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Co-ordinator Update

Quality Assurance of HN, VQ and NQ

Qualification verification is an integral part of the quality assurance model for our qualifications. It ensures that centres delivering SQA qualifications are assessing candidates in a valid and reliable manner in line with national standards. Selection of centres is proportionate, risk-based and intelligence-led, based on history of delivery.

SQA applies the same principles of quality assurance to all qualifications, but the approach to National Qualifications (NQ) and Higher National and Vocational Qualifications (HNVQ) is tailored to reflect the individual nature and delivery of the qualifications.

In collaboration with our appointees and centre staff, SQA completed 3,693 verification activities in session 2022–23 across NQ and HNVQ. Despite the challenges faced by some of our centres, outcomes remained consistent with previous sessions, and in some cases, improved.

We have summarised key findings from 2022–23 across NQ and HNVQ and activity planned for 2024.

National Qualifications

Externally-verified National Qualifications include internally-assessed course components (IACCAs) of National Courses, National Units at SCQF levels 1 to 4, and freestanding units which were part of national courses at SCQF levels 5 to 7. Skills for Work courses, Awards delivered by schools and colleges, and the Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary project are also verified.

For 2022–23, we took into consideration the fact that centres were still recovering from the pandemic. For this reason, fewer selections were made compared to pre-pandemic levels, and National 4 Added Value Units were not included. The highest numbers of selections were for centres which had never had particular subjects verified.

Verification

Extensive training is provided by Qualification Managers, Quality Assurance Managers and Senior Appointees carrying out verification activity. This ensures that standards are maintained and approaches are consistent across subjects and levels.

There were 1,445 National Qualifications verification activities. 82.5% were initially reported as ‘Accepted’ or ‘Accepted*’ outcomes, which is consistent with previous years. The vast majority of ‘Not Accepted’ outcomes were resolved through follow-up activity.

We carried out 196 verification activities for Skills for Work and Awards – 99% of these resulted in an ‘Accepted’ outcome.

The Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary project was verified at a central event. Of the 61 selections, 19 were initially ‘Not Accepted’ outcomes. These were resolved through follow-up activity.

Subject information, including Qualification Verification Summary reports, is available on subject specific webpages on the SQA website.

There has been increased use of the digital evidence upload system since its introduction in 2021–22. The reduction in physical uplifts supports our sustainability efforts. Centres that used the system benefited from a streamlined process, and it reduced the time spent on packaging materials. Follow-up activity, where required, could be managed more easily.

Qualification approval

Quality assurance includes approval. All qualification approval applications were progressed and completed through physical visits, desk approval or a combination of a documentation review and a virtual meeting between the approver and centre staff.

We received 22 applications after the deadline of 30 September 2022. Late applications tend to arise when centres discover they cannot submit entries for subjects for which they have not been auto-approved. This impacts a number of SQA processes, including the provision of question papers, arranging visiting assessment, and processing assessment arrangements requests. We work with centres where resources allow, but late applications pose a risk to certification.

2023–24 session

For 2023–24, we are forecasting that we will return to pre-pandemic levels of approximately 2,500 selections, which will include the reinstated National 4 Added Value Unit. We continuously monitor entry data and will make selections where we consider there may be risk to the integrity of certification.

We will continue to encourage use of the digital upload system for both round 1 and 2 verification activity.

Higher National and Vocational Qualifications

Higher National and Vocational Qualifications verification covers the internal assessment of Higher Nationals (HNs), Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), National Certificates (NCs), National Progression Awards (NPAs), Ofqual regulated qualifications, and a number of other vocational qualifications. Verification activity takes place throughout the session at national and international centres to check the delivery and assessment of vocational qualifications.

A similar approach to the previous session was taken – a blended model of the review of digital evidence and physical verification.

Following feedback from centres and internal teams, we have implemented some enhancements to our processes and systems during the 2022–23 session.

The Centre Hub, which was initially built to manage the secure transfer of data to an allocated external verifier for review, has evolved and now also hosts guidance documents relating to quality assurance. We have taken time to understand customer and SQA team needs and, following feedback from centres and internal teams, have implemented further system enhancements during the 2022–23 session.

We made improvements to the HNVQ Appointee Hub to make it more efficient. The Verifier induction process was also redefined to ensure that appointees have the required skillset to carry out verification activity consistently. Also, a series of online standardisation events led by Senior Verifiers continued, and a new program of online and virtual training events was rolled out for the session.

Verification

The overall level of quality assurance increased, with the majority of verification activity taking place from March 2023.

Following qualification verification, no significant concerns were raised at centre or qualification level. Less than 1% of all outcomes received a ‘No Confidence’ rating.

2023-24 session

For session 2023–24, we are forecasting 2,700 selections, and will continue to adopt a proportionate, risk based and intelligence-led based selection of centres.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at nqverification@sqa.org.uk for NQ enquiries and operationshnvq@sqa.org.uk for HNVQ enquiries.