Needless to say the Herald and BBC Scotland found something to sadden the day of thousands of students and parents.

Here are some of the facts that would have helped readers and viewers to make their own informed assessment:

1 Pass rates up:

In 2020:

  • the National 5 pass rate was 81.1%
  • the Higher pass rate was 78.9%
  • the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%

In 2019:

  • the National 5 pass rate was 78.2%
  • the Higher pass rate was 74.8%
  • the Advanced Higher pass rate was 79.4%

So pass rates up in all three exams painting a far more optimistic picture than those headlines.

2 Standards maintained to ensure credibility:

All exam systems rely on an essential process known as moderation to uphold standards. This ensures an A grade is the same in every part of the country, making the system fair for everyone, and across all years.  

As the national exams body, only the SQA can maintain the consistency and the integrity of our qualifications.

Teachers and lecturers applied their judgements against national standards and today’s data shows that three out of every four grade estimates were not adjusted by the SQA.

Without moderation, pass rates at grades A-C compared to last year would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher – annual change never been seen in Scottish exam results.

Had that inflation been allowed, imagine the headlines.

3 Attainment gap narrowed

This year’s results also show there has been a narrowing of the attainment gap at grades A-C between the most and least disadvantaged young people, which is now narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than last year, or indeed the average for the last four years.