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Agenda: New exam results cannot be judged against those from previous years

Learners and teachers across Scotland have been working very hard and next week will see the culmination of their efforts as examination results including new Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers are published.

The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the new National qualifications are significant milestones for Scottish education. Feedback from learners and examination centres during and after the exam period indicates that things have gone well so far.

The new National qualifications have been designed to build on CfE in a way that makes learning more relevant. They are different from Standard Grade, Access and Intermediate qualifications and direct comparisons with results from previous years are neither possible nor appropriate. One of the objectives of our new curriculum is to allow for personalised learning, which aims to ensure that every learner gains the skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications that will see them equipped to succeed in our modern world.

Learners are following a far greater variety of pathways as they progress through their learning. Local authorities and schools have been developing their curriculum to meet the needs of pupils at local level. In best practice, young people and their parents have been fully involved as decisions are made.

One key difference to previous years is that many learners are taking qualifications in fewer subjects at the end of fourth year. Schools have made these changes to ensure greater depth in learning and best possible levels of achievement for young people. As they move into fifth and sixth years, it is anticipated that some may take courses in different subjects from those studied in fourth year.

The senior phase should be viewed as a one of learning with flexible progression routes that allow all young people to build up a portfolio of qualifications and awards appropriate to their needs by the time they leave school. It is important to remember that, as part of CfE, young people will have studied all subjects to a higher standard than ever before, giving them a better broad general education and a stronger platform to build on.

Some schools have changed the timescales over which young people study for qualifications, for example by-passing qualification in fourth year, and instead following a two-year course to Higher in fifth year. The guiding principle is that qualifications, awards and achievements are taken at the right pace and stage for the individual over the senior phase which, for an increasing number of young people, will be up to three years.

Schools and centres will be considering how the first year of the senior phase has gone to build on experiences of the new qualifications and make changes to ensure learners are receiving the high-quality education they deserve. We have already seen changes made to the Scottish Qualifications Authority's (SQA) verification process that aim to simplify the system while maintaining standards.

While we provide a wide range of support, working directly with practitioners as well as publishing materials and resources, we continue to extend our offer of tailored support to any school that requires it. We are here to support practitioners and schools so that they can do their job to the best of their ability. We shall continue to work alongside our national education partners to ensure that all learners are being served well whilst working closely with the National Parent Forum of Scotland to ensure that the interests of parents are also taken into account.

My thanks again go to all of the teachers who have worked so hard this year. To the young people receiving results, I wish them all the very best. There are many ways to secure advice and support if needed.

Pupils can contact the SQA's candidate advice line on 0345 279 1000 or Skills Development Scotland Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000. A young peron's school is, of course, the best placed to help plan next steps in learning.

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