Headteachers across the Borders give their personal assessment of today's examination results

Pupils in the Scottish Borders have overcome the challenges brought about as a result of Covid-19 to deliver a positive set of examination results.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 5:32 pm
Jedburgh Grammar Campus headteacher Susan Oliver with students, Zoe Blair, Duncan Lityle, Molly Noble and James Wieczysty. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Jedburgh Grammar Campus headteacher Susan Oliver with students, Zoe Blair, Duncan Lityle, Molly Noble and James Wieczysty. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Today young people found out what lies ahead in the immediate future after learning their examination grades.

Formal exams were cancelled for the second year running due to Covid-19, with the results again based on teacher judgement.

But the number of exams sat across the region this year remains in line with 2020 at 13,000.

Jedburgh Grammar deputy headteacher Grant Kearney, with students, Duncan Little, Molly Noble and Zoe Blair. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

And the overall pass rate (A-C) for S4 pupils at SCQF Level 5 has improved in 2021 by three percent to 88.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the overall attainment at SCQF Level 6 remains broadly in line with previous years at 85.4 percent.

Today’s results are the first snapshot of attainment and achievement for the 2020/21 session, with a fuller picture available later in the year when other accreditation such as group and wider achievement awards are finalised.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for Children and Young People has paid tribute to the way in which young people, teaching staff, parents and family carers have risen to the challenges presented by Covid-19 for a second year and for the successes pupils have gone on to achieve.

Councillor Carol Hamilton said: “Once again our young people have been faced with an unprecedented set of circumstances and the results achieved today are testament to the remarkable flexibility and resilience that they have shown.

“Our teaching staff have again worked extremely hard together with the SQA to ensure the assessment process has been as fair and transparent as possible and there has been minimal impact on our young people and what they have been able to achieve. As a result, it is encouraging to see that Scottish Borders has attained a set of results which demonstrate a picture of consistent achievement.”

Councillor Hamilton added: “I certainly hope that as many as possible of our young people received the results they were hoping for. However, for any who didn’t, the first thing to remember is don’t panic. There is no wrong pathway; everyone’s learner journey is different and their school or an organisation like Skills Development Scotland have staff on hand to provide all the reassurance and advice they need.”

Pupil support information is available at: www.scotborders.gov.uk/examresults and from the Skills Development Scotland helpline on 0808 100 8000. This is open from 8am-8pm on 10 and 11 August, 9am-5pm on 12 and 13 August and 9am-5pm on 16, 17 and 18 August.

Meanwhile, headteachers across the Borders have given their own personal assessments of the results:

Bruce Robertson, Berwickshire High.

“Berwickshire High School students have worked incredibly hard to achieve the best results they can, in the most challenging of circumstances. All of our staff are very proud of them for their effort and determination. I am just as proud of our staff for all of the support they have given our students throughout the year.”

Justin Sinclair, Earlston High.

“In what has been an exceptionally challenging year I would like to pay tribute to the individual and collective efforts of pupils, staff and parents/carers of Earlston High School and for the exceptionally strong set of results that our young people have achieved.

“A hallmark of Earlston is the support we provide for one another and the family that is our school community truly came together and sustained one another through these difficult times. We really did look out for the wellbeing of each other and as a result, our school has continued to thrive.

“Each year we track and monitor the attainment of each year group and despite everything, it is so heartening to see that our results are very much in line with our predictions. Our pupils have achieved another set of outstanding results of which we should all be immensely proud. To those who maybe didn’t get what they were hoping for, please remember that we are here for you on the next stage of your unique journey.

“I would like to thank each and every pupil, member of staff, parent/carer, parent council member, wider SBC colleagues and all others who supported us through this exceptional year. We have rallied around #TeamEarlston and our results are testimony to the incredible school that is Earlston High.”

Robin Chapman, Eyemouth High.

“After another year like no other, I continue to be so impressed by the resilience and hard work of all our staff and students, as well as our parents and carers.

“With all the interruptions and challenges we have faced it was a tremendous effort by our senior students to consolidate their learning, work with their teachers and produce high quality evidence over an extended assessment period. Staff worked tirelessly to provide accurate and encouraging feedback and as a result, we have achieved some excellent results again this year.

“We are planning for every eventuality but look forward to engaging again with our wonderful young people in the middle of August.”

Kevin Ryalls, Galashiels Academy.

“We would like to recognise the commitment, dedication and hard work of our whole school community which led to our students achieving very positive outcomes. Over a very challenging two years, our seniors have taken responsibility and shown high levels of resilience and creativity to manage and succeed.

“In S4, we maintained our significant increase in the amount of students achieving five National 5 qualifications from last year. At 45, this is twice as many as 2016. It is also worth noting that there has been an increase in the number of A and B passes.

“In S5, we have the best results over the last five years with the highest number of passes at 3H, 4H and 5H benchmarks. Again, the number of A and B passes has increased.

“In S6, we maintained our level of three and five Highers from last year and increased our 2019 results.

“As a leading school in Scotland in terms of offering a wider curriculum, our students in S6 in particular benefitted from a wider range of qualifications at a high level and the support we provide in terms of their chosen pathway.

“Of course, behind these statistics there are a great many individual examples of students showing outstanding effort and ambition and we are very proud of all our students. Most pleasing was the way the staff and students pulled together, in challenging circumstances, to make sure they demonstrated our vision of being the best they can be.”

