09 August 2022

Range of qualifications continues to expand in Aberdeenshire in bumper year for exam entries

Aberdeenshire pupils are marking a wide range of achievements as they receive their SQA assessment results today (Tue, Aug 9).

Across the area, the number of exams undertaken this year has increased significantly, with 6,644 pupils participating in 31,340 exams – a rise of 2,000 entries since last year, and the highest figure in the last five years.

Alongside this, evidence is showing that Foundation Apprenticeships are playing an increasing part in improving attainment and outcomes for young people.

Head of Education Vincent Docherty said: “Congratulations to all of our young people, who have been following a greater number and broader range of qualifications this year.

“A key part of this has been an increase in the number of pupils undertaking Foundation Apprenticeships, which our research shows is leading to improved attainment and outcomes for participants.

“We believe the work-based element of the apprenticeships, coupled with the continuous assessment approach and giving pupils more responsibility for their own learning, are key factors in these positive outcomes.”

The difference the approach is making in terms of attainment is clear. The 2020-21 cohort of around 450 pupils across Aberdeenshire who undertook apprenticeships achieved a 48% increase in their attainment compared to the average school leaver who did no Foundation Apprenticeships.

In addition, the approach is proving to be particularly beneficial for pupils from less affluent backgrounds, who are tending to attain just as well or even better than their counterparts.

Over the course of the 2022/23 school session, Aberdeenshire will deliver a total of 875 apprenticeship qualifications for senior phase pupils across 12 subject areas.

Among schools seeing the benefits of Foundation Apprenticeships is Peterhead Academy, where the number on offer is due to increase in the coming year, and where participants have seen an attainment increase of an impressive 112%.

Head Teacher Gerry McCluskey said: “At Peterhead Academy we’ve seen a total of 66 Foundation Apprenticeships completed over levels 6 and 4/5. Among these are roles within health and social care, and children and young people, which will no doubt help with recruitment challenges in these sectors locally.

“Over the coming year we are looking at 125 apprenticeships over seven streams and hope to see these positive outcomes continue. Congratulations to all our pupils for their hard work across all areas of study.”

Importantly, the qualifications are leading to positive outcomes for participants, with 100% of those undertaking apprenticeships moving on to positive destinations including employment and further study.

In terms of wider exam attainment across Aberdeenshire, an initial analysis of the results across Aberdeenshire has highlighted a number of positive outcomes:

• The number of S4 pupils gaining five qualifications at National 5 level has increased from 46.2% to 48.1% (equivalent to grades A-C), and from 55.9% to 58.6% at grades A-D.
• The number of S5 pupils achieving 5 A grades has seen a sizeable rise from 88 to 130 since last year
• A total of 114 pupils achieved three or more Advanced Highers, up from 100 last year
• The number of qualifications achieved by S5 and S6 pupils is down slightly, attributed to an increase in the number of Foundation Apprenticeships, which are the equivalent of a Level 6 qualification and reported upon in October

Education & Children’s Services Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen said: “Congratulations to all our pupils, their families, and our teachers in academies across Aberdeenshire. It is very pleasing to hear of all that has been achieved across the various areas of study.

“And for those pupils who haven’t done as well as they might have hoped, please don’t be disheartened. There is a wide range of support available to provide advice and guidance and to help identify opportunities.”

Committee vice-chair Cllr Anne Simpson said: “It is both encouraging and exciting to see just how big an impact Foundation Apprenticeships are having on attainment across Aberdeenshire.

“By broadening the range of opportunities to achieve qualifications we can help all our young people find a route to success that best meets their needs and interests.”

For any young person interested in undertaking a Foundation Apprenticeship, visit:

Skills Development Scotland is once again running its results helpline on 0808 100 8000. The organisation’s expert advisors can help pupils explore their options and provide career advice and guidance. Information is also available via