SQA's evaluation of the 2021 Alternative Certification Model (ACM)

The 2021 Alternative Certification Model (ACM) was adopted to support learning, teaching and assessment following the cancellation of exams on public health grounds. SQA worked as part of the National Qualifications 2021 Group, which included teacher, lecturer and learner groups alongside other partners, to devise a system-wide approach to assessment and certification of National Qualifications that would deliver results to learners.

SQA and academic partners have carried out evaluative work to explore how this operated in practice. The ACM was designed and implemented during an academic year with much uncertainty and ongoing disruption and the education system was required to adapt to ever-changing circumstances, creating significant challenges for us all. This research captures a range of perspectives, including from learners, teachers and lecturers, parents and carers, senior school and college leaders, principal assessors, training providers, employers and universities.

Reflecting on the challenges and evaluating the impact of the ACM is critical to understanding those experiences. Initial findings informed SQA’s contingency planning and communications, ensuring that reflections on the 2021 ACM were taken on board. More broadly, identifying the lessons that can be learned from the experience can help to inform future thinking about qualifications and assessment in Scotland.

2021 ACM evaluation strands

Overall summary of the 2021 ACM evaluation

A summary of the range of evaluation activity carried out by SQA, introducing each element, and discussing the key themes arising from the work as whole.

Experiences of the 2021 ACM

A detailed research study that aims to understand the experience of the ACM from the perspective of learners and practitioners involved in National Qualifications, helping to build a more complete picture of how the ACM worked in practice.

Perceptions of Assessment Standards in Scotland

Research undertaken with the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford to understand how key stakeholders and the wider community understand the notion of standards and fairness in Scottish education.

  1. Overarching Report
  2. Focus Group Report
  3. Main Survey Report
  4. Employer Survey Report

Approaches to 2021 Certification in Scotland and other Jurisdictions

An exploration of how assessment and certification in 2020 and 2021 was undertaken in a range of different education systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to place Scotland’s response in a wider context.

SQA Statistics and Commentary

Attainment statistics published on results day (August 2021) and post-Appeals (December 2021) with the accompanying statistical commentary, including breakdown of attainment by sex, centre type and Education Authority.

Centre Variability Analysis

An analysis of centre-level changes in the distribution of outcomes for two high uptake subjects, English and Mathematics, at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

Summary of Feedback on HNVQ Alternative Arrangements

A report outlining the development of alternative assessment approaches put in place for Higher National and Vocational Qualifications (HNVQ) to mitigate against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on engagement with the sector.