SQA Attainment and School Leaver Qualifications in Scotland: 2007/08

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BACKGROUND NOTES

1. National Statistics Statement

This is a National Statistics publication. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.

2. Data Sources

2.1 Data on National Qualifications are obtained from the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA).

2.2 Information on school leavers is collected from individual schools via either a paper return or electronic data exchange through schools' Management Information Systems at the end of March and December. This collection is not the same as the collection on the destination of leavers from publicly funded schools, which is provided to the Scottish Government in October by Skills Development Scotland. The two collections differ in timing, frequency and how leavers are treated, and so will not report the same number of leavers each year. In particular, the LA leavers collection used in this publication is revised for past years to take account of leavers who subsequently return to school and then leave again, and to deal with pupils who effectively leave school to take a course of further education before they are officially old enough to leave school. The SDS collection presents information as at a given point in time, and is not revised year on year. For more information on destinations of leavers (including tables showing destinations by qualifications), see 'Destinations of Leavers from Scottish Schools: 2007/08', available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/12/08090751/0.

2.3 Pupil data comes from the annual Pupil Census. In September 2007, Pupil Census data was collected electronically, through local authorities, from all publicly funded schools as part of the Scottish Exchange in Educational Data (ScotXed) Programme. Further information can be found at www.scotxed.net. Previous years' school roll figures were obtained from the Census as at September in the relevant year.

3. Definitions

3.1 Examination data are Post-Appeals and update the figures published in September 2008. Post-appeal attainment is generally no more than 1 or 2 percentage points higher than pre-appeals attainment for any qualification category at the national level.

3.2 National averages include education authority, grant-aided and self-governing schools only. Special Schools include some Independent Special Schools. Leavers data includes publicly funded secondary schools only, apart from the table on Leavers with additional support needs, which covers publicly funded secondary and special schools.

3.3 Prior to 2006/07 awards were credited to the presenting centre only. From 2006/07 awards are credited to the base school of the pupil, and will include presentations at Further Education colleges. As only a small proportion (less than one percent) of courses are taken at centres other than the base centre, this change has had no noticeable effect on statistics at the national level.

The new figures are published without a break in the series. It will however be useful to bear in mind that a change has been made when making detailed historical comparisons at school level.

3.4 The tables cover the attainment of National Qualifications ( NQs) at Standard Grade, Access 3, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher and Advanced Higher, and are presented either using the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) Levels or average tariff scores. Some pupils will have achieved unit awards, Access 1 or 2 Clusters and non NQ awards, but these are not currently included in the analyses with the exception of Access 2 Clusters, included for special schools and leavers with additional support needs only.

Skills for Work ( SFW) courses are included in the figures. SFW courses are available at Access, Intermediate, and Higher levels and are practical courses designed to provide pathways to employment, training or further education.

3.5 Standard Grade is certificated at 3 levels: Credit (grades 1 and 2), General (grades 3 and 4), Foundation (grades 5 and 6) with a grade 7 being awarded to those who complete the course only. Grade 7 is not included in the SCQF attainment figures in this publication, but will be taken account of in the Unified Points Scale ( UPS) scale used to calculate tariff scores.

3.6 For Intermediates, Higher and Advanced Higher, awards at A-C are regarded as passes. A grade D is counted as a near miss and is not included as an SCQF pass. It is however, taken into account in the calculation of tariff scores. Pupils who pass the examination but are not registered as passing all the units are included in the number of presentations but not in the number of passes. Access clusters and Skills for Work courses are awarded as either a pass or fail, and are not graded.

3.7 Data in some tables are presented as average tariff scores to enable certification of different types to be considered together. This makes it easier to compare average attainment for different subgroups within the population. The tariff score of a pupil is calculated by allocating a score to each level of qualification and award, using the Unified Points Score scale. For example, a Standard Grade at level 1 counts as 38 points and at level 4 counts as 14 points. Further information and a full list of SQA National Qualifications and their associated tariff scores is shown in Annex A.

3.8 Attainment is cumulative and takes into consideration all successful awards in previous years. In order to record the attainment of an entire cohort, attainment in S5 and S6 is reported as a percentage of the relevant S4 roll. For example, attainment in S5 in 2007/08 is calculated as a percentage of the September S4 roll in 2006. S6 attainment is calculated from the September S4 roll in 2005. The roll figures are available in a separate table ( table 1).

3.9 The urban/rural classifications in this publication are based on the postcode of the school and not that of the pupil. The classifications are defined as follows:

Large urban areas - settlements over 125,000 population. This covers the city conurbations of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Other urban areas - settlements of 10,000 to 125,000 people.

Accessible small towns - settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.

Small remote towns - settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people, who are not within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more people.

Accessible rural areas - settlements of less than 3,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more people

Remote rural areas - settlements of less than 3,000 people who are not within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more people.

