Update on National Courses for session 2024-25 onwards

Wednesday 13 March 2024

The following message was issued to schools and colleges today by Dr Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development at SQA.

Based on feedback from the teaching profession, and as part of our ongoing review and maintenance of National Courses, we’re making some changes to content and assessment in a small number of courses for session 2024-25.

We’re also gathering views from teachers, lecturers and training practitioners on the assessment approach in a small number of practical skills-based courses. In addition, we’re consulting with teachers, lecturers and learners on the Scottish set text list for National 5 and Higher English courses.

We review National Courses every few years to ensure the courses remain valid and up to date and to identify if any changes are needed. We postponed our scheduled review activity during the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on supporting centres and learners through the disruption to learning they were experiencing at that time. This included introducing temporary modifications to assessment in National Courses, in line with public health guidelines.

This session, we removed the temporary assessment modifications from most National Courses and reinstated coursework. The courses have returned to full assessment requirements, including the assessment of practical skills.

Now that most National Courses have returned to full assessment requirements, we’re resuming our routine review and maintenance activity where appropriate. For example, we’ve identified some immediate changes that we can make to a small number of National Courses to ensure they remain up to date for session 2024-25 onwards. This includes updating and streamlining assessments in some courses, updating some of the language and terminology that’s used in our course documents and assessments, and updating course content to reflect any changes in legislation.

We’re making these changes having listened carefully to ongoing feedback from teachers and lecturers, as well as from partners across the Scottish education system. We’ve provided more information on the changes below.

Longer term, we expect there will be further changes to National Courses as part of wider education and skills reform in Scotland. The Scottish Government will publish its response to the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment later this year, which will set out timelines.

Changes to National Courses for session 2024-25

SQA is making changes to the following National Courses for session 2024-25 onwards.

Updated documents

We’ll update the course and unit documents for the above courses and units, as needed, to reflect these changes. We’ll start to publish the updated documents from early May, prioritising course specifications, unit specifications and coursework assessment tasks.

All updated documents – including any updated specimen question papers, course and unit support notes, and unit assessment support packs – will be available by the end of August. These documents will be valid for session 2024-25 onwards.

Review of assessment in practical skills-based courses

We recently carried out an online survey to gather feedback from the teaching profession on the assessment approach in some of our practical skills-based courses.

We sent the survey to all centres delivering National 5 and Higher Fashion and Textile Technology, National 5 Practical Cake Craft, National 5 Practical Cookery, National 5 Practical Electronics, National 5 Practical Metalworking, and National 5 Practical Woodworking courses. We asked teachers, lecturers and training practitioners to share their views on whether exams should remain part of the course assessment in these courses.

We introduced exams to these courses in sessions 2017-18 and 2018-19 following the removal of units and unit assessments. We’re reviewing and analysing the feedback from the survey and holding focus groups with teachers to explore this topic further. We’ll publish a short report on the outcomes of this work and our conclusions.

We’re also reviewing the changes we introduced to the Higher Drama course assessment in session 2018-19. We plan to engage with the teaching profession on this later this year.

If this review activity results in any changes to assessment in these courses, we’ll implement the changes for session 2025-26. We’ll share more information with you in the coming weeks and months.

Consultation on the Scottish set text list for National 5 and Higher English

Last week, we launched an eight-week consultation to gather feedback from teachers, lecturers, and learners on the current Scottish set text list for National 5 and Higher English courses. This consultation is also part of our ongoing review and maintenance of National Courses.

Through an online survey for practitioners and an online survey for learners, we’re asking for views on which texts we should keep and which we should replace. Through the practitioner survey, you can also tell us about any texts you would like to see added to the list.

The online surveys will close on Monday 6 May 2024. We then plan to hold focus groups with members of our National Qualifications Support Team (NQST) for English, colleagues from representative groups who are closely involved in delivering National 5 and Higher English course assessments, and learners. We’ll also publish a report on the findings.

The feedback we receive from both the online surveys and the focus groups will inform our decisions about updating the content of the list. We aim to publish the revised Scottish set text list in November this year, for use in session 2025-26 onwards. The 2026 exams will be the first to contain content from the revised list. The surveys are available on our NQ English webpages.