School exam results since the pandemic prove how "robust" efforts were in East Ayrshire when Covid saw exams replaced by teacher and school-based assessments.

The comment from East Ayrshire Council came after the matter was discussed at a meeting of its governance and scrutiny committee on Thursday.

There was a significant upturn in results when the Scottish Government scrapped formal exams in the first two years of the Covid pandemic.

It was anticipated that the return of exams would see a drop in the percentage of pupils passing, but East Ayrshire had a far lower drop than nationally.

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At National 5 level the percentage of Scottish pupils passing with awards of A-C was 77.4 per cent in 2017/18 and 78.2 percent in 2018/19.

This rocketed to 89 percent in 2019/20, the first year of the Alternative Certification Model which was made via teacher assessments.

The model was tweaked  to ‘school based assessments’ in 2020/21, with 85.8 per cent of pupils passing.

When exams returned in 2021/22, the figures dropped to 80.8 per cent, a five per cent drop on the previous year, but still 2.6 per cent higher than the last results under exam conditions.

The council had posted significant poorer figures than the national average in the two years prior to the pandemic – 73.1 per cent and 74.5 per cent in 2017/18 and 2018/19 respectively.

And the ‘bump’ it experienced during covid was even greater, hitting 88.9 per cent in 2019/20 and dropping to 84.7 per cent in 2020/21.

While the drop continued in the first year of exams returning, it was half that experienced nationally.

Over the course of five years, East Ayrshire’s pass rate at National Level 5 has risen by almost 10 per cent, compared with just over three per cent nationally.

The council said there was a similar pattern with Higher and Advanced Highers.

A council spokesperson said: “East Ayrshire Council has confidence in the results within East Ayrshire during these years because of the robust systems put in place across all schools to ensure a consistent approach was adopted to assessing and awarding results.

“Another key element was the involvement of SQA appointees.

“This involved the council’s teachers, who also fulfil roles with the SQA such as marking exam papers, setting exam papers and who have a robust understanding of national standards with regards to assessment in each subject area, leading subject Communities of Practice.

“These were collaborative networks of teachers across all schools and this led to the development of consistent approaches to assessment.

“A further key part of this quality assurance was SQA appointees sampling assessment marking from across schools and providing feedback to colleagues to ensure a consistent approach to marking and awarding was achieved.”

They added that, while the approach to assessments over the pandemic made it difficult to compare performance, if the results in 2020 and 2021 had been highly inflated, the exam results in 2022 would have seen a ‘significant drop’.

The actual results show ‘that the approach to certification in East Ayrshire during the pandemic was robust as the return of exams has had less of an impact on East Ayrshire than it has nationally’.