3.10 The ethnic background and national identity questions in the Census were completed by parents or pupils. Provision of this information was optional and no values were imputed by teachers. For national identity, pupils/parents were asked to state which nationality they considered themselves to be, rather than any legal definition.

3.11 When possible, the full list of ethnic background categories collected have been included in this publication. However, where the total number of pupils within a category are between 1 and 4 (inclusive) or where if shown it would be possible to calculate other values less than 5, this category is included in the "All Other Categories" figure. In Table 11, only categories containing a total of 100 pupils or more are shown separately.

3.12 The arrangements for leaving school were laid down in the Education (Scotland) Act in 1976 and the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. Pupils are regarded as having left on achieving the school leaving age in 2007/08 if they either:

reached the age of 16 between 1 March and 30 September 2008 and left school at the end of the school year 2007/08;

OR

reached the age of 16 between 1 October 2007 and the end of February 2008 and left school at the end of the winter term 2007/08.

These arrangements therefore allow some pupils to leave school while they are still 15 years old. In some circumstances, pupils are allowed to attend a full time course of further education while remaining on the school roll because they are not legally old enough to leave school. These 'Status 04' pupils are treated as having left school when they go to further education, not when they officially leave school after reaching the legal leaving age.

4. Notes

4.1 The pupil census is a snapshot from September of the school year, and doesn't account for any movements of students during the school year. The data relating to school leavers are the best that the schools are able to provide at the time, and are subject to subsequent slight revisions.

4.2 This publication links data from up to three separate sources using a pupil identifier. This process achieves a high rate of successful linkage, but in a small number of cases mis-matching or non-matching can occur. Table 6 reports on the attainment of 60,341 S4 pupils, out of a total S4 population of 60,351 at the pupil census date.

4.3 Figures on the number of pupils with a disability from the 2007 Pupil Census were considered to be incomplete. This was the third year this information had been collected. As the data may be incomplete, the figures should be interpreted with caution: it may be biased towards the lower or higher attaining group. However the remaining sample provides important information and allows detailed analysis to be started.

4.4 Figures collected from the Pupil Census on the number of looked after children appear to be incomplete when compared to similar data from social work services departments. The September number of looked after children aged between 12 and 15 identified in the 2007 pupil census was about 77 per cent of the number of looked after children identified in the childrens social work suvey carried out in March 2007. The situation is improving, with the 2008 pupil census totals reaching 84 per cent of the numbers in the childrens social work statistics survey. Because the surveys take place at different times, it is not expected that the figures will ever match exactly. The Scottish Government is working to support Local Authorities with improving the sharing of information in respect of children in their care as part of their Corporate Parent Duties.

4.5 Figures on schools leavers with additional support needs include leavers from special schools as well as secondary schools, in order to present the most complete picture of such leavers. Data on additional support needs are taken from the 2007 Pupil Census. During the transition period of the Additional Support for Learning Act pupils may be recorded under the previous 'main difficulty of learning' or the new 'reasons for support' categories. The categories used in this publication have been made by combining the two sets. As the categories do not always match exactly the data are indicative only. Details of how the two sets of categories were linked can be found in 'Attendance and Absence in Scottish Schools, 2006/07', Annex B ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/12/11160723/0). In the current publication, pupils with dual sensory impairment are not shown separately due to small numbers, but are included in both the hearing impairment and visual impairment categories.

All leavers from special schools are assumed to have additional support needs, and are included in "Other or unknown" if the reason for support/ main learning difficulty is not given. All leavers from secondary schools who have a Record of Needs, Coordinated Support Progamme or Individualised Education Programme are also included in "Other or unknown" if the reason for support/ main learning difficulty is not given. In tables published last year, only those leavers with a specified reason for support or main learning difficulty were included in the group with ASN. Figures in tables 17 and 19 show 2006/07 data treated in the same way as in the current publication.

4.6 Figures on the number of pupils receiving Gaelic medium education include those receiving education exclusively in Gaelic, a mixture of Gaelic/bilingual, or a mixture of Gaelic/English.

4.7 The 2007 Pupil Census had incomplete information on free school meal registration, and no figures relating to free school meals are published here.

4.8 Boxplots have been used in order to show the spread in attainment of pupils. A brief explanation of boxplots and their use is contained in Annex B.

4.9 All percentages are rounded separately and breakdowns may consequently not sum to 100 per cent. It should be noted that percentages and average tariff scores calculated from small numbers may be misleading.

5. Enquiries

Copies of the tables are available on the Scottish Government's website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/00718

Public enquiries about the information contained in this Statistics Publication Notice should be addressed to:

(non-media) Janet Lauchlan

The Scottish Goverment
Education Analytical Services: Schools Unit
Area 1-B South, Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

Tel. (0131) 244 7976

or e-mail: school.stats@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

(media) Tom Whittles Tel. (0131) 244 2530