EDUCATION: West Dunbartonshire pupils celebrate record SQA results

By Lucy Ashton

School pupils across West Dunbartonshire are celebrating after another year of record SQA results with almost 100% of pupils achieving one or more qualification.

This year’s examination diet for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher was replaced by a Revised Alternative Certification Model (ACM), which relied on a rigorous process of internal teacher assessment, moderation and quality assurance within schools.

A total of  2,136 pupils were entered for qualifications with 2,110 — 99% — achieving one or more qualification.

Results published today highlight a record pass rate in National 5 exams with 3,980 passes (93%) out of 4,267 entries — up 9% from last year, with 96% of these students achieving one or more qualifications. The level of award received was also high  – with 72% of National 5 awards pupils receiving grades A or B.

Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh & Lomond, pictured left, has congratulated all pupils and teachers in the area as they receive their exam results this morning.

She said: “This has been another record breaking year for pupils with the pass rate for Higher results going up across the constituency after a very difficult 18 months of disruption to their education due to COVID-19.

Ms Baillie added: “I want to pass on my personal congratulations to all pupils receiving results. You should all be incredibly proud about what you have achieved in extremely difficult circumstances.

“Throughout the pandemic I have been constantly amazed by the exemplary way pupils have conducted themselves, especially how they have coped with remote learning and the challenges that it presented.

“My congratulations and thanks also goes to our local teachers who have helped to ensure record breaking exam results in our community this year. These results reflect the dedication and support that they have given to pupils over the last year.”

The National 4 pass rate was maintained at the 2020 level of 93%, which represented an increase on previous years.

Higher students also achieved strong results, with a 96% pass rate up 16.3% from last year, 97% of pupils gaining one or more qualification and 76% of passes at either grade A or B.

At Advanced Higher, 95% of pupils passed, up 11% on last year’s results with 95% achieving one or more qualification and 77% of passes either grade A or B.

In addition, the percentage of passes across all levels in literacy and numeracy across West Dunbartonshire schools has risen from 82% to 93%.

Throughout the year, schools have been working in partnership with WD Leisure, Working4U, West College Scotland, Glasgow Kelvin College, Glasgow Caledonian University and Focus West programmes to offer additional routes to further education and employment. As a result, young people were presented across a range of 192 courses from National 2 to Advanced Higher in subjects ranging from ‘Accounting’ through to ‘Travel & Tourism’.

Education convener Karen Conaghan and Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer.

Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “I would like to congratulate all of our pupils who have worked so hard and continued to achieve through one of the most challenging academic years.  It is very encouraging to see nearly 100% of pupils achieving at least one qualification and a 9% increase in National 5 exams.

“I would like to sincerely thank all of our dedicated teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to assist our pupils through the pandemic and all of our parents and carers who have done so much to support children. This year has been particularly difficult for pupils who have had to endure periods of home learning due to Covid and these results are a real testament to the hard work of our pupils and the fantastic staff who support them.”

Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see these positive results again this year which are a reflection of all the hard work by both our pupils and all of our teaching and support staff over the year. Despite the challenges faced by our young people, they have shown amazing commitment and resilience, working hard whether in school or at home.  We are extremely proud of all of our young people and today is about celebrating all of their achievements.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to all our school staff, who have continued to motivate and inspire their pupils to learn and achieve despite the challenges they faced during the pandemic. Pupils can now contact their school for advice and guidance on their future educational journey.

Responding to young people and students receiving their exam results today, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP, pictured right,  said:   “I would like to congratulate all of those getting results today for their hard work. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on schooling so everyone deserves a huge amount of credit for the work they have put in.

“Likewise I want to thank all the teachers and school staff, whose professionalism and dedication has kept our school system running in these difficult circumstances.”

On the attainment gap and leadership of the SQA, LibDem education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP  said: “Pupils were forced into exams in all but name, sitting as many as 16 assessments in a week, crammed in with little notice. The SQA shifted workloads onto teachers and gave them precious little leeway to recognise that some of their students had missed months of education due to repeated stints in isolation or disruption at home. 

“The fact that the gap between the richest and the poorest has increased again make a mockery of SNP promises to close the attainment gap. The blame for this sits firmly with the government and its education quangos.

“After years of putting their fingers in their ears the Scottish Government eventually conceded that the SQA isn’t fit for purpose, but only after Parliament backed the Scottish Liberal Democrats in a vote that piled pressure on ministers.

“With this years’ process drawing to a close, and still repeatedly refusing to apologise for last year’s debacle, Fiona Robertson should step aside and allow that reform to take place.” 

Meanwhile, in Helensburgh and Argyll, pupils are celebrating today after achieving top marks in their exams and outperforming national averages.

Figures for Argyll and Bute this year show the following pass rates:

  • National 5 results are 87.33% – 1.5% above the national average.
  • Higher results are 90.15% – 2.9% above the national average.
  • Advanced Highers are 91.41% – 1.2% above the national average.
  • All 10 secondary schools maintained their 100% pass rate for National 4 – 13.9% higher than the national average.

Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, pictured left, said: “Congratulations to each and every one of our senior pupils who have received their exam results today. I never cease to be amazed by the talent and ability shown by our young people here in Argyll and Bute.

“The last 18 months have been a difficult and uncertain time for everyone but our young people, with the support of their parents and teachers, have overcome any barriers and continued to work hard to achieve success. Their commitment and sheer determination to do well has clearly paid off and I am delighted for them.

“I know there will be some young people who might be a bit disappointed because they perhaps didn’t get the results they had hoped for, but I want them to know that help and support is available. Exam results are only one way of progressing onto positive destinations.

“There are many, many ways that young people can access appropriate pathways into work, even if they didn’t get the grades they wanted. Should anyone need further support or advice at this time, I would urge them to get in touch with their school in the first instance.”

This year’s Argyll results were marked using the Alternative Certification Model (ACM).

The Alternative Certification Model (ACM) was originally developed for National 5 courses, in response to the Deputy First Minister’s announcement on 7 October 2020 of the cancellation of National 5 exams.

Following the cancellation of Higher and Advanced Higher exams on 8 December, it was decided that the ACM would be expanded to cover Higher and Advanced Higher, as well as National 5.

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