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A Scottish Government Minister today (Tuesday August 9) urged tens of thousands of school leavers to consider colleges as a first-choice destination.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, made the call as tens of thousands of Scottish pupils this week received the results of their SQA exams.

Mr Hepburn said: “Scotland’s colleges offer incredible opportunities for young people looking to acquire the new skills needed for today’s workforce.  Other students might be looking to improve their results and then move on to a higher level of study in college or onto university.  Colleges across the country also offer outstanding training for increasing numbers of apprentices.

“With exam results out today, Scotland’s colleges provide world-class learning for everyone and I hope every school leaver considers them as a first-choice destination.”

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland, added: “This can be both an exciting and daunting period for young people, and the impact of the pandemic has been keenly felt by hundreds of thousands of teenagers.

“For some the key will be acquiring skills for a job that brings them future fulfilment and financial security. For others it’s about improving on those school results to allow a move into higher levels of study in college or onto university.  And for others it’s important to start earning now while ensuring they acquire the competencies required within the modern workplace 

“Scotland’s 26 colleges can deliver answers for all of those young people within their local communities. The skills provided ensure college graduates have the fit-for-purpose competencies employers’ demand. Alternatively, almost 12,000 apprentices are learning while earning every year.  And thousands of other people are taking advantage of part-time or evening classes to improve their skills while working full-time.

“An incredible 96% of the learning provided leads to recognised qualifications, which in turn means improved employment and earnings opportunities.  So, with employers crying out for skilled workers, colleges are increasingly relevant destinations for school leavers, and I encourage all of them to look at what life-changing courses are on offer.”

Meanwhile the infantilisation of the newest generation of adults continues with a statement from Paul Johnson, NSPCC Childline Team Manager, Scotland, said: "At Childline we know that results day and the period running up to it can be a really stressful time for young people.

“This year we saw the return of exams for the first time in three years after the pandemic and young people have told our Childline counsellors that they have been feeling anxious and stressed about revision and sitting them.

“Some young people have also told us they felt underprepared for exams after studying from home for long periods of time in the last few years.

“Now, as they find out their results from the exams, it is vital that they feel supported and listened to.

“Young people often tell us they are worried they will get lower grades than they need to get into their preferred course or University, and they feel anxious and unsettled because it’s out of their control.

“Often they have high expectations for themselves, or their family can put them under pressure to perform well.

“Some young people think their whole future depends on these results and this is their last chance to get into the further education course of their choice, or an apprenticeship that they have applied for.

“In such circumstances, it’s possible the young person could appeal their results or resit their exams the following year. They could also look at alternative courses or universities through clearing, and there’s the option of taking a gap year. Speaking to a teacher could be very helpful in assisting a young person to decide on which is the best option to take.

“If any young person is feeling apprehensive and worried about their results, I’d urge them to talk to someone about it.

“It can be very upsetting for a young person not to get the grades they had hoped for or expected, and it can affect their confidence. But it’s important for them to know that many others are going through the same thing and there are a range of options to explore. 

“There are also lots of trusted adults they can turn to for help and support whether that’s a teacher, careers advisor, parent, carer or Childline.

“Every year our specially trained counsellors carry out counselling sessions with hundreds of children across the UK who are worried about their exams and results. They listen to the young person’s concerns, offer advice about dealing with anxiety and help explore the different options available for those who don’t get their desired results.

“The conversation is confidential, and no worry is ever too small.”

Young people under the age of 19 can get free, confidential support and advice from Childline or by calling 0800 1111 for free.

They might also find it helpful to talk to other young people who are going through similar experiences on the Childline message boards. For more exam results advice visit:

A girl aged 16 from Scotland, said: “We have final assessments starting next week and we've only been given a couple of weeks to learn the content and I'm struggling with it all to be honest. I was predicted straight As but at this rate my grades will be nowhere near that. I'm so anxious I feel sick constantly. I’ve never really struggled with exams before - I found national 5's really easy but when I went up to higher and there was lockdowns and stuff I started really struggling.” (Girl, aged 16, Scotland)

A girl aged 17 from Scotland, said: “I feel really stressed and worried and don't know what to do. I had my first ever exam today and I feel like it went horrible. In my prelims, I got all As but today’s exam felt way harder and don't know if I will be able to appeal. I feel I'm going to be stressing over this the whole summer until my exam results come back and still I have 3 other exams to go.” (Girl, aged 17, Scotland)


For young people who may not achieved the results they wanted:

  • Ask a teacher, careers advisor or any adult you trust what they think and discuss your options and how you are feeling.
  • Remind yourself of what you did well in whether that be specific pieces of coursework, or other parts of your life.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your friends.
  • If you do not feel your grade reflects your ability speak to your school about making an appeal.
  • Look at other courses or training programmes and apprenticeships that you can do.
  • If you haven’t got a place at your chosen university, try not to worry as there is a chance you could get a place at another university through the clearing process.
  • Take a gap year and do something different like volunteering.
  • Look at different courses that you can do with the grades you have achieved.

For parents and carers:


  • Your child may find it hard to talk to you about their results so be patient and supportive until they feel ready to talk about how they feel.
  • Encourage your child to take their time to think about what they want to do next. There’s no need to rush into a decision straightaway.
  • Help them think about their choices by writing down a list of pros and cons for each of their options
  • If they are finding it hard to talk to you, let them know they can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice on 0800 1111 or