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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Higher English passes drop
Girl opening results with parents looking on
Nervous moments for pupils and parents alike
The number of pupils in Scotland passing Higher English has dropped dramatically from a year ago.

The fall emerged as thousands of young people received the results of their exams.

Figures released by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) revealed that 59.2% of candidates passed Higher English this year compared to 64.7% in 2002.

By contrast, the pass rate for Higher maths rose from 64.3% to 66.8%.

The SQA results showed that overall, the Higher pass rate had fallen for the second year in a row.

A total of 69.6% of candidates passed their Highers - a drop of 0.1 percentage point on 2002 and 2.3 points on 2001.

David Fraser, chief executive of the SQA, said: "The pass rate has remained steady, which indicates that while teachers and lecturers are preparing more candidates to take more qualifications at this level, the overall standard of attainment is maintained."

Careers Scotland
A helpline is available on 0800 100 8000
Lines are open on Tuesday 12 August and Wednesday 13 August from 0800 BST to 2000 BST
From Thursday 14 August to Friday 22 August lines are open 1000 BST to 1800 BST.
Unlike in previous years, he promised that everyone would receive the results they were due.

"All the certificates have been delivered to the Royal Mail. We also have back-up information at schools and colleges and all the information has gone to UCAS.

"Every candidate will receive a helpline number along with their certificate so if there are any issues they can call the SQA, although their first point of contact should be their school or their college," Mr Fraser said.

Elsewhere, pass rates for all other exams were marginally up on last year.

Standard Grade passes rose from 96.7% to 96.8%, Intermediate 1 passes went up from 62.4% to 64.6% and Intermediate 2 pass rates increased from 68.5% to 69.6%.

Authority 'pleased'

Advanced Highers - which replaced the old Certificate of Sixth Year Studies - also saw an increased pass rate, from 71.7% to 72.6%.

The number of candidates sitting exams rose compared to last year, with certificates being sent out to 140,056 candidates, compared to 137,648 the previous year.

An SQA spokesman said that overall, the exams authority was pleased with this year's results.

Overall, Higher pass rates have gone up
He was confident they would have the support of employers and university chiefs.

"Generally the theme we can see is more people achieving more," the spokesman went on.

"The increases in passes is marginal, but if we had a big fluctuation we could be open to suggestions that we are either making the exams more difficult or we're dumbing down.

"But the fact it remains constant would suggest we are maintaining the standard.

"Qualifications gained this year have the same worth as qualifications last year and next year."

Lower pass mark

The SQA spokesman revealed that the pass mark for Higher English had been reduced from 48% to 45% this year to reflect the fact that it was more difficult than 12 months ago.

He also said the exam had been "significantly different" from last year as there was no internal assessment element and had been based only on the pupils' performance in the exam hall.

Education minister Peter Peacock pledged to "look carefully" at an assessment panel report into the Higher English results.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he added: "We are in the midst of a very major series of changes in the English exam and it is very difficult, in that period of change, to make year-on-year comparisons."

A results helpline set up by Careers Scotland recieved more than 1,000 calls in its first four hours of operation from students looking for advice on their next step.

  • Royal Mail made sure that Lindsay Vallance, 17, received her results at the same time as the rest of Scotland.

    Lindsay lives in Corrour, Fort William, which is Britain's highest railway station meaning her home normally only receives mail three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

    But when she turned up to meet the 0822 train, she was delighted to find her certificate - showing an A, B and C pass in the exams she sat - was on board.

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