First candidates receive new school qualifications


Scottish students receive their exam results - so how have the new National 4 and 5s performed?

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The first candidates to study for the qualifications that have replaced Standard Grades have been receiving their results.

The new qualifications - mostly studied for by fourth year students - represent the biggest shake-up to the exam system for a generation.

They are among 140,000 students across Scotland receiving their results.

Meanwhile, the number of Higher passes has reached a record level, although the pass rate itself fell slightly.

While all candidates receive their results by post, about a quarter of them also asked to get a text message or email.

The National 5 qualification is broadly equivalent to a Credit pass in a Standard Grade or a good pass in an old O Grade. The National 4 is the equivalent of a General level Standard Grade.

The Scottish government, unions and education authorities are all cautioning against direct comparisons between the National 4 and 5 results and Standard Grade results in previous years.

One key difference is the courses are only a year long, while there have also been changes to content.

'Big change'

Another big change is that it is possible to fail a National 5 exam or National 4 course - in practice, only a tiny minority failed Standard Grades completely even if they did not get the level of award they hoped for.

The pass rate for National 4 courses was 93%, while the pass rate for the more academically advanced National 5 courses was 81.1%. National 5 candidates who pass will receive an A, B or C grade while National 4 candidates simply pass or fail.

Generally speaking, fourth year students were studying for fewer qualifications than before - perhaps six or seven Nationals rather than seven or eight Standard Grades - although the numbers vary across the country.

Learning minister Dr Alasdair Allan said: "Our education system has taken another significant step forward today.

"The new National qualifications represent a shift towards deeper learning and a greater emphasis on analysis, engagement and understanding.

"These are the qualities on which we continue to strengthen our education system."

Some teachers say the introduction of the National 4 and 5 qualifications was one of the most challenging of their careers.

There were widespread claims of excessive workload, bureaucracy and stress.

High praise

There is likely to be relief in the profession that the exams, marking and distribution of results appear to have all gone smoothly.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary said: "Scotland's pupils and teachers deserve high praise for a strong set of exam results which have been achieved during a very significant period of change for Scottish education.

"It is of great credit to the work of our schools, pupils and teachers that the diet has been so successful, at a time when budgets have been declining and workload pressures increasing.

"Pupils, parents and teachers should be extremely proud of this strong set of results and the EIS sends its congratulations to all pupils who have been successful in their exams this year."

Alan Mackenzie, acting general secretary of the SSTA, added: "It will be difficult to make comparison on the basis of no like-for-like comparison with the new qualifications. Only after schools and teachers have been able to get behind the statistics to examine real cases can assessment be made. That will take time."

Candidates for other qualifications - including Highers, Advanced Highers and Intermediates - are also receiving their results.

In total, 191,850 Highers were taken this year - up more than 9,000 on last year. However the pass rate slipped slightly from 77.4% to 77.1%.

Candidates who failed their National 5 courses face different scenarios. Some will have already completed a special unit - an Added Value Unit - which means they will get a National 4 award instead. Others will be able to complete this unit in the coming school year.

A special helpline has been set up for any candidate who did not get the results they had hoped for. Trained advisors are able to offer advice on the university clearance system, college courses, modern apprenticeships and other options. The number is 0808 100 8000.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Personally I feel the exams should change each year. From my experiences, teachers just seem to teach you what you need to know to pass an exam and not enough to know about anything in any real depth. Longer hours for students of all ages and a higher class of education for all please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    According to my experience the reuslts are dependent in 80 % on the hard work of the very student .
    So if the results are poor it means that the students are lazy .

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.


    'As a chemistry teacher who was unable to carry out practical work this year due to packed content and over assessment regime I am saddened and disillusioned by the new qualifications.... I lectured this year as opposed to teaching. The learning is short term cramming to pass an exam and not deeper thinking or learning'

    Spot on. Which is why I left the profession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    As a chemistry teacher who was unable to carry out practical work this year due to packed content and over assessment regime I am saddened and disillusioned by the new qualifications.... I lectured this year as opposed to teaching. The learning is short term cramming to pass an exam and not deeper thinking or learning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Am I right in thinking they seem constructed so that almost no-one fails?

    Sorry, 'deepens' their learning.


