2019 Higher and National 5 results breakdown and correspondence: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

In your request you asked for:-

  • Any briefings, analysis, breakdowns etc regarding the 2019 Higher and National 5 results created by or provided to the Scottish Government
  • All internal communications involving Learning Directorate staff, ministers or special advisers regarding the 2019 exam results
  • Any communication between the SQA and the Scottish Government regarding the 2019 exam results


With regard to your request, we have treated each bulleted enquiry separately.

With regard to bullet one; please note Annex A (indexing enclosures) and Annex B (enclosures).

With regard to bullet two; while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit. Much of this information would have been used to inform the document provided within Enclosure 3 in Annex A (Initial embargoed statistical briefing to the Deputy First Minister – Ministerial Submission 01). Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. This could include considering being more specific about subject matter, the business areas that you are interested in or narrowing the time frame. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

With regard to bullet three; please note Annexes A and B. You may wish to note that all data provided to the Scottish Government by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) was subsequently published on 6 August 2019, and is therefore in the public domain.

Further to your enquiry, you may also wish to note that the SQA provides the Scottish Government with results data about a week in advance of Results Day. Neither officials nor ministers receive any intimation of the results before that date.

For session 2018-19, SQA provided this data on 31 July 2019. Scottish Government analysts format the data provided to inform analysis and briefing to Ministers. I would emphasise that there is no data provided for analysis by the Scottish Government at this stage that is not subsequently published on 6 August 2019.

Separately, SQA also provides data to update Insight, a benchmarking tool designed to help bring about improvements for learners in the senior phase (S4 to S6). Insight is updated twice annually; around September for attainment results, and February for school leavers’ data.

Therefore, redactions have been made under Section 25(1), Section 29(1)(a) and Section 38(1)(b).

Section 25 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act) exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without making a request for it.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government’s policy on consideration of further analysis of the 2019 SQA results.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on consideration of further analysis of the 2019 SQA results will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FOI/201900003157 - Annex A & B


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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