124,500 Scots students have exams results downgraded - but pass rates rise

Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Scotland has seen an increase in exam pass rates and acceptance into university, after exams were cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results despite no exams being sat – 93.1% of all the moderated grades.

Exam pass rates rose at every level and would have been the highest on record without the SQA downgrading some submitted results, Education Secretary John Swinney said.

Pupils across Scotland received their exam results on Tuesday morning.

The union is backing calls by politicians to delay the debate. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The coronavirus lockdown caused exams to be scrapped for the first time in history, with teachers submitting estimated grades based on previous results, predicted attainment and evidence of past work.

More than a quarter (26.2%) of grades were moderated by the SQA, a total of 133,762, while 377,308 entries were accepted unchanged.

After SQA moderation, the National 5 pass rate was 81.1%, the Higher pass rate was 78.9% and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%.

The pass rates have risen from 78.2%, 74.8% and 79.4% respectively.

The SQA revealed 128,508 results – 96.1% of those adjusted – rose or fell by one grade.

A total of 45,454 entries (8.9%) were moderated down from grades A-C to grade D or to no award.

Mr Swinney said the SQA will ensure “sufficient resources are in place” for the free appeals process, allowing teachers and pupils to challenge specific results.

Grades were adjusted “where a centre’s estimates were outside the constraint range for that course”, the SQA chief examining officer’s report said.

SQA Chief Examining Officer Fiona Robertson said it is not possible to determine why the overall estimated grades are higher than previous years, adding: “There may be several reasons why estimates were above historic attainment, which has been relatively stable over time."