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Exam pass rates show slight drop

Pupil exam results were revealed today.

EXAM pass rates were slightly down for some isles pupils who received their results on Tuesday – a trend that was in line with the national picture.

The number of Shetland pupils in the senior phase (S4 to S6) was the lowest for several years, with 560 secondary pupils receiving their exam results by text, email or post.

But the slight decline follows a greater improvement when 2017 is compared with 2016.

Pass rates at National 4 grade this year were 94 per cent, compared with 96 per cent in 2017, while at National 5 grades A-C were 77 per cent – three per cent down from last year.

Additionally 11 pupils achieved at least one pass at National 2, 23 pupils achieved at least one pass at National 3 and five pupils achieved the Scottish Baccalaureate in Science.

The slight drop in passes brought a call for greater school expenditure from Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee chairman George Smith.

He said: “The overall attainment levels, while being extremely good, have either dipped or remained static with the previous year.

“We have seen reductions in school budgets for a number of years now and if we are to improve on attainment levels going forward the council must look seriously at the level of resourcing going into schools. We must ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Smith congratulated pupils who achieved the results they were hoping for and encouraged those who had not to talk with their school pupil support staff about their next steps.

He added: “My thanks too to all the teachers, school support staff and parents, carers and wider family and friends for their support at what can be a stressful time for those sitting exams.”

Education quality improvement officer Peter Haviland added his congratulations to those who had been successful and the teachers and support staff who had helped them along the way.

“The most important thing for each individual is whether they have achieved what they needed for their planned next step,” he said.

“In Shetland schools we have a very good record in that respect, in that they usually achieve what they expect, or exceed those expectations.”

Attie Black

Anderson High School S4 pupil Attie Black was pleased with his clean sweep of seven National 5s, including biology, chemistry, English, maths, music, modern studies and French – all at A pass.

Black said that he had been nervous about sitting the exams but once that was over he had put it to the back of his mind and had just enjoyed the school holidays.

“Some exams were a little bit more difficult than I expected, such as chemistry and English, but I felt I knew what I was doing,” he said.

Black said that he hoped to study for the next two years, taking Highers in English, maths, biology, chemistry and music and that he hopes to go to university.

Mark Hutcheon, also just finished S4, was another with an impressive haul of seven National 5s at A pass, including maths, English, French, chemistry, physics, computing and engineering science.

Hutcheon, who was notified of his results initially by text, said that he had “struggled” with English, which took a lot of revision, as had computing, after a disappointing prelim. “I knew I’d done okay really, but it is always a bit of an event – the suspense, I suppose,” he added.

Mark Hutcheon

Hutcheon also intends to take five Highers – English, chemistry, physics and engineering science, and wants to go to university in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Nationally more than 135,000 pupils learned on Tuesday how well they performed in their National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers.

The number of entries for Highers and the proportion of students who received a pass mark fell slightly.

There were 147,000 Higher passes, with a pass rate of 76.8 per cent, compared with 77 per cent in 2017.
The results showed a record number of entries for Advanced Higher (24,331) since changes to the qualification were made in 2015/16, with attainment rates remaining high at 80.5 per cent.

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP warned that the third successive fall in pass rates needed to be carefully monitored.

Greer added: “Exam results don’t define you but we should congratulate the young people across Scotland who have achieved a lot today. At the same time, careful consideration needs given to this third consecutive drop in Higher passes and the potential of it becoming a trend.

“We cannot pretend that all is rosy in Scottish education when we are down 3,500 teachers from a decade ago, those in post are experiencing a workload and morale crisis and the government is more interested in unwanted and unhelpful governance reforms than solving these problems by giving staff and pupils the resources they need.”

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “Overall the pass rate remains in line with the previous year, which shows a good level of consistency, and it’s pleasing to see a continued improvement in maths results – particularly as we know how important it is to encourage young people to take-up STEM subjects.”

As well as the school exam results, certificates for a range of other awards and skills for work were also issued on Tuesday.

They are part of the range of academic and vocational qualifications available to young people.

Haviland, meanwhile, said that pupils who want to discuss their results should contact their school directly. Advice is also available from the Skills Development Scotland website or through the exam results helpline 0808 100 8000.