Comments 5 of 87


More Scotland stories


Scotland Decides: SCOTLAND VOTES NO

  1. No 2,001,926
  2. Yes 1,617,989
After 32 of 32 counts Results in detail

Referendum Live

    10:09: 'Shifted the goalposts'

    Finance Minister John Swinney has criticised the "utterly unseemly activity" by the Westminster parties.

    John Swinney

    Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, he said they had "shifted the goalposts" over devolution of powers to Scotland.

    Text 80295 10:04: Referendum - Your Views

    Marg, Sutherland: Would it be better to keep the promises to Scotland first, then deal with England? Or am I very naive?

    Nathan, Forres: Ed Balls seems to take the West Lothian Question back on track with the wording "English votes for English Laws". It had morphed over the weekend to "English matters - English financial decisions" etc when we know fine well a lot of those things affect Scotland too.

    Anon: All the noise being made is by the Yes voters being sore losers. I voted No and would vote No again tomorrow. I would be more worried if some rush decision was made in two days than people actually debating the issues and working out what is best for everyone in the UK. It is ludicrous to think those who voted No expected change within the week. Let's be realistic and not get caught up in this Yes voter "everyone must be happy now, or else!" mentality.

    09:52: 'Powers will be delivered'

    Scotland's only Tory MP, David Mundell, told Morning Call: "The powers will be delivered. I'm sure we could spend the rest of the programme listening to people saying that they won't be and the only way I can refute that is to deliver them.

    "The test is the powers being delivered and I am absolutely confident that they will be."

    09:49: 'English votes for English laws'

    Speaking to the BBC this morning, Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the prime minister's pledge to offer "English votes for English laws" is "possibly the most un-prime ministerial thing I've seen David Cameron do in the last few years".

    09:46: Another referendum?

    Former Highland Council leader, Michael Foxley expects there to be another independence referendum within five years.

    The long standing Lib-Dem politician voted 'Yes' for independence, contrary to his party's stance on staying part of the UK.

    He says he believes a second vote is likely because there is a "major risk" Westminster won't deliver substantial new powers to the Scottish Parliament and may also scrap the Barnett Formula.

    09:40: 'Tory MPs furious'

    Journalist Martin Hannan told Morning Call on BBC Radio Scotland: "Without any shadow of a doubt Gordon Brown's intervention with the promise of these powers swung the vote at the last minute. It stopped the momentum for Yes dead in its tracks and people were able to go in and vote No with a clear conscience, because Scotland would be getting more powers.

    "The fact is, we were told these things would happen over the weekend and what have we got today? We've got a meeting between the prime minister and Tory backbench MPs, who are furious at his promise to give more devolution."

  7. 09:38: Referendum - Your Views

    John, Kirkcaldy: It'll be a compromise. The lowest common denominator will prevail. The question is, if it'll be enough to get the agreement of the majority.

    Michael Welby: As an English voter and activist I am determined that the Scots people will get all that has been promised to them by the three leaders. At the same time I want the West Lothian Question addressed.

    09:30: 'Blown up' Tim Reid Political correspondent, BBC News

    Labour's Frank Field tweets: "Scotland has blown up the English constitution"

    Text 80295 09:10: Referendum - Your Views

    Robin, Glasgow: I voted No and I do have faith in the new powers being provided. What I never had faith in was Salmond's Vow that he and the Yes voters would accept the result of the referendum and move forward. He has clearly reneged on this, and now makes the sinister prediction the independence can be achieved "by other means". He clearly only wants to follow the sovereign will of the Scottish people if they agree with him.

    Ewan, Nairn: I am 99% sure that the powers (whatever they are, nobody seems to know) won't be delivered, either with substance or in any decent time. However, it's still only scraps and why ' Scotland' voted No to running its own affairs, getting ALL powers and becoming a democratic country is beyond me. Scotland is a pitiful laughing stock. Independence will come and make no mistake, the YES movement is bigger than ever and British Nationalism here will shrink into history.

    Anon: I am a No voter and I am perfectly happy with the way things are progressing with the Westminster parties. I wish Alex Salmond would just accept that; he lost his referendum that nobody asked for and that divided Scotland.

    John in Linlithgow: Do I believe Westminster will deliver more powers to Scotland? NO. And in the declared timescale? NO.

