Connecting With SQA - SQA's Monthly E-zine.

Tuesday 16 January 2007
Issue 13

Review of Estimates, Derived Grades and Assessment Appeals

LOGO: Front Cover of Estimates, Absentees and Assessment Appeals: Guidance on Evidence RequirementsWe recently issued Estimates, Absentees and Assessment Appeals: Guidance on Evidence Requirements to provide guidance to schools, colleges and other centres offering National Courses. It has been brought to our attention by the Headteachers’ Association of Scotland and the Scottish Council of Independent Schools that many schools are interpreting the guidance as new policy and procedures from SQA for immediate implementation.

We would like to clarify that appeals evidence for the 2007 diet will be treated in exactly the same way as the 2006 diet. As part of our ongoing support to centres when the derived grades procedures were withdrawn we committed to providing additional support and guidance on understanding standards.  An element of this is an expanded version of the Estimates, Absentees and Assessment Appeals guidance previously issued to centres.  The publication offers further, detailed guidance to help clarify issues for staff.  It is not our policy to issue material in the middle of the teaching year and expect centres to implement immediately.  We are well aware of the detailed planning that takes place by centres and teaching staff to deliver courses.

Please contact your Customer Support Manager if you have any enquiries regarding this matter.

As part of our commitment to work with teachers, lecturers and partners to enhance the understanding of standards, we are hosting events for key teaching staff.

The events will be:

  • an opportunity to share our research findings from the Review of Estimates, Derived Grades and Appeals
  • a chance for delegates to familiarise themselves with our updated guidance on Estimates, Absentees and Assessment Appeals
  • an opportunity for delegates to clarify issues

The events are scheduled to take place in January and February 2007 at venues across Scotland:

  • Tuesday 16 January in Inverness
  • Wednesday 17 January in Perth
  • Friday 19 January in Edinburgh
  • Wednesday 24 January in Glasgow
  • Thursday 15 February in Stirling (SFEU)

Further events will take place for SCIS on 31 January and for colleges on 15 February 2007.

Read the revised guidance.

Core Skills on the Web - Support for you!

Did you know that there is an area on the Core Skills website that lists all the support available for centres either delivering or thinking about delivering Core Skills?

The Core Skills team has been working with centres to provide exemplification of good practice in Core Skills delivery. You have provided full programmes of activity, and examples of how Core Skills have worked for you and have shared your ideas. 

You can now find all this in the Core Skills website, under ‘Support Materials’.

We have also included all of the support materials and services that you will need to support Core Skills delivery in your sector - and it's all in one place!

If you want to showcase your own exemplification, then contact Gill Macfarlane  and let us all share your good practice!

IMAGE: Core Skills Support Materials

IMAGE: Core Skills Assessment Pack

Access the Support Materials.

National Qualifications Group Award Conference

The first annual National Qualifications Group Award Conference is to be held on 26 January 2007. The conference theme is National Qualifications Mean Business and the key note speakers will include Brian Lister, Chair of the NQ Group Awards Key Partners’ Group and Iain Ovens, Principal of Dundee College. 

The aims of the conference include:

  • raising awareness of the NQGA developments
  • informing delegates of the design principles relating to National Certificates and National Progression Awards
  • providing opportunities for delegates to discuss issues and developments relating to non-advanced provision
  • sharing good practice in relation to assessment methods for non-advanced provision
  • providing a forum for delegates to engage and network

This event is aimed at senior management in colleges, as well as those in Sector Skills Councils, local authorities, SFEU, COLEG, ASC, and Careers Scotland who are interested in vocational qualifications within SCQF levels 2-6. Please contact Hilary Rutherford (0845 213 5542) if you would like more information.

Skills for Work Courses the pilot and beyond

GRAPHIC: Skills for Work roadsign.Following the successful implementation of Pilot Courses, we will be making thirteen Skills for Work Courses available to all centres for delivery in 2007/8 onwards, subject to our normal approval processes. 

