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SQA Attainment and School Leaver Qualifications in Scotland: 2006/07

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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. Information on the destination of leavers from publicly funded schools is provided to the Scottish Government in October by Careers Scotland who are part of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise. This is the first year that the school leavers destinations data has been supplied at the pupil level. For more information on destinations of leavers, see 'Destinations of Leavers from Scottish Schools: 2006/07' and 'Methodological Changes to the 2006/07 Destinations of School Leavers Survey', both available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/00631.

2.3 The tables in this publication which link leaver destinations and attainment information include only those leavers whose qualifications could be identified by matching on either Scottish candidate number or on all of the following: school, gender, postcode and date of birth (approximately 90 per cent of all leavers whose destination is known). The totals do not therefore match the headline figures published in 'Destinations of Leavers from Scottish Schools: 2006/07'. Instead they provide an indicative picture of how school leavers' initial destinations relate to the school level qualifications they obtain. However, the figures are not entirely representative of the school leaver population with those for whom data could not be linked more likely to have entered employment, training, unemployed or unknown destinations and less likely to be in higher education. Care should therefore be taken when interpreting these figures.

2.4 The Careers Scotland destinations data collection is based on known leavers in September, several months before the data from the 2 nd/3 rd term leavers data collection is available from schools. The September timing is due to a requirement under legislation - Education (School and Placing Information) (Scotland) Amendment, Etc, Regulations 1993 - to provide data on leaver destinations for inclusion in school handbooks in December. Between September and December it is possible that a number of young people reported as leaving may in fact have returned to school, for example if they receive favourable exam results. Conversely, a number of pupils who initially told their school that they would return for a fifth or sixth year, may decide not to do so over the Summer holidays without informing the school. Due to the different timings of the data collections on leavers, the difficulties in establishing whether certain pupils will or will not return to school after they reach the minimum school leaving age, and the information on matching to attainment outlined in background note 2.3, the total number of leavers published in tables 10, 11 and 12 do not match the number published in tables 18 and 19.

2.5 Pupil data comes from the annual Pupil Census. In September 2006, 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 2007. The appeals process in place for 2006/07 differed from that of earlier years, but this does not appear to have had a noticeable impact on the changes from pre-appeal to post-appeal attainment, remaining generally 1 or 2 percentage points higher at the post-appeal stage. See the background notes in ' SQA Examination Results in Scottish Schools: 2006/07' for further details ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/09/24105321/0).

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. Results could have been affected by pupils who were presented for examinations at Further Education ( FE) colleges. From 2006/07 awards are credited to the base school of the pupil, and will include presentations at Further Education colleges. In 2006/07, of 720,000 National Qualifications ( NQ) courses taken by pupils based in publicly funded secondary schools, 3,100 were in FE colleges or other centres. The results for these 3,100 courses would not previously have been included in these statistics but they do not significantly affect national totals.

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.

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 for the first time. SFW courses are available at Access 2, Access 3, Intermediate1, and Intermediate 2, and are practical courses designed to provide pathways to employment, training or further education. The introduction of these courses has not had a signicant impact on this year's figures, but are expected to make an increasing contribution to attainment figures as they become more widely available.

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.

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 account of in the Unified Points Scale ( UPS) scale used to calculate 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 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 2006/07 is calculated as a percentage of the September S4 roll in 2005. S6 attainment is calculated from the September S4 roll in 2004. 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. This is due to the small number of pupils that fall under each heading.

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 2006/07 if they either:

reached the age of 16 between 1 March and 30 September 2007 and left school at the end of the school year 2006/07;

OR

reached the age of 16 between 1 October 2006 and the end of February 2007 and left school at the end of the winter term 2006/07.

These arrangements therefore allow some pupils to leave school while they are still 15 years old.

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 61,685 S4 pupils, out of a total S4 population of 61,697 at the pupil census date.

4.3 Figures on the number of pupils with a disability from the 2006 Pupil Census were considered to be incomplete. This was the second 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. The quality of the information has improved in the 2007 Pupil Census.

4.4 Figures on the number of looked after children from the 2006 Pupil Census were about 80% of those reported in "Looked After Children: 2005/06". This may be in part due to apparent problems schools have in keeping accurate information on the looked after status of pupils. As the data is 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 more detailed analysis than available from any other source. The Government is taking steps to improve the quality of reporting in future years. These include the Government working together with local authority social work services and education departments in order to resolve the current inconsistencies being reported by schools and social work services with regards the number of looked after children.

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 is taken from the 2006 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.

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 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.

4.8 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 www.scotland.gov.uk.

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: educ.outcomes.stats@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

( media)
Alison Gilfillan Tel. (0131) 244 2542