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Prime minister Boris Johnson congratulated students receiving their A-level results after what he called an “extremely challenging” year.
In a video on Twitter, he said: “Congratulations to everybody getting their A-level results today. I know it’s been a particularly difficult year for everybody doing A-levels because of the pandemic and the conditions in which you’ve been working, but thank you for persevering, thank you for getting on with, obviously thank you also to your amazing teachers.
“I hope you’ve done well. If you haven’t got exactly the results that you were wanting, never mind, it happens to the best of us and there are plenty of options available through Ucas.
“If you have done well, which I’m sure you have, then well done and good luck with your next big moves.
“Can I suggest that one of them should be straight away, if you hadn’t yet done it, to get a vaccination, get a jab.”
School results in Scotland are consistently lower than last year but have shown a sharp rise since 2019, figures published on Tuesday show as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted a second year.
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Students have known their individual grades since the end of June, due to the use of an alternative grading model focused more heavily on teacher judgement.
But in general, the rate of students receiving between an A and a C – known as the attainment rate – fell in all of the qualifications published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on Tuesday.
For National 5 qualifications, the attainment rate was 85.8% this year, compared to 89% in 2019-20 – but is still substantially higher than the 78.2% reported for the 2018-19 school year.
Higher attainment fell from 89.3% to 87.3%, while Advanced Higher dropped to 90.2% from 93.1%.
Similar to the National 5 attainment rate, the figure for Higher qualifications is significantly above the 2018-19 level, which was just 75%, while the Advanced Higher rate increased from 80%.
Last year, an alternative assessment model was also due to be employed, but the plan was scrapped after it emerged that more than 120,000 entries had been downgraded due to an algorithm that accounted for, among other factors, past school performance to moderate teacher judgement.
Between the use of exams in 2018-19 and the alternative, teacher-led model this year, National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher pass rates rose an average of 10%.
The number of total entries to the SQA rose by 8,201 to 660,661, with almost 137,000 pupils receiving certificates on Tuesday.
Despite the drop in the attainment rate, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville described the results as “strong”, adding they had been “achieved under extraordinary circumstances”.