In June 2006, we issued a letter headed Update on National Course Developments, which gave details of our plans for Skills for Work Courses.  There's a copy of this letter on the NQ section of our website.  We also sent out an Information Pack to all centres in December 2006 providing details about these Courses.  The packs were sent directly to Co-ordinators and included important transition guidance for those centres which participated in the Pilot.  Co-ordinators have been asked to distribute the information to relevant members of staff in each centre.  The information was also made available in December on the Skills for Work pages of our website.  Please contact Jonathan Gillies with any queries about this information.

Find out more about Skills for Work.

Interim Chief Executive awarded OBE

PHOTO: Tom Drake, Interim Chief Executive
We are delighted to report that Tom Drake, our interim Chief Executive has been awarded the OBE by Her Majesty The Queen in the 2007 New Year’s Honours List for services to Education.

Tom has a long and distinguished career in Scottish education and training. He has been a senior member of staff at SQA and its predecessor bodies for the last 19 years, and has been interim Chief Executive since summer 2006.

Tom said ‘I’m flattered and honoured to receive the OBE. I believe this award recognises the hard work that is put into Scotland’s qualification system year in year out by SQA’s staff, a group of people I have been proud and happy to work with’.

New Scottish Qualifications Certificate

In the next few weeks, we will be issuing a revised, easier to use and understand Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) to candidates. The SQC is a candidate's life-long record of their qualifications. As a result of feedback and in consultation with candidates, we have redesigned the certificate to make it a clearer layout and easier to read.

The new certificate will have three sections:

  • summary of attainment - will list all the Group Awards, Courses and stand-alone Units that the candidate has achieved since 1994 
  • detailed record of attainment - will give more detail about the qualifications achieved since the last certificate was issued
  • profiles - will show the candidate's current achievements in Core Skills and SCQF credits

The certificate will also give Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) information. The SCQF describes qualifications in terms of level and credit points which makes it easier to understand and compare different types of qualifications. The level indicates the complexity of the learning and the credit points shows the learner effort needed to achieve the qualification. One aim of the SCQF is to help make easier credit transfer between different learning programmes. The SCQF level and credit points of SQA's qualifications will be shown on the certificate. The Profiles section will show the total credit points at the SCQF level achieved by the candidate.

IMAGE: Achievement Counts leaflet cover
The  'Achievement Counts' leaflet is designed to help parents and pupils understand the SCQF and is available to download on the SCQF website. Copies are also available from the SCQF office, by e-mail ( or telephone: 0141 331 3303.

Centre Co-ordinators will be receiving a Resource Pack - Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework and the Scottish Qualifications Certificate - in the next few weeks which will have copies of presentations, guides and leaflets to help communicate these changes to colleagues, parents and candidates.

If you have any questions on the new SQC, please speak to your Customer Support Manager.

Find out more.

Tell us what you think of e-learning and e-assessment

We are currently conducting a survey on practitioners' attitudes towards e-learning and e-assessment. The survey is part of our 'e-only' project, which produced our first paperless qualification (Internet Safety). We're now seeking to gauge your views on similar projects in the future. The survey should only take 10 minutes and the results will help to shape our qualifications in the future.

Please take the time to complete this. Thank you for your contribution.

Complete the survey.

National Assessment Bank Packs

National Assesment Bank support packs (NABs) are currently produced in Times New Roman 11pt font and adapted into other fonts and sizes only on request.

We have recently published our first Disability Equality Scheme (DES). During the development of our DES, members of staff held focus groups with disabled people. In response to feedback received at these events, and ahead of a general review of our usage of fonts and point sizes, the NAB team are converting all new NABs produced from November 2006 into Arial 12 point.  This is the minimum font size recommended by the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB).

Existing NABS will be converted when amendments are required or when they are due to be updated.

Our monthly bulletin to centres states page number details where only a few pages in a pack have been amended.  As the change in font will result in the page numbers changing, we will not supply this information for newly converted NAB packs.

If you have any queries regarding this change to NAB packs, please contact the National Assessment Bank Officer on 0131 561 6939.

Gaelic Version of 5-14 Assessments

The new Gaelic area of the 5-14 National Assessment Bank will be live for schools to access from early January 2007.  It is a 'mirror image' of the English language version and comprises materials in Mathematics, Reading and Writing.

