By John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

FOLLOWING months of hard work and effort by young people, parents and teachers, thousands of students across the country received a very positive set of results this week.

Higher passes have exceeded 150,000 for the third year in a row and pass rates are consistently strong. The number of Scottish students getting into Scottish universities has reached a new high, with a record number of acceptances from Scotland’s most deprived areas.

Loading article content

This is great news for our young people. They should be very proud of their achievements and their continued success is important for us all.

The results demonstrate the excellence, strength and integrity of our qualification system.

I passionately believe our education system exists to help every young person in Scotland to fulfil their potential, regardless of their career or learning aspirations, and I am keen to make sure that our young people are gaining a broad range of qualifications that sets them up for the next stages of their life.

Young people are able to access a much greater range of qualifications and awards that recognise and develop skills for life and work.

In fact, the number of skills-based awards has more than doubled in the past five years, from 24,849 in 2012 to 50,148 this year. ??

Our schools are increasingly designing senior phase curriculum as a three-year experience, as opposed to seeing individual school years in isolation.

This means that our young people are able to build a portfolio of qualifications and awards.

The results have demonstrated that Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is the right reform for Scottish education, taking us into a new age where gaining a broader range of skills and qualifications is the norm and not the exception.

CfE is successfully meeting the needs of young people and giving them the best chance of success in further learning, life and work.

The further action this Government is taking to close the attainment gap and raise standards for all will build on these solid foundations.

In order to continue to build on the strength and integrity of our education system we need to strive for continuous improvement and recognise the areas that are working well, but also to be honest about the areas that need to change.

We have a passionate education sector that wants to see the very best system for our young people.

We need to be open to changes in approach that will ensure real improvements that deliver long-lasting benefits.

The education of our young people is an area that we cannot take for granted.

I am aware that a number of professional associations have raised their concerns about the National 4 qualification this week.

The guidance issued by the Assessment and National Qualifications Group earlier this year did, however, recognise the need to consider the present approach to assessment within it.

While there is some consensus on the need to review this, there is no agreement on either the specifics of any changes or the timetable for introducing these.

Any review of any of our qualifications must be carefully thought through, taking into account the broad range of views of our education bodies, teachers, pupils and parents.

Any action taken on this must be done sensibly to ensure that all of our qualifications maintain their credibility and that we build on the excellence and achievement in Scottish education.