First candidates receive new school qualifications

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

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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