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Education / Pass rates for Highers well below national average

The SIC is to carry out an attainment review to understand school pupils’ educational performance. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council is to carry out an attainment review to understand school pupils’ educational performance last year after results showed the islands’ overall performance was below some other parts of the country.

During an academic year in which the Covid-19 pandemic meant normal exams were cancelled and replaced with alternative forms of assessment, the pass rate for Highers was 81 per cent and for Advanced Highers it was 82 per cent. That is set against nationwide averages of 87 per cent and 90 per cent respectively.

Isles pupils sitting their National 5 papers performed better on the whole, with an 89 per cent pass rate against a Scotland-wide average of 86 per cent.

SIC schools service director Helen Budge said that the results were broadly in line with previous years.

“The results for Highers and Advanced Highers does remain stable compared with previous years and positive in that we have a number of young folk who did do very well with it,” she said, “but obviously it’s areas that we want to look at in more detail and we really want to analyse that senior phase attainment this year.”

With traditional examination off the table due to the upheaval caused by Covid-19, assessment of pupils’ performance was left to local authorities.

That may lead some to speculate as to whether Shetland lagging as much as 10 per cent behind, for example, the Western Isles may be related to variations in how assessment was conducted in different local authority areas.

Budge told BBC Radio Shetland she did not want to comment on “what other areas were doing” but she was confident that assessments in Shetland were robust.

“I think that we had guidance from the SQA and we are very clear that we worked with those guidance and we had a rigorous quality assurance process here in Shetland that meant the results for young folk were allocated through the evidence that they were able to work and provide.

“We are very much comparable with our previous years’ results and we’re really pleased our young folk got the results that they did.

“It’s been a really difficult time and there was disruption during the pandemic over the last year, that has meant young folk have had to have the alternative certification model.”

She said National 5 results were “very much comparable with other local authorities” and showed an increase on previous years, leaving the schools service “very pleased with how our young folk have done with their National 5s this year”.

Budge added that the SIC is “very hopeful” exams will go ahead in the 2021/22 academic year and the schools service would “make sure we are following any guidance that comes out similarly to the way we did this year”.