As is the case with all 5-14 Assessments, the assessment materials in the new online Gaelic area of the National Assessment Bank have been written by teachers and have undergone vigorous validation and pre-testing.  They are intended for use to confirm teachers' judgments of pupils' levels of attainment in Mathematics, Reading and Writing in the medium of Gaelic.  We will continue to update and widen the scope of the Gaelic area of the National Assessment Bank in the future.

The whole translation and writing process has taken around two years to complete.  In addition to the translation and writing of the assessments, the web interface pages have been translated, and information booklets in Gaelic have been prepared. These will be sent to Gaelic medium schools and assessment coordinators early in January.

Find out more.

Adapted Question Papers in Digital Format

At the 2006 diet of National Qualifications examinations, we piloted a limited number of question papers in digital format.  Eight centres were provided with digital question papers for thirty-four candidates, for use in eighteen subjects.  There is a summary report on our website. 

Evaluation of the pilot has shown that for some candidates with disabilities and/or additional support needs, who use ICT regularly in class, the use of digital question papers appropriately meets their needs in certain subjects.  Evaluation has also shown that there are implications for centres and for us in terms of resources.

To further inform our decisions about the appropriateness of this arrangement for the future, for 2007 we will provide digital question papers as an assessment arrangement for candidates with disabilities and/or additional support needs at centres which have been involved in the initial feasibility study and/or the 2006 pilot.  These centres will already have the necessary resources in place to deliver the digital examinations successfully, and will be contacted in due course to begin dialogue regarding digital question paper arrangements for the 2007 diet.

We are committed to extending the provision in future years to any centre who is able to deliver digital question papers and whose candidates would benefit from this arrangement.  We would therefore like to seek your views on this provision, find out your facilities for support, and to gather information on potential uptake.  Please complete our Feedback Form and send it to us by 31 January 2007. Thank you for your contributions.

If you would like further details, please contact Sheila Rennie (0131 561 6805).

Read the summary report.

A Playwork Revolution for Scotland

PHOTO: Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People
On 26 and 27 October the ‘Playwork Revolution’ conference was held at the Beardmore Hotel in Clydebank. The two day event, joint hosted by SQA, Skills Active and Play Scotland, aimed to increase support and visibility for the playwork sector in Scotland.

Over 100 delegates from across the sector attended. A packed programme included presentations from renowned speakers Gordon Sturrock and Bob Hughes on the theoretical side of playwork, as well as offering a wealth of information and ideas for hands on play workers through a series of practical workshops.

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, spoke about considering proportionate protection and risk. This involves offering a sensible balance of care and protection to young people, while still giving them the opportunity to experience risk in a managed fashion.

The conference workshops also provided delegates with the opportunity to understand and discuss recently developed playwork theories and, in particular, how we have used these to shape new qualifications. 

Paul Gallacher, one of our Qualifications Managers said, 'SQA is committed to continuing to support the sector by providing relevant and up-to-date qualifications that deliver continuous professional development for playworkers'.

Skills Active also launched the first Playwork Implementation Strategy for Scotland at the conference. The strategy is the product of two years detailed research into the skills needs of employers in the sector.  It sets out plans to develop playwork education, training and skills in order to improve the quality and range of play opportunities for children and young people in Scotland.

Play Scotland, a lead organisation promoting the importance of play in the development of all our children and young people, will publish research findings later this year, showing the need for a strategic approach to the professionalism of the sector.

The new strategy and partnership working sets out to establish strong links with playwork employers to transform education, training and qualification opportunities that will meet the anticipated and changing needs of the sector over the next ten years.

The conference was closed by the Deputy Minister for Education and Young People, Robert Brown MSP, who congratulated all involved and hoped everyone could take something positive away from the event.

PHOTO: Peter Aird (SQA Qualifications Officer), Phil Ford (Skills Active Programme Manager (Children and Young People) Scotland), Margaret Westwood (Chair of Play Scotland) and Robert Brown MSP (Deputy Minister for Education and Young People)

Update on SQA visits to English Universities

As mentioned in October’s e-zine, Sarah Breslin, Project Manager for HE liaison, has been visiting universities in England to raise awareness of Scottish qualifications.  All of the universities visited expressed their desire to actively recruit Scottish students and their recognition of the Advanced Higher qualification as an excellent preparation for university, with its emphasis on research, in-depth analysis and study skills.

