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Pass rate for Scottish exams drops as full timetable returns since before COVID pandemic

A more generous approach to grading has been adopted this year compared to before the pandemic and a free appeals service is available.

The pass rate for Scotland’s Higher qualifications has dropped from last year – after a full timetable of exams returned for the first time since before the pandemic.

More than 100,000 pupils across Scotland began to receive their results on Tuesday.

Attainment of A to C grades was 78.9%, according to figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

That is down from 87.3% last year, and from 89.3% in 2020, when teacher judgments were used instead of exams.

However, it is slightly up from 2019 – the last time there was a full exam timetable – when it was 74.8%.

There was a similar picture at Advanced Higher level, with those attaining A to C grades coming in at 81.3% – down from 90.2% in 2021 and 93.1% in 2020. In 2019, the pass rate was 79.4%.

For National 5 qualifications, the pass rate was 80.8%, down from 85.8% in 2021 and up from 78.2% in 2019.

The percentage of A grades at Higher level was 34.8% this year – down 12.8 percentage points from last year.

There has been extra support to acknowledge the continuing influence of COVID-19.

More than two million exam papers have been marked by almost 6,000 teachers and lecturers.

A more generous approach to grading has been adopted this year compared to before the pandemic and a free appeals service is available.

“This is one of the strongest-ever sets of results for any exam year, which is particularly impressive given the significant challenges learners have faced as a result of the pandemic,” said Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scotland’s education secretary.

“It is important to note, though, that although 2022 saw a return to exams, it was not a return to normality.

“The approach to exams reflected the disruption to teaching and learning that young people faced and a wide-ranging package of support and modifications was put in place.”


COVID-19 infections fall for second week in a row, ONS says

Although the recent spike in cases has been less severe than those seen previously, the relentless pressure is taking its toll on emergency departments.

The number of people in the UK infected with COVID-19 has fallen for the second week in a row, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), although levels remain high.

The ONS estimated that a total of 2.6 million people in private households had coronavirus in the week ending 26 July, based on self-reports from a representative sample.

Every patient in hospital with the virus means another bed is taken up, meaning longer waits for other patients.

Dr Mohammed Munavvar told Sky News that his hospital’s work to tackle NHS waiting lists had been making a dent, but now that has been disrupted.

He said: “Other patients cannot be admitted and treated, and patients have been waiting for a long time already for their procedures and their treatment is once again getting delayed.

“That is putting a lot of pressure on the system and on the restorative work, which had started very well.”

Professor Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, UEA, said: “Up to about 2 weeks ago the proportion of people testing positive for covid was continuing to fall in all four nations.

“More recent data from the DHSC dashboard published on Wednesday, the ZOE app (published today) and NHS England hospital activity figures (published yesterday) show that infections and hospital admissions are continuing to fall in the time period since the most recent data included in today’s ONS bulletin.

“Even deaths within 28 days of a positive test are now falling. At present there are no variants that I can see in the COG UK data that are bucking the trend. Even the BA.2.75 “Centaurus” lineage is not increasing, so hopefully this decline will be sustained for several weeks yet.”


Royal Mail workers to stage strikes over four days in call for ‘dignified, proper pay rise’

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said over 115,000 staff will form the biggest strike of the summer so far to demand a “dignified, proper pay rise”.

Royal Mail workers are set to stage four days of strikes in the coming weeks in a dispute over pay.

Walkouts will take place on Friday 26 and Wednesday 31 August and Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September.

It follows a recent ballot for strike action which saw members vote by 97.6% on a 77% turnout to take action.

The union said management responded by imposing a 2% pay rise, which it believed would lead to a “dramatic reduction” in workers’ living standards because of soaring inflation.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly, but postal workers are being pushed to the brink.

“There can be no doubt that postal workers are completely united in their determination to secure the dignified, proper pay rise they deserve.

“We can’t keep on living in a country where bosses rake in billions in profit while their employees are forced to use food banks.

“When Royal Mail bosses are raking in £758m in profit and shareholders pocketing £400m, our members won’t accept pleads of poverty from the company.

“Postal workers won’t meekly accept their living standards being hammered by greedy business leaders who are completely out of touch with modern Britain.

“They are sick of corporate failure getting rewarded again and again.

“The CWU’s message to Royal Mail’s leadership is simple – there will be serious disruption until you get real on pay.”

Royal Mail apologised to its customers for the disruption the strike will cause.

Ricky McAulay, operations director at Royal Mail said: “After more than three months of talks, the CWU have failed to engage in any meaningful discussion on the changes we need to modernise, or to come up with alternative ideas.

“The CWU rejected our offer worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years.

“In a business that is currently losing £1m a day, we can only fund this offer by agreeing the changes that will pay for it.

“Royal Mail can have a bright future, but we can’t achieve that by living in the past.”



‘We do not hate as our enemies want us to’: Justin Welby plays down Anglican conflicts

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his keynote speech at the Lambeth Conference to dampen reports of division within the Anglican Communion claiming those gathered had “disagreed without hatred”.

Hundreds of bishops from across the world have gathered in Canterbury this week to pray and worship together but also to discuss the big issues facing the global Church.

While topics such as the environment saw widespread agreement, discussions around sexuality have continued to split opinion.

Earlier in the week, Justin Welby reaffirmed a commitment made in 1998 to reject same-sex marriage, but conservatives fear not enough is being done to prevent more liberal wings of the Church moving away from traditional Church teaching on the subject.

