The questions that have emerged over education entry levels after exam results publication

Chris McQuade

Declining entry levels to courses cause concern 

THE Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) released data yesterday to coincide with students receiving their exam results, with a rapid decline in entry levels raising questions.

Although for the most part achievement levels remain stable, either rising or falling on average around one per cent, entry levels to some courses are showing a sharp decline.

Three courses in particular showed a rapid decline in entry levels; National 4, NC5 and NC6, with lecturer and journalist James McEnaney calling for an investigation.

McEnaney said: “The attainment figures themselves are stable which is a good thing, but the data released yesterday, particularly around entry rates does raise some questions that we should try to answer.

“The falling numbers sitting National fours, Highers and National Certificates (NCs) need to be investigated to help us understand the real effects of the new qualifications on our education system.”

CommonSpace breaks down the figures for each qualification and asks what could be the root cause.

National 4

In 2015 National 4 entry levels peaked at 130,876 but fell the following year to just 122,961. This year just 116,032 pupils enrolled in the courses – a fall of 14,844 in just two years. This could be due to parents and teachers concerns over there being no external exam attached to the courses. In English alone the figures show a fall from 17,784 – 15,724.

Could this be explained by the increase in entry to National 5 courses?

NC5 and NC6

Entry levels from NC5 in 2016 showed 4103 people entered courses aimed mostly at college students aged between 18 – 21 or adult learners. However, numbers plunged 35 per cent to 2691. Similar to NC5, NC6 entry levels dropped from 4920 in 2016 to 3585 this year, a 30% decrease in just one year.

Could this sharp drop in numbers from both NC courses be explained by cuts to college funding? 

Audit Scotland has found that government funding has been cut in real terms by 18 per cent since 2010/11 but remained static for 2015/16.

Pictures courtesy of jdog90, Audit Scotland

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