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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Scottish exam passes drop
A student open his results with his family
Students received their results on Tuesday
Pass rates for students taking Higher exams in Scotland have dropped by more than two percentage points on last year.

As students across the country received their exam results, figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) showed that pass rates are down slightly for Higher and Advanced Higher exams.

Results are said to be holding steady at other examination levels.

The SQA said it would be investigating the fall, but the drop may be simply a reflection of normal fluctuations in the pass rate.

Exam class
About 135,000 pupils are receiving results

Chief Executive David Fraser told BBC Radio Scotland: "Over five years the trend line is actually very similar to the current year, just under 70%.

"So each year there may be a small percentage either way along that trend line.

"We will obviously investigate this in more detail over the next few weeks, and investigate exactly what the reasons are, and convey this information."

Scottish Education Minister Cathy Jamieson said the pass rate fall was "not a huge drop".

She said she had asked the SQA to provide an analysis of the figures.

"I want to be assured that we are maintaining standards and if there are any lessons to be learned then I would want to know how we would pick up on that," she said.

National qualifications

The exam body came in for fierce criticism in the wake of the summer 2000 exams, when thousands of Scottish students received late or incorrect results.

However, the SQA said the results process was "on course" this year and urged people to concentrate on the exam results rather than worry about the authority's performance.

Since the end of the exam season on 13 June, the SQA has collected and marked 1.25 million papers from more than 500 centres.

Certificates were sent to 134,648 candidates and the SQA said that the overall number of entries had increased since 2001.

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson: "Not a huge drop"

According to the SQA, people gaining grades 1 to 6 at Standard Grade rose from 96.3% in 2001 to 96.7% this year.

In the new national qualifications, pass rates were up at Intermediate 1 (61.7% to 62.4%) and Intermediate 2 (67% to 68.5%).

However, at Higher level, the pre-appeal pass rate was 69.7%, a fall of 2.2 percentage points on last year.

The pass rate at Higher was similar to overall Higher pass rates in 1998 and 1999 (69% and 69.9% respectively).

At Advanced Higher, the pre-appeal pass rate was 71.7% - a 2.8 point decrease on 74.5% for 2001.

It was the third year that new National Qualifications were awarded at Access 2, Access 3, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Higher, and the second year at Advanced Higher.

Officials said the increase in entries at Advanced Higher was particularly encouraging and showed a larger number of candidates were attempting qualifications.

Students with queries about their exam certificates can phone the SQA helpline on 0845 278 8080 between 0700 BST and 2200 BST from Tuesday 13 August until Sunday18 August

The BBC also has a helpline which is open from 0800 BST. The number is 0808 100 8000. .

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Morrison
"The pass rate for highers is down by more than two percent"
Scottish Education Minister Cathy Jamieson
"I want to be assured that we are maintaining standards."
SQA chief executive David Fraser
"We'll obviously investigate this in more detail."

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