Scotland’s school pupils are receiving their results after the Covid-19 pandemic forced exams to be cancelled for the first time in history.
About 138,000 students are finding out their grades in Nationals, Highers and Advanced Higher courses.
This year’s results will be based on estimates from their teachers.
Those who signed up for text or email alerts will receive their grades from 0800 onwards, while certificates will arrive in the post during the day.
Exams were cancelled across the UK as schools closed and the country went into lockdown in March.
Scottish school pupils traditionally find out their results earlier than those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who will receive their grades for A-levels on 13 August and GCSEs on 20 August.
This year was the first time since 1888 that exams were cancelled in Scottish schools.
Pupils should have been sitting exams in National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher subjects in May and June. There are no formal exams for National 2, National 3 and National 4 qualifications.
What help is available to pupils?
Skills Development Scotland runs a free results helpline offering careers advice, information and guidance on 0808 100 8000.
It will be open from 0800 to 2000 on Tuesday and Wednesday, then 0900 to 1700 on Thursday and Friday. Information and advice is also available on the My World of Work website.
James Russell, from SDS, said this year was “unlike any other” and that it was understandable that young people and their families would be feeling more anxious than usual.
“Our advice and support is available and our message is if your results aren’t what you expected, don’t worry – you have lots of options,” he said.
The #NoWrongPath campaign is encouraging people to share their own stories on social media to highlight the different paths available to young people who may be feeling disheartened by their results.
The SQA’s candidate advice line will run from 0800 to 1800 on Tuesday, and from 0830 to 1700 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The number is 0345 279 1000.
As in the rest of the UK, the grades of pupils who were unable to sit exams have been worked out using estimates made by their teachers based on their performance over the school year.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said it had sought to “uphold the integrity and credibility” of the system, but that its efforts had been focused on “ensuring fairness for all learners”.
Teachers were asked to place students within bands for each subject, and rank their pupils in order.
These assessments were then checked by the SQA, which said grades had been moderated “where appropriate” to “maintain national standards”.
There is one crucial test for the qualifications system this year: have emergency arrangements worked?
The key issue is whether candidates receive results which are fair and credible.
The grades will be based on teacher estimates but had to be validated. This could mean grades going up or down.
Some teachers argue this is unnecessary, but the SQA argues that validation is necessary to ensure the results have full credibility. The validation should ensure that pass rates and the numbers getting particular grades are comparable to previous years.
Many within education would strongly caution against attempting to analyse this year’s data for evidence of improvements or decline in the performance of candidates.
However, there have been concerns that the validation system could disadvantage those who attend schools where, in previous years, relatively few have got the best grades.
This is why the appeals process this year is so important. Schools and exam centres will be able to appeal whenever a candidate is awarded a grade lower than the one their teacher had submitted.
There is no guarantee of success and supporting evidence will be needed, but it remains an important safeguard.
The exams body said it would look at each school’s previous history of estimating results and attainment.
This sparked fears from opposition politicians that some pupils from deprived communities could be marked down because of the previous performance of their school.
SQA chief executive and chief examiner Fiona Robertson has denied that a school’s previous record could put pupils at either an advantage or a disadvantage.
Where a pupil receives a lower grade than the one estimated by their teacher or lecturer, they will be able to use a free appeals process.
Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Young people and their families have shown tremendous resilience in coping with the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and will naturally be anxious about the potential impact on results.
“You may achieve the results you worked so hard for, but if you miss out on the grades you were hoping for, there is still a huge variety of options available to you.”