EXAM pass rates in North Ayrshire fell last year, according to the council’s education spokesman.

It’s been revealed that the number of passes at Scottish Credit Qualification Framework (SCQF) levels 3-5 dropped by 15 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013.

The fall was announced at the full North Ayrshire Council meeting last month where the SNP administration were questioned about exam rates in North Ayrshire.

The question from Largs Councillor Tom Marshall came after research by Professor Jim Scott at Edinburgh University revealed that the number of pupils achieving levels 3-5 fell from 513,761 in 2012-13 (under Standard Grades) to 411,840 last year (National and Intermediate).

This showed a total drop of 101,921 or 19 per cent overall.

Cabinet Member for Education, Attainment and Achievement, John Bruce insisted that although there was a decline in level 3 passes, level 4 passes had actually seen an increase.

He also defended the Scottish Government’s controversial Curriculum for Excellence and stated that the reason for the reduction in passes reflected a reduction in entries through the SQA.

Councillor Bruce said: “In North Ayrshire, the overall number of passes achieved in 2014 at SCQF levels three to five has reflected the national trend generally, albeit to a lesser degree. The number of passes at these levels was down by 15 per cent in 2014 when compared to 2013. It is important to put these statistics in context: The reduction in the number of passes reflects an overall reduction in the number of entries presented through SQA in 2014 (both nationally and locally).

"This is in line with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, which has led to schools adjusting the average number of SQA qualifications a young person will undertake within one academic session. Fourth to sixth year is increasingly being viewed as a three year qualifications phase.

"Most North Ayrshire pupils in S4 sat eight qualifications each in 2013, when courses were designed to be taken over S3 and S4.

The rate for pupils staying on until S6 in North Ayrshire has increased by five percentage points in the last two years and this reflects the growing number of candidates who are spreading out the acquisition of qualifications over the three-year Senior Phase.” He added: “With reference to the apparent decline in passes at SCQF level 3 nationally, this is also reflected in North Ayrshire. However, there is a slight increase in passes in North Ayrshire at SCQF level 4, which suggests that many of the candidates who would previously have gained a qualification at level 3, were presented at level 4 in 2014.

"North Ayrshire is working towards the design of a Senior Phase which is more aligned to the needs of the whole cohort. This will include an increased number of vocational qualifications and wider achievement awards.

“SQA qualifications will form an important part of the new structure, but they will not be the only way of recognising and recording learning and achievement.”