COVID-19 Statement - updated February 2022

The time period covered by these statistics means that the results will be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the cancellation of exams and external assessment of coursework

in 2020, and the use of the Alternative Certification Model in 2021, will have affected the attainment of many 2020/21 school leavers. It is also likely that the pandemic will have continued to affect the destination choices made by, and opportunities available to, some school leavers in 2020/21.

The impacts of these different approaches to certification upon school leaver attainment means that care should be taken when making comparisons over time. The attainment data provides an accurate reflection of the attainment with which school leavers in Scotland left school; for this reason attainment data for 2020/21, 2019/20 and previous years are presented together.

In addition to this, levels of attainment by 2020/21 school leavers are also likely to have been affected by any changes to pupils’ decisions on staying on at school related to the pandemic. The relative size and make-up of the 2019/20 school leaver cohort indicated that fewer S4 or S5 pupils left school in 2019/20 than might have been expected. These pupils, many of whom are likely to have instead left in 2020/21, will have had opportunities to gain more qualifications, and/or to gain qualifications at a higher level, than had they left at the end of the 2019/20 academic year. This is likely to have affected the total number of passes, and the highest level of qualification, attained by some school leavers in 2020/21.

Care must therefore be taken when comparing the attainment of 2020/21 school leavers with that of 2019/20 school leavers and when comparing these years to the attainment of earlier school leaver cohorts. Any changes between the attainment levels of the 2020/21 cohort, the 2019/20 cohort and those of previous years should not be seen as an indication that performance has improved or worsened, without further evidence.


Use School Leaver Attainment figures:

- As an accurate reflection of the attainment with which school leavers in Scotland left school in different years.

- To make factual comparisons of the proportions of school leavers attaining at different SCQF levels over time.

- To compare the attainment of different groups of school leavers within years.


Do not use School Leaver Attainment figures:

- As an indication that performance in 2019/20 or 2020/21 was better or worse than in previous years, without further evidence.

- Without taking full account of the different approaches to certification in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years.


Supporting your analysis of the data

Our Insight Advisors have prepared a resource to assist users in their analysis of recent attainment data. The Advisors are also available to provide one-to-one support to your analysis. For further information, and to arrange a conversation with an advisor, please email the advisors.