Speaking on Friday, he claimed the division wasn’t that bad.

“We do not hate as our enemies want us to,” he said. “And may I say, by God’s grace, this week we have disagreed without hatred, not as many in the press want us to.”

Referencing a conversation between one of his sons and a journalist friend, he suggested one editor was disappointed that the disagreement had been so civil.

“A friend of one of our children, one of our sons, a reporter who is a Christian said ‘I rejoice and I am sad, I rejoice because this week I have seen something new, people who disagree loving each other, but my news editor is very sad because there is nothing to say about that’.”

His comments came after TV star Sandi Toksvig wrote an open letter criticising the Church’s stance on sexuality, saying that the lives of LGBTQ+ people were “at stake”.

In a letter of response, the archbishop offered to meet with Toksvig for a coffee and added that the discrimination LGBTQ+ people “have experienced in the name of Jesus Christ are a sin”.

by Marcus Jones


UK heatwave: UK set for new heatwave as temperatures head to 35C

The UK is set for another heatwave this week with highs of up to 35C (95F) in some parts, forecasters have said.

The Met Office said while conditions would be below the 40.3C recorded last month, the hot weather could last for a longer period.

More parts of England are also facing hosepipe bans amid very dry conditions, as fire crews warn of wildfires.

A heat health-alert has been put in place for England by the UK Health Security Agency.

The warning, designed to help healthcare professionals manage periods of extreme heat, comes into force from midday on Tuesday until 18:00 BST on Saturday, the UKHSA said.

Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said a “fairly widespread heatwave” was developing across the UK this week with the peak of the temperatures likely to be on Friday or Saturday.

“It does look like a prolonged period of dry weather and obviously that’s bad news for southern England where some rain would really be useful now,” he said.

Temperatures will build from 28C or 29C on Tuesday and reach the low to mid-30s from Thursday, Mr Morgan said.

He said the West Midlands and West Country could see with highest temperatures with a maximum of around 35C, but this is uncertain.

A heatwave is defined as above average temperatures seen for three days or more.

England had its driest July since 1935, said the Met Office. For some parts – south-east and central southern England – last month was the driest since records began in 1836.

There have also been calls for more hosepipe bans to be brought in ,including from Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Southern Water already has in place a hosepipe ban for customers in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, and from Friday South East Water will do the same in Kent and Sussex.

Welsh Water will bring in a ban for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire later this month.

In France, the government has set up a crisis team to tackle a drought that has left more than 100 municipalities short of drinking water.

‘Wild fire risk increases’

Last month’s record temperatures saw a series of wildfires across the country and Riccardo la Torre, from the Fire Brigades Union, described them as “brutal”.

“They burn at extremely high temperatures, they spread faster than firefighters can move and they are very labour intensive,” he said.

He said fire services were under strain and claimed the reason blazes “spread with regularity is because we do not have resources to get there quickly enough”.

The government said spending for fire services had been increased by around £141m to £1.37bn over the last six years, “demonstrating our commitment to ensuring fire services have the resources they need”.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has urged people not to light bonfires or barbecues, or let off fireworks or sky lanterns, after a large blaze which damaged gardens, sheds and trees was started by a chiminea.

Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council said: “I have not seen a distinction between the two heatwaves – it has remained hot between then and now and equally there’s been no rainfall.”

He said crews were expecting the busiest time of day to be between 13:00 and 19:00 BST every day and said fire chiefs would aim to maximise on-call firefighters in rural areas to help cope with demand.

‘Relieve pressure on rivers’

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said water companies who have not called for a hosepipe ban “will be keeping it under constant review”.

“The advantage of doing it [a hosepipe ban] right now would be that it relieves pressure on their rivers,” he said.

Speaking on the BBC’s The World at One programme he said there were simple steps people could take to help such as “reducing the number of minutes we spend in the shower”.

He said there was no doubt climate change was affecting our infrastructure and said water was something we took for granted.

‘Agriculture will be hit’

The National Farmers Union warned the heatwave was compounding problems already caused by months of dry weather – grass not growing and irrigation water running out are two.

Deputy president Tom Bradshaw told the BBC: “The biggest concern is always animal health and welfare and trying to make sure the animals are well looked after.

“There’s also an impact on crops, particularly some vegetable crops – once they get over the mid-20s in temperature they stop growing”.

Keith Stones, who farms in Swaledale, North Yorkshire, has been struggling to find grass to feed his livestock.

He told the BBC: “The ewes producing the milk for the lambs are thin because they’re not picking up enough nutrition from the forage.

“The lambs are becoming pot-bellied and thin because they’re not getting nutrition from the grass or from the milk because the mums aren’t supplying.”

The dry weather has also caused staff at Kew Gardens, in south-west London, to prioritise which plants that have high conservation value, historic importance or which are extinct in the wild.

Director of gardens Richard Barley said this included not irrigating wider lawns and natural habitats.

The heat-health alert also means care homes will be monitoring residents closely.

David Lewis, manager of Cwmbran House Care Home in Cwmbran, Wales, said they were encouraging drinking as “much as possible” and offering ice creams and lollies if residents get warm.

“We’re ventilating the rooms and have got fans in the lounges”, he said.

By Andre Rhoden-Paul & James Gregory

Additional reporting by Charley Adams.

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