Admissions and academic selectors were grateful for the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the key differences between the Scottish and English school and qualifications systems, and to discuss how recognition of these differences can be reflected in entry requirements.  It was heartening to hear both Cambridge and Oxford comment on the highly successful track record of their current Scottish students and to discuss ways in which we can support them in their efforts to identify and nurture Scottish talent.

For further information, please contact Sarah Breslin, Project Manager, External Development at

Find out more about Advanced Highers.

HN and SVQ Computing and IT Awards under development

Current Awards - Upcoming Events

There is a lot of activity going on refreshing the following awards:

  •  G7A5 15 HNC Interactive Multimedia Creation
  •  G7A6 16 HND Interactive Multimedia Creation
  •  G7DD 15 HNC Multimedia: Web Development
  •  G7DE 16 HND Multimedia: Web Development
  •  G7DF 16 HND Multimedia: Computing 
  •  G7A0 10 PC Passport (Intermediate)
  •  G7A1 11 PC Passport (Intermediate)
  •  G7A2 12 PC Passport (Advanced)

These awards are planned to be ready for colleges in June 2007. To keep teaching staff up-to-date, we have organised the following events for colleges, to consult and advise on the planned changes to these awards. If you, or any colleagues, would like to register for these events then please follow the respective link:

There will be an announcement, early in 2007, about an event for schools and training providers which will take place early spring.

New Awards - Upcoming Events

We are working on the development of National Certificates in Digital Media Computing.  Two of these awards (at SCQF levels 4 and 5) should be ready for centres in June 2007.    We would like to invite colleges to an event where we will be updating teaching staff with the content of these awards, along with advance notice of the plans for support materials.  To register for this event you should follow the respective RSVP link (only two individuals per centre for each event, please).

Please contact Tony Hamilton (0845 213 5472) if you require further information relating to any of these events.

SCQF Level 9+ Project and Professional Development Awards

SCQF Level 9+ Project
The aim of the SCQF Level 9+ project is to establish a framework for the development of vocationally-focused Professional Development Awards (PDAs) at SCQF level 9 and above.  The Project will ensure strong employer involvement in the development process to create higher-level vocational Group Awards to equip candidates with both technical and transferable skills that help create high level thinkers and doers with enhanced ‘employment readiness’.  As with all PDAs, these will be linked to National Occupational Standards and will fill vocational gaps in current curriculums.

The Project reports to the Level 9+ Steering Group, made up of senior managers from Scotland's Colleges and SQA managers who provide strategic guidance and oversight to the Project, including innovative approaches to qualifications development.  The Project produces a regularly updated report which will shortly be available on the PDA webpage.

Further information on the SCQF Level 9+ Project can be obtained from John Lewis (0845-213 5547).

Professional Development Awards
In anticipation of the Professional Development Awards (PDA) Modernisation Project, we have published A Guide to Professional Development Awards: from inception to implementation and Using National Occupational Standards in the Development of SQA Group Awards, to assist in the development or revision of PDAs.  Further guidance for centres in the form of a PDA 'toolkit' will be published on the website early in the new year. Three PDA launch events have been held in November and December to disseminate key information to stakeholders.

A dedicated web page for PDAs, including those at SCQF Level 9 and above, is now available and will be continually updated with publications, news and information, as well as the PDA development schedule.

Further information on the PDA Modernisation Project can be obtained from Doreen Kedzierska (0845-213 5546) or John Lewis (0845-213 5547).

New Learning Support Materials for NQ ESOL Higher and Intermediate 2 Courses


Learning support materials for National Courses at Intermediate 2 and Higher are now available on our secure website.  The 'Listening' CDs can also be ordered from the website. The materials are designed to complement other ESOL learning materials in use in centres.  These materials are also being e-enabled and will be available in 2007.

Listening CDs for the Specimen Question Papers are also now available and can be obtained by contacting the Customer Contact Centre on 0845 279 1000 (

Examples of candidate evidence with further guidance on the assessment of speaking for the new Higher and Intermediate 2 Courses are being produced and will be available early in 2007.  There will be an opportunity to attend a workshop about this in February- details to follow on the ESOL page of the website.

Find out more about ESOL.