    08:59: 'Sovereign will of the people'

    Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said the guarantees made by the main parties during the referendum campaign on more powers for Scotland would not fall by the wayside.

    "The Scottish people made an emphatic decision on Thursday," she said. "All parties said before the referendum we'd respect that.

    "The sovereign will of the Scottish people has been expressed and we need to respect that and move forward with the guarantees and commitments made during the referendum campaign.

    "I absolutely guarantee that we have the work done and have substantial progress under way. We'll be moving forward on that immediately."

    Text 80295 08:54: Referendum - Get Involved

    Stuart from Fife: I just wish people would be more patient and realistic. It's only been a couple of days since the vote, the country has voted No and all the moaning and groaning will never change the will of the people. Everybody was sick and tired of all the stress caused by this vote, let's move on and give the politicians breathing space to carry out the job in hand!

    Stevie, Motherwell: I knew the 3 main leaders would go back on their word to Scotland. Gordon Brown had no right promising what he couldn't keep too. It was a devo-trap and I voted Yes.

    Danny: I voted No, I don't care about devo.

    Ryan McArthur, Rothesay, Bute: The promise will not be kept, independence is unstoppable and Scotland will be independent within 15 years.

    08:45: Referendum reaction Louise White Presenter, Morning Call

    An argument has erupted between Labour and the Conservatives surrounding the timetable for further devolved powers to be granted to Scotland following a 'No' vote in the referendum.

    David Cameron says that he also wants constitutional change for England with English MPs only to vote on English Laws and Ed Miliband feels that this shouldn't be attached to The Vow made to Scotland.

    Alex Salmond, meanwhile, has claimed that this shows Westminster is trying to renege on the deal.

    Do you have faith that Westminster will deliver on 'The Vow'?

    Get in touch using 0500 92 95 00 or text 80295.

    You can listen live to the programme here.

    08:33: Devolution commitments 'will be honoured'

    Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran insists the political parties will honour their pledge to deliver more power to Scotland.

    The pledge, made by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg ahead of the referendum, has three parts and also commits to preserving the Barnett funding formula.

    Alex Salmond has accused the three UK party leaders of "reneging" on the pledge.

    The first part of the agreement promises "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament "delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed" by the three parties.

    The second says the leaders agree that "the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably".

    Margaret Curran

    The third "categorically states" that the final say on funding for the NHS will lie with the Scottish government "because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue".

    "I can absolutely guarantee that the commitments we made during the campaign will be honoured," the shadow Scottish secretary told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland.

    "They [the Conservatives] can give that guarantee and I think they have given that guarantee. That's my understanding of what they've been saying all weekend.

    "What is clear and people should be assured about are those categoric assurances we have from all the parties that were part of this."

    Text 80295 08:25: Referendum - Your Views

    Anon: We were not tricked Mr Salmond, we voted NO because you did not have answers to the big important questions.

    Robert, Glasgow: Westminster will do what keeps the rest of the UK, their main electorate happy. They don't want to see more power go to Scotland so it won't happen. 1.6 million voices in Scotland will increase to 2.6 surely!

    Janine, East Lothian: Those who voted No did so for a range of reasons. What is clear in speaking to my family and friends is that many were unsure about full independence and were attracted by the devo-max we were promised at the last minute. If they don't deliver devo-max, surely the legitimacy of the whole referendum falls apart?

    08:10: What the papers say

    The Herald leads with a claim that Alex Salmond has argued that Scotland could achieve independence without another referendum.


    The Daily Record says a "rattled" David Cameron has been forced to make a "no ifs, no buts" commitment to more powers for Scotland.

    The Scotsman says the leaders of the three main UK parties are at odds over the delivery of further devolution.

    Read our newspaper round-up here.

    Text 80295 07:58: Referendum - Your Views

    Martin, Glasgow: I don't think a single person in Scotland wants the West Lothian Question to remain. We understand fairness. Why, then, is fixing it supposedly the reason for the collapse of the great Scottish bribe off?

    Lorna, Glasgow: These tax proposals are exactly what Better Together objected to for independence: cross border, tax etc. We should have had more info on this before the referendum.

    Anon: Nicola Sturgeon for first minister... mon the Irn Bru Lady.