Vicky Porteous, Hawick High

"Despite the huge challenges to learning that young people faced last session as a result of the national pandemic, l am delighted to share that we continue to see improvements in attainment at Hawick High School.

"All results achieved by young people in the latest exam diet are based on demonstrated attainment and not inferred attainment as was the case in session 2019-20.

"We have seen an improvement in the number of S4 students achieving passes in six or more subjects at SCQF Level 5. The number of S4 candidates achieving five or more subjects at SCQF Level 5 is similar to last year and significantly better (10 percent) than 2019. Furthermore the number of S4 students that achieved five qualifications at any level has increased by 7 percent.

"We have maintained the improvements made last year at SCQF Level 6. The number of S5 students achieving an pass in five or more subjects at SCQF Level 6 is the same as last year while we have significantly more students achieving a pass in three or more subjects at this level.

"There has also been an improvement in the number of S6 candidates successfully achieving one or more subjects at SCQF Level 7.

"We have maintained the improvements made last year in numeracy by S4 students at SCQH Level 5 and have seen further improvements in students achieving a numeracy award at SCQH Level 6. Furthermore, our consistently strong performance in literacy at all levels has been complemented by an increase in the number of S5 students achieving Literacy award at SCQF Level 6.

"In amongst the many good results there were some tremendous individual performances from a number of our S4, S5 and S6 students.

"We are proud of all the examination achievements of our young people in this challenging and unprecedented year - well done to you all. Finally a huge thank you to staff, parents and young people, for their hard work, commitment and support to ensure that despite these challenges we continue to make significant progress in Hawick High School."

Susan Oliver, Jedburgh Grammar Campus.

“As part of our ongoing school improvement agenda, Jedburgh Grammar Campus presented an increased number of pupils for SQA qualifications this year, particularly at Level 5 (National 5 or equivalent) and Level 6 (Higher or equivalent). This has resulted in positive outcomes at every level of qualification, especially S4 pupils achieving five or more Level 5 at Grades A-C and S5 pupils achieving three or more Level 6 at Grades A–C. Success at Advanced Higher continues to be a strength and positive outcomes at this level have been maintained this year.

“As well as these successes, JGC also presented a number of senior pupils for Leadership and Personal Development qualifications, and we were delighted to see success in Level 1 qualifications delivered in our Rose Hub Enhanced Provision. We will continue to look to expand our curriculum offer to best meet the needs of learners at all levels.

“We are tremendously proud of how our young people have handled the challenges of the last year, showing incredible resilience and adaptability throughout the session. Their results are the product of ongoing work from the start of the 2020-21 school session and are testament to their hard work and best efforts, supported by our dedicated staff team. Well done to all and thank you to parents, carers, partner agencies and our community for their ongoing support.

“We have settled in well to our new home and are loving the flexible learning opportunities it offers. Hopefully it’s not too long before we can welcome the rest of our community to see the inside for themselves.”

Jill Lothian, Kelso High.

“We are very proud of all our young people and their continued efforts throughout another challenging academic session. At Kelso High, our senior students aimed high. With ongoing support from staff, family and our wider community they remained dedicated, determined and persevered to achieve individual targets and goals.

“Key highlights for our overall 2021 SQA performance include an increase in the percentage of our students gaining five or more National 5 awards within S4 along with those gaining at least one Advanced High within S6.

“All our young people will continue to enhance their portfolio of academic results as well as developing key skills for life and work. These will be achieved by either returning to school, moving on to further and higher education or embarking on a new career via employment.

“One of our key areas for improvement for session 21/22 will be to build on these attainment successes. We will use our core values – PRIDE in ourselves, our school and our community - to build strong, positive relationships across the school and ensure there is a high quality learning experience for all." #PRIDEKHS #NOWRONGPATH”

Campbell Wilson, Peebles High.

“More than in any other year, these results are a symbol of the hard work, resilience and indomitable spirit of our fantastic young people, supportive parents and tirelessly hard working teachers.

“The backdrop of uncertainty and the global pandemic was incredibly challenging but in the end these results are a fair reflection of the ability and attitude of our young people and will serve them well for their bright and exciting futures.

“I take this opportunity to thank them, their parents and our teachers for their efforts to ensure a set of qualifications that speak highly of our school and, most importantly, our young people. I will be in school to answer any queries and sign-post appropriate supports this week.”

Jamie Bryson, Selkirk High.

“The seniors at Selkirk High School have been amazing this year and we are very proud of every single one of them - not only because of their outstanding achievements but also for coping with the challenges of this year so inspirationally and so responsibly. Never have we been so proud at SHS or more conscious of the value and privilege of working with young people.

“Every student at SHS is on an achievement journey - and qualifications, along with skills and values, are of course an important part of this. As well as very pleasing individual results, we are delighted to see a continuation of the positive trends of recent years across a range of measures. The large number of S4 students achieving at least five awards at National 5 is a particularly satisfying testament to the combined efforts of the student, teacher and family team at SHS.

“We know that behind each result is a story of tremendous resilience – this year more than ever – and alongside congratulations to all our students I would also like to pay tribute to their families and to their teachers for their relentless positivity and commitment to the young people in our charge and care.”