Scottish exam results drop from Covid pandemic peak

Figures from the Scottish Qualification Authority show attainment of A to C grades was 77.1%.

Thousands of young people across Scotland have received their school exam results.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said the numbers were “strong”.

But attainment for those who sat National 5s, Highers, and Advanced Highers fell from peaks reached during the Covid pandemic.

Passes were achieved by 78.8% of those sitting National 5s, down from 80.8% last year, and from the peak of 89% in 2020.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, those who acheived a C or higher accounted for 78.2%.

For Highers, 77.1% achieved a pass, down from 78.9% last year and 89.3% in 2020.

But the attainment remains greater than in 2021 when 74.8% passed.

Advanced Highers saw 79.8% of pupils pass, down from 81.3% last year, and the peak of 93.1% in 2020. But it remained just above 79.4% in 2019.

The results showed the Higher attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland has grown wider since last year, while remaining below pre-pandemic levels.

The gap in attainment of A to C grades between the fifth most-deprived and fifth least-deprived areas stood at 16 percentage points for 2023.

This has risen from 2022’s figure of 14.9 percentage points.

In a statement to media, the organisation said a “sensitive approach” was used to ensure fairness to learners in awarding results in 2023.

The statement added: “This recognised that learning and teaching are still in the recovery phase from the pandemic, and took that into account while maintaining the credibility and high standards of Scotland’s qualifications.”

SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said: “Our warmest congratulations to the 140,000 learners receiving their certificates today. They should be proud of their achievements.

“Learners can be confident that the qualifications that they have earned – by demonstrating their knowledge and skills – provide a solid foundation for the next stage in their learning, training or employment. We wish them all continued success.”

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth also congratulated those receiving results: “There is much to celebrate in what is another strong set of results showing a clear and continuing recovery from the pandemic – with pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher above the 2019 pre-pandemic level, a record number of passes at National 5 and the highest number of vocational and technical qualifications ever awarded.”

Skills Development Scotland’s helpline is available for four days on 0808 100 8000.

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