Exams day sees largest number of Scots pupils secure university places

Media caption,
SQA chief executive Janet Brown says the exams system is performing well

More pupils from Scotland got a university place on exams results day than in any previous year, it has been confirmed.

Helen Thorne from UCAS told BBC Radio Scotland that 28,300 Scottish students had successfully secured their courses.

More than 140,000 students north of the border have received their results.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has sent out scores from National 4 and 5, Higher, Advanced Higher and Scottish Baccalaureate exams.

The Scottish government said the exams had seen "another highly successful set of results", including:

  • 152,701 Higher passes, the second highest number on record and 77% of those sat
  • 234,160 National 5 passes, 79% of those sitting exams
  • 114,635 National 4 passes, 93% of those sat
  • More than 43,000 National Certificates, Awards and National Progression Awards in courses such as early education, childcare and computer games development, up 27%
  • A 23% increase in National Certificate passes at SCQF level 6 related to work skills, to 4,920

The latest results from the SQA suggested that problems with the 2015 Higher Maths exam have not been repeated. The 2015 pass mark had to be cut to 34% after the exam was deemed too difficult, but the 2016 pass mark was approximately 50%.

Fears that replacing part of the Higher English exam against a tight deadline would lead to problems also proved unfounded, with the pass mark for that subject also 50%.

Pass rates in National 4 and 5 exams were roughly in line with those in 2015, while the percentage of candidates passing their Higher exams dipped slightly from 79.2% to 77.2% - although new Higher exams have been phased in over this period.

New Advanced Higher exams were introduced for 2016, with an overall 81.7% pass rate.

Different paths

Dr Janet Brown, the SQA's chief executive and Scotland's chief examining officer, paid tribute to pupils, teachers, lecturers parents and carers.

She said: "This is the first year candidates will have been offered the full range of National Courses as part of Curriculum for Excellence. These results are testament to the dedication of the entire Scottish education system, working in partnership for the benefit of our young people.

"The new qualifications are performing well and the results clearly are enabling young people to transition between the levels and develop a wider range of skills.

"It is important to recognise the different paths candidates can take to achieve success, whether it be in National Courses, Skills for Work or National Progression Awards."

Image source, Scottish Borders Council
Image caption,
Pupils in the Scottish Borders were among the tens of thousands who found out their exam grades

The Royal Mail said it had "pulled out all the stops" to make sure results were delivered in the post on time, while more than 50,000 pupils also signed up to get their results online or via text message.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, UCAS director Ms Thorne said: "There is really good news, we have got 28,300 Scottish students who have secured a place at university today and that is the highest that we have ever seen on Scottish results day.

"So we want to say a big congratulations to all of them and when the UCAS track system opens students will be able to log in and see if they have got their university place."

Ms Thorne also said the number of students from EU countries being accepted to Scottish universities was up 19% to 3,900, saying there was "no evidence of EU students being put off" by the Brexit vote.

The National Union of Students welcomed the "hugely encouraging" figures, while Colleges Scotland said it was "delighted" with the results.

Education Secretary John Swinney said students could be "extremely proud of their efforts".

Mr Swinney said: "Today's results show that Scotland's learners continue to perform very well, with the second highest number of Higher passes on record, despite a fall in the size of the S5 and S6 year groups. This year is only the second time in history that we have seen more than 150,000 Higher passes, up from around 112,000 just ten years ago.

"It is encouraging to see strong performances in qualifications related to wider skills for life and work and I greatly welcome the increase of attainment in Awards, National Certificates and National Progression Awards."

Opposition parties also welcomed the results, with Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith welcoming the fact that issues from 2015 appeared to have been addressed.

Labour's Iain Gray also voiced congratulations to pupils whose "hard work has paid off", although he noted concern about the drop in the pass rate for Highers and called on the government to build on the results by giving schools extra resources.

'Massive day'

The Royal Mail said results had been delivered to Scottish students in 45 countries around the world, from Australia to Singapore.

Planning teams had been working for months to ensure that all results are delivered on time.

Head of special events and planning Derek Keir said: "This is a massive day for every pupil in Scotland waiting for their results.

"All of our postmen and women, many of whom have children themselves, understand just how important this day is for families. Our people pull out all the stops to ensure the results are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Skills Development Scotland has set up a free helpline to offer advice, information and support for pupils and parents, including information on college and university courses, apprenticeships, employment and volunteering. The number is 0808 100 8000.

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