SQA gathers thousands of views on National Qualifications in 2022

Feedback being used to shape approach in 2023, including imminent decision on appeals

Tuesday 31 January 2023

More than 3,500 learners, teachers, lecturers, parents and carers have reflected on their experiences of National Qualifications in a large-scale evaluation of the approach taken to awarding in 2022.

Every school and college in Scotland was invited to take part in the evaluation through a range of surveys, interviews and focus groups. The findings, which will be published in full in Spring, are already helping to inform decisions around the services that will be delivered for learners in 2023 and beyond.

Part of the evaluation focused on Appeals 2022, which used a significantly different mechanism to previous years in light of the specific circumstances of 2022, where most learners were sitting exams for the first time following years of COVID-19 disruption.

An announcement about the services that will be available this year for learners who want to appeal their grades is expected later this week based on the evidence gathered from the evaluation.

Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive of SQA, said: 'I would like to thank the thousands of learners, teachers, lecturers, principal assessors, parents and carers who have given their time to share their views and experiences of National Qualifications in 2022.

'As Scotland’s national awarding body, we are committed to working closely with the wider education community so that their views shape the decisions we make, while ensuring the integrity and quality of learners’ qualifications.' 

With the support of partners from across the education system, the Appeals 2022 service was brought in as part of a significant package of support developed by Scotland’s education community. It was an emergency response for a single year, recognising that learners were sitting exams for the first time following several years of COVID-19 disruption.

It enabled eligible learners who didn’t perform as expected on the day of an exam to have alternative assessment evidence that had been gathered by schools, colleges and training providers throughout the year reviewed against the national standard. This was done by experienced subject experts – teachers and lecturers who work with SQA throughout the year in creating assessments and supporting markers. Learners were eligible to appeal if their estimated grade was higher than the one on their certificate.

The 2022 service was free and learners could apply directly to SQA, as well as through their school or college.

Working with partners and education representatives, including the National Qualifications 2023 Group, SQA has been using the findings to discuss whether a similar model should be used in 2023, or a return to a model closer to the service used in previous years, which enabled learners to seek a review of their marked exam paper, irrespective of their estimated grade.

A number of emerging themes have been identified through the evaluation in relation to appeals:

Fiona Robertson added: 'Scotland has historically had services for learners who didn’t receive the results they were expecting. These services vary across different countries. In Scotland, as elsewhere, services have evolved over time in response to our experience.

'SQA is committed to taking an evidence-based approach to decision making. The views and experiences of learners, teachers, lecturers and parents and carers, captured through the 2022 evaluation, are supporting discussions about the system we put in place for 2023.

'At the heart of the plans will be the principles of fairness to all learners, safe and secure certification of qualifications while following the latest public health advice, and maintaining the integrity and credibility of the learners’ qualifications.'

The 2022 evaluation has been undertaken as part of the national awarding body’s drive to ensure decisions around awarding are made based on evidence and the views of learners, teachers and lecturers and the wider education community. The results will also be shared with the Independent Review of Assessment and Qualifications, which is looking at the future of assessment and qualifications in Scotland.

The full findings of the National Qualifications 2022 evaluation will be published on the research section of SQA’s website in spring.