figure on record.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Congratulations to everyone who has secured a place at university. Every young person should have an equal chance of success no matter their background and by 2030 we want to see 20% of students entering university from Scotland’s 20% most deprived backgrounds.

“The Commissioner for Fair Access has said that Scotland is ‘setting the pace’ in the UK in widening participation, so I am pleased to see the gap in acceptances between those from the least and most deprived areas continues to decrease, with the number of 18-year-olds from the most deprived areas accepted to university the same as last year’s record high.

“Access to higher education must be based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay, which is why we abolished tuition fees and are providing financial support to those who need it most.

“We have also seen a jump in the number of international students being accepted into Scottish universities, proof of the massive pulling power of our world class higher education system.”

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) said expert careers advisers will be on hand to discuss next steps with pupils.

James Russell, Director of Career Information, said: “If your results aren’t what you expected don’t panic, you have lots of options.

“Our experienced advisers are here to help you and your parents and carers with information on all the options and opportunities available to you.”

NSPCC Scotland counsellors are also poised to help any young people worried about their results via the Childline service.

The SDS helpline will be available from 8am to 8pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 9am to 5pm weekdays from Thursday until Wednesday August 14. The number to call is 0808 100 8000.

Childline’s free confidential helpline number is 0800 11 11.