19th September 2018
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Strong showing for isles pupils in exams to beat national average

, by , in Public Affairs

By NEIL RIDDELL

AROUND 700 pupils throughout the isles received their exam results this week, with the schools service hailing a “very good” standard as Shetland’s teenagers continue to outperform their counterparts at a national level.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results were received by pupils on Tuesday, by post for some but by text or email for an increasing number, and the proportion of Higher candidates in Shetland receiving a C grade or better rose five per cent year-on-year to 77 per cent, almost four per cent above the national average.

The proportion of Shetland pupils achieving a credit award at Standard Grade rose from 50 per cent last year to 59 per cent this year and at Intermediate 2 level, 81 per cent of candidates managed a C pass or better, up from 76 per cent last year.

AHS headteacher Valerie Nicolson was delighted with the results at her school, where 150 candidates sat Standard Grade exams and over 300 across secondary five and secondary six sat Highers. She said: “I am pleased with the SQA examination results for Anderson High School. It seems that we have a general increase in achievement, in line with the national picture. Our young people should be proud of their efforts.”

Her early observations were that seven pupils had achieved five ‘A’ grades at first sitting, which she described as “a real accomplishment”, while more pupils achieved five Highers in fifth year than previously. At Standard Grade level, she said there were some “splendid” individual sets of results from a wide range of pupils.

Mrs Nicolson said: “We had high hopes for class four of 2007-8 and I am pleased to note that they seem to have fulfilled their potential, at all levels of ability. There seems to be a significant increase, from 2007,
in those getting five or more credit level passes – the highest level you can achieve in Standard Grade – and just about everybody getting English and Maths at some level.”

A spokesman for the management at Brae School said their results this year had been very encouraging, with improved levels of achievement at Standard Grade including an increase in the number of pupils passing five or more at general level. Pass rates at Higher are broadly in line with last year’s results, with the results again well above the national average, and one pupil at the school attained five As at Higher level this year.

The spokesman said: “Overall I would say pupils have more than matched expectations and it’s a reflection on the hard work leading up to exams that’s gone in by staff and pupils at the school.”

Across Scotland, pass rates for both Higher and Standard Grades were at their highest level since the new examination system came in eight years ago, with the pass rate for Highers rising 1.7 per cent in the past
12 months and bringing the overall pass rate to 73.4 per cent.

The number of Higher exams sat by Shetland pupils fell from 959 to 842 this year, while the number of Standard Grades rose by 135 from 2,146 to 2,281. The difference in numbers sitting each type of exam, according to head of schools Helen Budge, was a normal fluctuation and not particularly significant.

Ms Budge paid tribute to the hard work of students and staff and added she was pleased with the overall results, which she said showed consistent improvement, but said the dep­artment was remaining “cautious” because analysis was only in its initial stages.

A spokeswoman for Careers Scotland said that whether exam results were as anticipated or unexpected, advisers were available to help pupils access the latest information on course vacancies at colleges
and universities, as well as providing guidance on local employment and training op­portunities.

Pupils and school leavers are welcome to call along Monday to Friday or phone the careers centre on (01595) 695791 to arrange an appointment. The Careers Scotland office is now based in Charlotte House and can be accessed through the job centre.

Advisers will also be available to meet with pupils and parents at results clinics at the AHS on 18th August and at Brae High School on 14th  August. Additionally, there is a freephone national exam results advice helpline (0808 100 8000) which is open until 22nd August.

Skills Development Scotland director of careers Danny Logue said: “This can be an anxious time for students and their friends and family. However, it’s important not to panic when the results arrive. There is often
a positive outcome even if the results that students receive are very different to what they were expecting.

“It’s vital for students to call the helpline as soon as they can, as colleges and universities make their final selections once  the results are out. We can discuss the options and look at the different learning pathways and routes that are available to help the caller make an informed career choice that is right for them.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that Shetland has the third highest rate of teachers taking time off for stress, anxiety and depression. An average of 3.21 days of work were lost per teacher last year in the isles, well above the national average of 0.6 days per worker each year, though as ever the low overall number of teachers meant a small number of absentees skewed the figures.

Ms Budge said: “We certainly monitor very closely our health figures, or absence figures, and
we are very aware of those that are off for one reason or another and we’ve been working hard to get those figures as low as possible.”

She added that it was inevitable that some staff would have illnesses or absences and that these were monitored on a monthly basis.

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