The hard work of young people in East Lothian’s secondary schools has been recognised as the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) today published the qualification results for S4, S5 and S6.

The newly-published figures show pass rates for East Lothian’s sixth year students increased across all certifications from 67% to 74% - the highest level in five years.

The number of young people in East Lothian achieving A-C grades in Higher qualifications has also increased. Improvements were recorded in English and Maths, an area of focus, across both National 5 and Higher accreditation levels.

The exam diet for 2019/20 was cancelled in response to Covid-19 and teachers were instead asked to submit estimates of achievement based on their teaching knowledge and experience of each pupil’s performance across the year, which have been reviewed and moderated by schools and SQA assessors.

A total of 11,239 resulted awards were certificated for 2,349 candidates across the county in 2020, an increase on last year (11,051 / 2,354).

Key highlights by level are:

National 5 level

  • 80.4% of candidates presented for National 5 qualifications achieved A-C grades, up 2% on last year. 34% of candidates achieved a Grade A, which is in line with the previous year.
  • Improvements were made in the number of S4 pupils achieving one or more awards at National 5 or better (77% compared to 75% last year) and those achieving three or more awards at National 5 (54% compared to 53% last year).
  • The number of S4 pupils achieving five or more awards at National 5 or better decreased by 3% to 35%.
  • Overall, the pass rate for National 5 English remained steady at 90%. The number of candidates achieving Grade A increased from 38% in 2019 to 41% in 2020 (a 7% point increase since 2016).
  • Pass rates for Maths, which was an area of focus, increased from 62% to 67%.

Higher level

  • There was an increase in the number of S5 presentations for Highers (73%: up 4% on last year) with pass rates rising amongst that group (81% compared to 79% last year).
  • 78.2% of candidates presented for Higher qualifications achieved A-C grades. This is up 5% on last year.
  • Overall, the pass rate across all year groups for Higher English increased by 4% to 80%.
  • Pass rates for Maths, which was an area of focus, increased in at Higher level from 69% to 71%.
  • More pupils presented for Higher English at S5 level with pass rates increasing from 79% in 2019 to 84% this year.
  • More candidates presented for Higher Maths at S5 level, rising by 6% to 28% of the S5 cohort. Pass rates also improved amongst this group from 74% in 2019 to 76% this year.
  • By the end of S5, improvements were made across all three Higher measures:
    • 60% of pupils achieved one or more Highers (up 9% on last year)
    • 40% achieved three or more Highers (up 8% on last year), both at their highest levels in five years
    • The percentage of S5 pupils achieving five or more Highers also increased by 2% to 19%.

Advanced Highers

  • The number of S6 pupils presented for Advanced Highers was down 7% on last year to 42% of the S6 cohort with the percentage of S6 achieving one or more Advanced Highers also down to 22% in 2020 from 26% in 2019.
  • The percentage of pupils passing Advanced Higher increased by 5% to 83.2% (from 78%).
  • Pass Rates at A Grades were also at their highest level across East Lothian increasing by 7% to 34%.

Other qualifications

National 2, National 3 and National 4 qualifications are made up of units which are internally assessed as pass or fail by the school or college, and externally quality assured by SQA.

There were 12 awards certificated at National 2, 289 awards at National 3 and 1946 awards at National 4. The number of pupils presented for National 2 and National 3 awards were in line with the previous year, with a slight drop of 2% at National 4 to 31% of the student cohort.

The results do not include Foundation Apprenticeships, college partnership or vocational qualifications.


Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, said: “Congratulations to all our young people on the success they have achieved in their SQA results. The results show improvements in Maths and English across all levels which is welcome news. The last few months have been a very stressful and challenging time for young people, their families and school staff.

“Thanks must go to our young people for all their hard work and effort over the past year and to their parents and carers who have supported them. Staff across all our schools have worked extremely hard in submitting evidence to the SQA during lockdown and we are extremely thankful for all their efforts.”

Chief Operating Officer for Education Lesley Brown said: “This year’s exam results show improvements across a range of qualification levels. I am particularly pleased to see the results of our focus on improving Maths, evidenced in the results at National 5 and Higher. Our schools will continue to build on this positive picture in the new academic year. I am also delighted with the 5% increase in pupils achieving A-C grade at Higher level.

“The cancellation of the exam diet for this year was challenging for our pupils and our staff. I’d like to commend everyone on the resilience that they showed and congratulate all of our learners on their achievements.”

Published: Tuesday, 4th August 2020