    07:53: PM has 'muddied the waters'

    David Cameron has "muddied the waters" on devolved powers in the wake of Scotland's referendum vote, according to a Labour MP.

    Graham Allen, the MP for Nottingham North and chairman of the House of Commons political and constitutional reform committee, said the prime minister should deal with devolution for England separately.

    Labour MP Graham Allen

    "Promises were made by all the union parties; they have to be honoured and they will be honoured," Mr Allen told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme.

    "What's confusing people is the prime minister, threw in on Friday morning, that he wanted to look at English MPs and English votes.

    "I think that's muddied the waters and everyone would be happier if those issues were dealt with separately.

    "That won't compromise any promises that were made by those parties last week before the [referendum] vote took place.

    "There is a separate issue, which is very important, which is Scotland, through their fantastic democratic adventure of the referendum, has raised devolution for everyone else in the union.

    "Really, we just need to be honest about this. We're going to have, at some point, a federal parliament and system in the UK."

    Text 80295 07:40: Referendum - Get Involved

    Anon: UK parties letting Scotland down already; we've had broken promises before. Will we ever learn?

    07:34: Salmond claims voters were 'tricked'

    "No" voters in last week's independence referendum were "tricked" by a late vow of more devolved powers, according to Alex Salmond.

    Salmond, who is stepping down as Scotland's first minister, accused the three UK party leaders of "reneging" on the pledge they made days before Thursday's referendum which he claimed won the "No" vote.

    Alex Salmond

    No 10 dismissed his claims, as the three parties continue to disagree over handling the process of devolution.

    Voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55% to 45%.

  20. 07:25: Referendum - Your Views

    John Mason, Falkirk: Surely the big problem for the Tories is convincing their back-benchers that nothing is being given away to Scotland under increased powers, without letting the cat out the bag to those poor Scottish voters who misguidedly switched? While it's proposed the Barnett Formula remains, alas all new tax-raising powers are deducted from it. Hence, 'devo max' only works for Scotland if the new tax-raising powers exceed the Barnett block grant, and that's not likely to happen! Yes, Mr Brown, you can fool most of the people most of the time, you just did it!

    Ian: How dare you Alex! The people have spoken - let us do what we as a people and nation have done so well! Keep the heid, respect the democratic process and, aye, be humble. We helped create the modern world that way.

    07:18: West Lothian Question David Porter Westminster correspondent

    Here in Manchester [Labour Party conference] there's a palpable sense of relief at the result of the referendum vote. Most delegates enthusiastically back the idea of more powers for Scotland but many, particularly from Labour's English heartlands, want further devolution for their areas too.

    A growing number also believe that the West Lothian Question, concerning the voting rights and responsibilities of Scottish MPs, also needs to be looked at.

    The conference will get the chance to make its feelings about Scotland known this afternoon when the Scottish leaders address delegates in their formal report on Scotland.

    The shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran will say that the Labour Party must reach out to people who voted Yes across Scotland last week and assure them that real change is coming.

    Text 80295 07:10: Referendum - Get Involved

    Anon: Surely English people have some entitlement too? I feel Scots MPs should be banned from voting on English-only issues. In return, then Scotland will get some more powers. Let's hope the Scots don't feel that somehow they're more worthy then all others, they're not.

    07:04: Commons voting rights limited?

    David Cameron is hosting a summit of senior Conservative MPs at Chequers to discuss plans to limit the Commons voting rights of Scottish MPs.

    The prime minister has said a pledge to give Scotland more powers should go hand in hand with changing the role of Scottish politicians at Westminster.

    Alex Salmond (left) and David Cameron

    However, Labour leader Ed Miliband is opposed to linking the two issues.

    The three main parties pledged more devolution during the campaign to encourage Scots to reject independence.

    07:01: Labour 'reaches out' to 'Yes' voters

    Labour aims to reach out to supporters who voted for independence in last week's referendum.

    Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said senior party figures would meet Labour voters who backed independence in last week's referendum.

    Three of the four local authorities where a majority of people voted "Yes" were Labour-controlled.

    And the SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialist Party say they have recruited many former Labour members.

    07:00: Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to today's live page coverage of the latest post-referendum news and analysis.



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