Results day reveals dip in Highers pass rate

A record number of Scottish pupils are receiving their exam results today, although pass rates for Highers have fallen for the first time in four years.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Association (SQA) show the number of people getting their Highers – the equivalent of English A-levels – dropped from 71.2 per cent last year to 70.8 per cent this year.

The percentage of pupils passing their Intermediate two, which is taken between Highers and Standards, also dropped by 0.4 percentage points on last year to 70.8 per cent.

However, pass rates for Intermediate one increased by 3.3 points to 70.9 per cent, and the pass rate of Standards, which are taken at the age of 15 or 16, increased from 97.3 per cent to 97.7 per cent this year.

Pass rates for the new intermediate degrees, which are halfway between Standards and Highers, also increased by 3.3 percentage points to 70.9 per cent.

Education minister Peter Peacock welcomed today’s results and in particular the 2.6 per cent rise in overall entries, which saw increased applications to all secondary school qualifications bar Highers, where entries dropped 3.7 percentage points on last year.

“Our education system is continuing to broaden and expand, giving more young people the opportunity to study at an appropriate level for them and fulfil their potential,” he said.

“A new high of over 150,000 candidates sat exams this year. There has never been more choice for young people when it comes to selecting the qualification that is right for them.”

This year has also seen the first 200 students get qualifications for the pilot ‘skills for work’ courses, which cover subjects such as construction crafts, and early education and childcare.

“These have proved to be immensely popular and uptake is set to expand considerably in years to come as we do more to recognise the importance of schools in vocational learning and help meet vital skill needs in our society,” Mr Peacock said.

He attributed the fall in the Highers pass rate to natural fluctuations in exam results, and said it was “important not to get this out of proportion”.

Anton Colella, Scotland’s chief examining officer, added: “This year’s results show continuing strong achievement in a stable system that is maintaining highly regarded standards year on year.”