AFTER last year, Scottish education authorities were under pressure to ensure grading was smooth, transparent and accountable.

The 2020 results bourach almost cost John Swinney his job as Education Secretary as a motion of no-confidence was lodged against him (he's since passed that baton to Shirley-Anne Somerville), and there were calls for the entire board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to be axed.

There was trouble for exams bosses for England, Wales and Northern Ireland too as similar issues over the of algorithms for marking emerged.

Ministers at both Holyrood and Westminster u-turned in the face of angry protests from pupils and parents.

This time the results for the administrations are more positive.

But while there are record marks in other parts of the UK, that’s not the case in Scotland. So why not?

READ MORE: Scotland exam results: Education Secretary hails pupils' hard work

The Higher pass rate of 87.3% isn’t a record, but then the all-time high of 89% achieved last year came from teacher estimates as exams were off. Formal examinations were also cancelled this year, but teachers were required to show assessment evidence for their grades, leading to claims that these tests were exams by stealth.

The Scottish Government and the SQA have advised against comparing 2021 with 2020 due to the change in circumstances. Even still, the Higher pass rate is higher than usual, when it hovers in the late 70s. That rate covers every grade from A to C. The top A band was achieved by 47.6% of candidates – which is an increase of 7.6% from last year.

Comparing that with England, Wales and Northern Ireland means comparing different exam and education systems. A-levels are taken there and there’s been a record number of A grade passes (44.8%) awarded across the board.

So while there’s a year-on-year dip in Scotland, that’s not been the case in the rest of the UK, where the number of pupils achieving top marks stood at 38.5% in 2020.

Marking there was done by teachers using a combination of essays, coursework and mock exams. Headteachers were required to approve the results and confirm there was evidence to support them, but the approach has also meant some schools set more tests than others.

However, here too there are warnings that attainment shouldn’t be judged directly against last year’s, with Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association of Head Teachers saying the results “cannot be easily compared to any other year”.

READ MORE: Education: Pupils and parents at heart of reform MSPs told

Of course, as with any other year, exam results day doesn’t mean the end of the grading process of everyone – appeals can still be lodged.

And attentions will soon turn to next year’s diet. Exams will be back on in Northern Ireland, but there will be “signficantly fewer” in each subject for pupils. In England, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson “very much hopes and intends” for a return to exams in 2022. However, full details won’t be confirmed for a few weeks yet.

Plans are still being drawn-up for Wales, with some subjects being adapted to “reflect the disruption” to learning. And here, there’s not yet been a decision about what will happen.