Education / Secondary pupils receive exam-free results

Local pass rates remain above average but advice and help is on offer whatever the results

Leighton Anderson (left) and Eve Wiseman (right) were among those in Shetland receiving results today.

SECONDARY school pupils around Shetland are receiving their results today – without having to sit the usual end-of-year exams.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the SQA grades are estimates from teachers based from the pupil’s performance during the year.

It was the first time since 1888 that exams were cancelled in Scotland’s schools.


A total of 580 pupils in Shetland received results today, with many local pass rates across the National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications up slightly on the previous year.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee George Smith said he was “delighted that our young people have once again achieved very good results across a wide range of qualifications”.

Pupils are reminded that advice is on hand whatever their results, with a free Skills Development Scotland helpline available on 0808 100 8000 open 8am to 8pm today and tomorrow before reverting to 9am to 5pm.

Education secretary John Swinney said: “Young people and their families have shown tremendous resilience in coping with the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and will naturally be anxious about the potential impact on results.


“You may achieve the results you worked so hard for, but if you miss out on the grades you were hoping for, there is still a huge variety of options available to you. Skills Development Scotland advisers will provide expert advice to help all pupils understand their future education and career choices.”

The No Wrong Path campaign also highlights that school results do not define someone’s future.


The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has created a revised appeals process this year and local schools are ready to discuss results with pupils, who should contact their school directly.

Exam results for around 138,000 national, higher and advanced higher pupils in Scotland are being delivered by post or sent by text message/email.

Receiving academic results is anxious enough but this year is especially challenging, with schools closed since March and online learning taking place instead.

One of those receiving results in Shetland today was 17-year-old Leighton Anderson from Dunrossness, who studies at the Anderson High School.

He got a D in advanced higher English, as well as a D in higher RMPS [religious, moral and philosophical studies] and a C in national 5 maths. Leighton also received an F in advanced higher modern studies.

The Anderson High School. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

He is now off to the University of West Scotland to study social sciences after receiving an unconditional offer just as lockdown was imposed.

“I suppose when you spend a whole year trying your best at school you feel a bit deflated when your grades are not how you may want them, but I’m mostly surprised to have only failed one class this year,” Leighton said, adding that he felt the pressure on advanced highers is “huge”.


“Obviously if the exams were to happen I would have been able to try bump up my grades but I’m pleased with how I did, even struggling with the online learning.”

Leighton, who is one of Shetland’s members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said he found it hard to navigate the move from the classroom to the internet when schools shut.

“It was very difficult for someone who struggles with dyslexia to go from having teachers around who you can easily go find, to then hoping they see the email you send them,” he said.

“I feel the teacher must have had a huge struggle getting through so much work that people had done and would have made their jobs a whole lot more stressful.

“But they always said that they didn’t want us to peak too early, but with what happened they should have said make sure you are ready for prelims.”

Eve Wiseman, meanwhile, received As in higher human biology, modern studies, PE, health and food technology and English.

The 17-year-old, who lives in Tingwall and also attends the Anderson, said her performance in prelims gave her a bit of confidence going into results day.

“It was kind of weird [not having full exams] but I was kind of relieved because I got all As in the prelims so I wasn’t too worried,” Eve said. “But I know a lot of my friends were quite worried.”

She added that she found it quite hard to motivate herself for the online learning during the pandemic.

Eve said she was meant to be moving to Switzerland to go to the University of Geneva while doing au pair work, but that fell through due to coronavirus.


“I’m just staying on for right now, because I don’t actually know what I really want to do at uni or that yet, so I’m just taking subjects that I enjoy and hopefully that will lead me to find what I want to do at uni,” she said.

This year’s results figures for Shetland, meanwhile, are:

  • Pass rates at National 5 Grades A-C were 84 per cent compared to 82 per cent in 2019.  This included a higher percentage of pupils, entered for N5, achieving an ‘A’ pass.  This is the highest pass rate since Nationals were introduced in 2014.  The figure for Scotland is 81.1 per cent.
  • Pass rates at Higher grades A-C were 82.5 per cent compared to 81.9 per cent in 2019 and is the highest rate since the new Higher was introduced in 2015.  The figure for Scotland as a whole was 78.9 per cent.
  • Pass rates at Advanced Higher grades A-C were 80.9 per cent compared to 78.2 per cent in 2019.  This includes a higher percentage of A passes.

On non-graded qualifications:

  • Pass rates at National 4 were 97 per cent, an increase of 9 per cent when compared to 2019.
  • There were 31 passes at National 3 which is 87 per cent, the same figure as 2019.
  • There were seven passes at National 2 which is 88 per cent, 17 per cent higher than in 2019.
  • Two pupils achieved the Scottish Baccalaureate in Science.
  • In addition, certificates for a range of other Awards including Skills for Work are also being issued this summer.

Councillor Smith said it has been a “particularly challenging year and these results are testament to their hard work and commitment, so I’d like to congratulate them all on their achievements”.

“I would also like to thank our teachers and other school staff who have encouraged and supported our students through difficult circumstances, and for their dedicated work in responding to the requirements of the alternative certification model,” he added.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, who is also the Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, offered her congratulations to everyone receiving results.

But she said many pupils in Scotland will be “deeply disappointed with how the SQA have handled things”.

“We are already seeing pupils, teachers and in some cases, entire classes, complaining that their grades have been dropped dramatically, in many cases turning passes into fails,” she said.

“In particular the decision by the SQA to hold back their moderation guidelines until results’ day itself has meant months have been lost in which these guidelines could be scrutinised, understood and if necessary, improved.

“These are difficult times for any organisation but the SQA’s communication with parents, pupils and teachers has been a trainwreck that could have been easily avoided.

“What’s more, the reliance on a school’s past performance as a guide to moderating results will embed the attainment gap and hurt bright pupils from disadvantaged schools. It appears that the system has been reverse-engineered to get the ‘right results’.

“Everyone will now be hoping that the appeals process is sufficiently robust to handle the volume of pupils who will now wish to challenge their results.”