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

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

Information requested

I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) 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


I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications.

I have considered each of the elements you have included in your request and will address each of these separately below.

1. Cost Exemption (S12(1))
I have concluded that the original decision to apply Section 12(1) of FOISA, on the basis that responding to your request (in relation to bullet 2 above) would exceed the upper cost limit of £600, should be upheld. Although your request relates to only one business area, Ministers and Special Advisers, a high volume of communications was generated in relation to the 2019 exam results. Our initial searches have identified more than 440 emails between 1 March 2019 and 13 August 2019 falling within scope of your request, and the cost of locating, retrieving and providing this amount of information will exceed the upper cost limit of £600. You may wish to consider reducing the scope of your request by narrowing the time frame from 1st March 2019 to 30th July 2019, then from 31st July 2019 to 5th August 2019 and then from 6th August 2019 to 13th August 2019 in order that the costs can be brought below £600.

2. Information otherwise accessible (S25 (1))
Section 25(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain information without asking for it under FOISA. I have concluded that some decisions in the original response to withhold information under Section 25(1) of FOISA were made erroneously. This relates to enclosures 01, 02 and 13-2. Whilst some of the material in enclosures 01 and 02 does appear on the SQA website I have concluded that it cannot be easily obtained in this format. Additionally, enclosure 13-2 SQA draft press release), contains information in the notes to editors section that is not publicly available in the final press release published by SQA on their website. These enclosures are attached as separate spreadsheets in my email.

I have upheld the decision to apply section 25(1) to enclosure 13-3. This material, which was provided to Scottish Government on 31 July, was subsequently published on SQA’s Statistics 2019 page and can be found at: https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/64717.html.

3. Out of Scope
Having carefully reviewed all of the redacted information deemed to be out of scope in the original response, I consider that the vast majority of these decisions were accurate on the basis that the information is out of scope because it relates to National 4, Advanced Higher and other awards, and does not relate to 2019 Higher and National 5 results. However, I have concluded that, whilst this information within enclosures 03 and 04 remains out of scope of your request, we are willing to release it as it may help provide a better understanding of the information and therefore be of interest to you. A further copy of enclosures 03 and 04 are included as separate attachments in my email, with a small amount of personal data still being withheld under Section 38(1)(b). It should be noted, that the out of scope information has been provided to you out with FOISA. Additionally, I have concluded that some decision to withhold information in enclosure 06 were made erroneously and that this information should now be released. A further copy of enclosure 06 is also included as a separate attachment in my email.

4. Redacting enclosure 8 (S29(1)(a))
Having considered the original application of S(29)(1)(a), and having reapplied the public interest test, I have concluded that this exemption did not apply to most of the information within Enclosure 8, so it was not appropriate to withhold this document in full under Section 29(1)(a). A copy of this document is now being provided as a separate attachment in my email. However, I have also concluded that some information remains exempt under S(29)(1)(a) as the public interest lies in withholding this information to ensure protected space is provided for high quality policy formulation and decision-making.

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/201900004088 - Summary tables - Language data pack
FOI/201900004088 - Summary tables - STEM data pack


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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