National Qualification Group Awards

SQA has recently introduced National Certificates and National Progression Awards ICON: Internal Link (NPAs), which are vocational qualifications that are designed to prepare people for employment, for career development, or for progression to further study.

National Certificates are targeted at both 16-18 year olds and adults in full-time education, normally at a college. They provide learners with a range of skills and knowledge that will help to prepare them for employment. National Certificates are aimed at specific occupational areas and are linked to National Occupational Standards. SQA is working closely with Sector Skills Councils to develop National Certificates which meet the needs of the Scottish economy.

NPAs are designed to assess a defined set of skills and knowledge in specialist vocational areas. They are mainly used by colleges for short programmes of study, but are also used by schools, employers and training providers. NPAs are linked to National Occupational Standards. NPAs are often used to help people to develop particular skills so that they can either up-skill or re-skill.

Our work to develop National Certificates and NPAs is well underway. By August 2009, there will be 43 National Certificates and 100 NPAs available to centres. Given the recent economic downturn, SQA will be reviewing its development programme to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of Scotland and its people.

The introduction of National Certificates and NPAs will result in the phasing out of National Certificate Group Awards (NCGAs), Scottish Group Awards, and Scottish Progression Awards.

The first entries for National Certificates were in 2007–08, while there were a small number of entries for NPAs in 2006–07. (The first year with substantial numbers of entries for NPAs was 2007–08.) As SQA is currently in the process of changing from the older qualifications to National Certificates and NPAs, there were also very significant numbers of entries for National Certificate Group Awards and Scottish Progression Awards in 2007–08. The graph below shows the total number of entries for National Certificate Group Awards and National Certificates between 2003–04 and 2007–08. 1,304 of the 4,679 entries in 2007–08 (27.9%) were for the new National Certificates.

Entries for National Certificate Group Awards and National Certificates 2004-08

The vast majority of the old NCGAs were in areas related to engineering, while the new National Certificates were more varied — there is significant provision in Health and Social Care, Early Education and Childcare, and Digital Media Computing. The sustained increase in the numbers of entries for NCGAs/National Certificates, and the significant uptake in new subject areas for National Certificates, suggest that these qualifications are filling a gap in previous qualifications provision.

Entries for Scottish National Progression Awards 2004-08

The graph above shows an even more dramatic increase in the number of entries for Scottish and National Progression Awards in the period since 2003–04. Of the 12,698 entries in 2007–08, 3,323 (26.2%), were the new NPAs. This graph suggests that there is a growing need for flexible qualifications, which are not necessarily of a standard size, but are intended to meet the needs of employers and the Scottish economy. Entries in both Scottish and National Progression Awards are in a wide range of subject areas, suggesting that these qualifications are being used by different economic sectors.

The early indications are that there appears to be a significant market for these new Group Awards, and that they can offer something which was previously not available for both learners and employers in Scotland. SQA will continue to focus on this area, to ensure that the new qualifications develop to their full potential, and that learners across Scotland have the opportunity to access the qualifications which best meet their individual needs.

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