Scottish Qualifications Authority publishes 2021 results

The Scottish Qualifications Authority today (Tuesday 10 August 2021) announced the results for National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers, and a range of other courses, certificates, and awards, for 2021.

Results certificates have been sent to almost 137,000 candidates across Scotland and more than 54,000 also received their results by text and/or email

The key statistics from Attainment Statistics (August) 2021 are:

Fiona Robertson, SQA’s Chief Executive and Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer, said:

'This has been a very challenging year for everyone and today is a results day like no other. With awarding based on teacher and lecturer judgement this year, learners have known their results since the end of June. However, as envelopes, text messages and emails arrive from SQA this morning, it is a time to celebrate the achievements of learners right across Scotland. Today, almost 137,000 learners have received SQA certificates, the largest since 2017 and we report on a strong set of results.

'The whole Scottish education system, including learners, parents and carers, has worked together to develop and deliver an Alternative Certification Model that makes sure that learners have received the qualifications they deserve, and can move on to further or higher education, training or employment, with confidence.

'Everyone worked hard to ensure the model was credible and fair so we can all have confidence in the certificates that have been awarded today. I want to thank everyone who has played their part, directly or indirectly, in delivering for learners this year in the most exceptional circumstances.'

The qualifications certificated today include Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers for candidates in schools, colleges and training providers. In addition, a suite of qualifications that meet a wider range of learners’ interests and abilities, such as SQA Awards, Skills for Work courses, National Progression Awards and National Certificates are being certificated today. These form part of a broad offering of qualifications, which support learners to progress into employment, training, further and higher education. We worked together with the Higher National and Vocational Qualifications 2021 Group, to develop alternative assessment approaches and provided subject-specific guidance for these qualifications.

Throughout the year, SQA also awards a number of qualifications such as Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), which supports the Scottish Government in both its youth employment strategy, and its wider economic strategy. Our qualifications are also being taken as part of Foundation Apprenticeships, which are available to school learners, allowing them to complete elements of a Modern Apprenticeship and spend part of their school week at college and with a local employer.

Summary of entries, attainment and attainment rates for each National Qualification type, 2021 and 2020

SCQF level National Qualification 2021 Entries 2021 Attainment 2021 Attainment rate 2020 Entries 2020 Attainment 2020 Attainment Rate
SCQF 2 National 2† 2,184 1,505 68.9% 2,011 1,518 75.5%
SCQF 3 National 3† 21,046 18,131 86.1% 21,798 19,947 91.5%
Skills for Work† 37 37 100% 30 30 100%
SCQF 4 National 4† 104,378 89,894 86.1% 103,595 94,228 91%
Skills for Work† 3,233 2,154 66.6% 4,089 3,242 79.3%
SCQF 5 National 5* 295,973 255,517 85.8% 300,639 267,558 89%
Skills for Work† 10,107 8,075 79.9% 10,291 8,890 86.4%
SCQF 6 Higher* 194,661 169,989 87.3% 186,214 166,208 89.3%
Skills for Work 247 200 81% 222 170 76.6%
SCQF 7 Advanced Higher* 26,795 24,162 90.2% 23,570 21,935 93.1%
Total   660,661     652,460    
  Scottish Baccalaureate* 152 139 91.4% 152 131 86.2%

*For National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, which are graded, the attainment and attainment rate is based on Grade A-C attainment. The Scottish Baccalaureate attainment is based on the total number of passes ('Distinction' or 'Pass' outcomes).

†For National 2 to National 4, and Skills for Work courses, which are ungraded, the attainment and attainment rate is based on entries which have resulted in a pass.

English

There were 46,852 entries at National 5 in 2021, (46,656 in 2020) with an A-C attainment rate of 91.0% (91.4% in 2020). At Higher level there were 36,534 entries (36,368 in 2020),   with an A-C attainment rate of 88.2% (87.4% in 2020). At Advanced Higher there were 2,830 entries (2,241 in 2020), with an A-C attainment rate of 91.8% (92.5% in 2020).

Mathematics

There were 36,481 entries at National 5 (41,284 in 2020), with an A-C attainment rate of 73.0% (79.1% in 2020). At Higher level there were 19,419 entries (19,182 in 2020) with an A-C attainment rate of 80.1% (83.3% in 2020). At Advanced Higher there were 3,783 entries (3,635 in 2020) with an A-C attainment rate of 87.0% (89.2% in 2020).

Applications of Mathematics

There were 10,749 entries at National 5 (10,430 in 2020) with an A-C attainment rate of 64.0% (75.3% in 2020).

National Progression Awards (NPAs) and National Certificates (NCs)

Attainment figures for National Progression Awards (NPAs) and National Certificates (NCs) are also included. In total, 15,311 NPAs and 3,147 NCs have been achieved (16,230 NPAs and 4,284 NCs in 2020). NPAs are designed to assess a defined set of skills and knowledge in specialist vocational areas, such as Construction and Childcare.

National Certificates are designed to prepare people for employment, career development or progression to more advanced study in areas such as Sound Production and Fabrication and Welding Engineering.

SQA Awards

Attainment figures for SQA Awards are included in the statistics. In total, 26,551 have been achieved in 2021 (31,428 in 2020).

SQA Awards are designed to develop and provide evidence of specific skills that will help learners in the world of work and everyday life. Awards include Modern Languages for Life and Work, Employability, Scottish Studies and Enterprise. 

Summary of attainment for Awards, National Progression Awards and National Certificates, at each SCQF level, 2017 to 2021

  Attainment
Qualification and Level 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
SCQF level 1
Awards 115 399 439 386 290
SCQF level 2
Awards 710 912 1,004 664 1,167
National Progression Awards 84 91 69 121 88
SCQF level 3
Awards 3,358 4,253 4,428 3,937 4,303
National Certificates 0 5 7 0 1
National Progression Awards 47 207 100 142 177
SCQF level 4
Awards 9,491 11,736 10,292 9,851 10,834
National Certificates 131 166 223 213 345
National Progression Awards 3,691 4,321 4,371 4,759 4,803
SCQF level 5
Awards 7,200 8,232 5,184 3,755 3,662
National Certificates 1,175 1,465 1,809 2,450 2,691
National Progression Awards 5,393 5,915 5,252 4,604 4,395
SCQF level 6
Awards 5,677 5,896 5,388 4,258 3,523
National Certificates 1,841 2,648 2,834 3,538 3,585
National Progression Awards 6,096 5,696 3,344 2,848 1,619
TOTAL 45,009 51,942 44,744 41,526 41,483

Skills for Work

Skills for Work courses – available across SCQF levels 3-6, are also included in the attainment statistics. In total, 10,466 Skills for Work courses have been achieved (12,332 in 2020).

Skills for Work courses focus on the world of work and the generic employability skills needed for success in the workplace. The courses offer opportunities for learners to acquire these critical generic employability skills through a variety of practical experiences that are linked to a particular vocational area such as construction, hairdressing, and hospitality.

Number of 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
Entries 13,624 14,632 11,938 10,508 10,341
Attainment 10,446 12,332 9,662 8,779 8,665
Attainment rate 76.8% 84.3% 80.9% 83.5% 83.8%

Statistical Summary (764 KB)

SQA Chief Examining Officer's '2021 National Qualifications Results' Report (198 KB)

The National Qualifications 2021 Awarding - Methodology Report (1.14 MB)

Equalities Monitoring Report (578 KB)