THE Scottish Education Secretary has urged pupils, parents and carers to utilise a careers hotline ahead of a “nerve-wracking” exam results day.

Approximately 142,000 secondary school students will receive their Higher, National and Advanced Higher grades on Tuesday, August 9. It is the first time in-person exams have taken place since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) will be running a helpline from 8am on results day staffed by volunteers who will help young people and their families navigate their career choices.

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Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Education Secretary, told The National that SDS was putting “a lot of preparation” into making sure that there is support available once results start to come through. Pupils can find out results via post, email, text, phone, or by logging in to their MySQA account.

Somerville said: “Their exam results may not have went as well as they could have hoped for or it actually might just be a lot better than they might have hoped for.

“Either way, whatever the issue is, there are helpline staff that are able to talk them through their options and go through what's right for them, and that service is available from the minute they get the exam results tomorrow.”

Results day is likely to be a “nerve-wracking” time, Somerville added, but urged young people to reach out if they were unsure about their career choices.

The National: The results helpline will be live from 8am on Tuesday morningThe results helpline will be live from 8am on Tuesday morning

She went on: “There are a lot of options that are there for young people, whether it's going to training, apprenticeships, college, universities or straight into employment, there is a lot of different options out there.

“Sometimes it can be quite confusing, and the helpline advisors can be able to talk through exactly what’s right for that young person talk through their hopes, their wishes for what they're wanting to do.

“They've got so much experience and knowledge about what can help young people and they are really keen to get talking to folk tomorrow to be able to help them just find out what's right for them and to know all the options that are available for them before anyone takes any decisions.”

Exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, and the Education Secretary admitted it would be “very difficult to compare the previous two years with what's happening tomorrow”.

She added: “What we've seen with the return of exams is still not returned to normal, people have still been impacted by Covid, young people's learning has still been impacted by Covid, and the whole education system has been taking that into account and will continue to take that into account when they get the results tomorrow.”

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Those who are unhappy with their results also have the option to appeal for free. Somerville added: “Speak to your teacher, and your school and talk that through first if you wish to.

“You do have that opportunity to appeal but I wish them the best of luck for tomorrow.”

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has said it will take a “more generous” approach to grading in light of the continuing impact of the pandemic on schools.

Jen Whelan, a career adviser at SDS, admitted that she had called the helpline in tears when she was 16.

The National: Jen Whelan has been working with the helpline for 14 yearsJen Whelan has been working with the helpline for 14 years

Now, after 14 years of working with students on results day, Whelan said the key is knowing what the options are. She said: “I’ve been there and I’ve thought why didn’t I do this, and why didn’t I do that when I was younger?

“But you can look at apprenticeships, you can go to college, you’ve got all these different routes.

“So I think it's about being aware of that and what’s available.”

Whelan said the advisers are preparing for a busy day and a wide range of calls – with some students anxiously checking if their place at university has been confirmed by UCAS.

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She added: “You’re sharing that moment with them because you’re getting them on the phone when they realise it’s real, and then you get other ones that won’t come on the phone, a parent or carer will chat and then you get them on the phone and they go off sounding happy.

“It’s an instant impact because you can say to them – you can do this, and this, or this, and you take your time and talk them through it.”

The results helpline can be reached on 0808 100 8000 from 8am Tuesday August 9.