Scotland’s exam results: independent school pupils celebrate

The SQA has faced criticism for lowering a quarter of grades, leaving thousands of pupils disappointed

Independent school pupils in Scotland are celebrating their exam results, with one head of sixth form saying their pupils have achieved “excellent” results despite “very difficult circumstances”.

Scottish pupils received their grades on 4 August, after exams were cancelled for the first time in history due to coronavirus. Results were estimated by teachers based on pupils’ performance over the school year.

Some pupils have been disappointed with their grades as, the BBC reported, a quarter of Scotland’s exam results have been lowered by the country’s exam body.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority’s (SQA) moderation process has resulted in thousands of pupils receiving lower grades than they were originally estimated. The SQA said its moderation process was applied “to ensure fairness to all learners and to maintain standards and credibility in Scotland’s qualification system”.

Glenalmond College, an independent school in Perth, said its pupils have achieved a 100% pass rate in 12 subjects in this year’s Highers. Among the top subjects this year were modern languages, classical studies and Latin.

It is very rewarding to see how well our pupils have done and, despite the very difficult circumstances, we have some excellent exam results – Steve Smith, head of sixth form, Glenalmond College

Steve Smith, head of sixth form, said: “It is very rewarding to see how well our pupils have done and, despite the very difficult circumstances, we have some excellent exam results. Although they were not able to sit their final exams, these results are based on two years of hard work, including mock exams and coursework showing what they could do.”

At Glenalmond, pupils can choose four subjects in their lower sixth year, one of which they can take as a Higher at the end of the year, before taking three A-levels the following year. Alternatively, they can sit a full suite of five or six Highers.

Many pupils going on to take A-levels opt to take a language Higher and an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). Head Dr Michael Alderson said this opportunity to combine a language Higher with an EPQ and three A-levels means pupils are “very keenly positioned for university entry and as potential future employees”.

Strathallan School in Perth (pictured above) said its pupils have achieved 100% A-B’s in computing, economics, music and modern languages, with one in every three grades in all subjects obtained being an A.

In September, Strathallan will become the first boarding school to offer a full programme of SQA one-year Highers and Advanced Highers alongside a full two-year A-level programme.

The SQA has opened its appeals service for candidates that didn’t get the results they needed or expected.

Scotland’s exam results in more detail

  • The pass rate for National 5 was 81.1%, while the Higher pass rate was 78.9% and the Advanced Higher rate was 84.9%.
  • In 2019, the National 5 pass rate was 78.2%, the Higher pass rate was 74.8% and the Advanced Higher rate was 79.4%.
  • A total of 133,762 individual results were adjusted by the SQA from the 511,070 initial estimates of grades that were submitted by teachers.
  • Of these, only 9,198 of the estimates were adjusted up, while 124,564 were adjusted down. Almost all (96%) were adjusted by a single grade.
  • The Higher pass rate for pupils from the most deprived backgrounds was reduced by 15.2 percentage points, compared to only 6.9 percentage points for the wealthiest pupils.
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