NPA Rural Skills

The Rural Skills National Progression Award (NPA) at SCQF level 5 is a credible starting place for candidates pursuing a future in one of the major land-based industries. Candidates will gain a knowledge of how a rural business enterprise operates, and an insight into one of eight particular areas of rural skills: agriculture, animal care, equine studies, estate skills, fishery management, forestry, gamekeeping, and horticulture.

The NPA covers the job roles, main sustainability features, alternative enterprises, and issues that a rural business enterprise may face.

This qualification is available through schools and colleges.

Why deliver this qualification

This NPA in Rural Skills is in a priority area supported by the Scottish Government’s key national policies and priorities initiative.

The NPA can be offered with minimum disruption to existing provision and can be undertaken in a variety of ways. It can be delivered as a short, full-time course, as a flexible blended learning package, or as a part-time course over a longer period. Study can be tailored to suit a pace and style determined by the candidate.

Candidates learn through tutor and guest presentation, group and individual research activities, observing demonstrations, practising, asking questions and reflecting on their practice.

This nationally certificated qualification combines theoretical knowledge and practical activity. Much of the learning takes place in a real or realistic work setting and candidates often learn by experience.

As attainment is recognised by employers, schools and educational bodies, successful candidates will be in a better position to develop their careers.

Who does this qualification suit

This qualification has been developed for a range of possible candidates, including:

  • S5 and S6 school pupils considering a career in the land-based sector
  • adult learners who may not be ready to commit to a full-time programme or work-based learning which focuses entirely on one area


Entry is at the discretion of the centre. However, it is recommended that candidates have a broad understanding of the land-based sector, and have skills and knowledge in their chosen specialism at SCQF level 4. Evidence of this may be demonstrated by one of the following:

  • Skills for Work Rural Skills at SCQF level 4 in either the ‘plant’ or ‘animal’ route
  • appropriate NQ Units at SCQF level 4
  • other similar qualifications and/or experience relating to the land-based industries


This qualification prepares candidates for further study or employment, although it does not completely prepare the candidate for the land-based workplace alone — candidates will require further training. However, successful candidates will have gained some of the occupational competences and employers may see the NPA as an appropriate way into a Modern Apprenticeship or other work-based learning qualification such as an SVQ.

The NPA also provides the opportunity to progress to a full-time course in a chosen specialism such as a National Certificate.


There is no automatic approval for centres due to specific resource requirements. Centres must demonstrate that they have access to the resources required to deliver the NPA effectively. Many current centres deliver in partnership with local colleges or employers.

Centres will have to come forward for approval and should contact the Business Development Team for guidance in completing the combined CA1/SA1 form.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA's general requirements as outlined in the guide to approval .

How to assess

Practical learning should take place in a realistic work setting and it is a condition of assessment that candidates visit an actual rural business on at least one occasion to achieve the mandatory Unit Rural Business Investigation. This Unit may lend itself to the development of an e-portfolio which could be combined with some of the theoretical assessment components of the candidate’s specialist option choice.

There is scope in some of the option choices for e-learning and e-assessment of theoretical components. E-assessment is not appropriate for practical activities.

Qualification content and delivery tools

Qualification structure

Group Award Code: G9CD 45 (18 SCQF credit points)
SCQF level: 5

National Progression Award in Rural Skills at level 5 (G9CD 45) (173 KB)


Candidates must complete one mandatory Unit (6 SCQF credit points) and two optional Units (12 SCQF credit points) relating to their choice of route.

Mandatory Unit
Rural Business Investigation (F6AF 11)

Optional Routes and Units

Route 1 — Agriculture
Crop Production (F6AK 11)
Livestock Production (F6AJ 11)

Route 2 — Animal Care
Animal Care: Accommodation and Handling (F6SM 11)  
Animal Care: Small Animal Feeding (F6SJ 11)

Route 3 — Equine Studies
Equine Housing and Handling (F6AG 11)
Feeding Horses and Ponies (F6AH 11)

Route 4 — Estate Skills
Estate Skills (F6AL 11)
Soft Landscaping: General Plantings (F6AW 11)

Route 5 — Fishery Management
Fisheries Management: An Introduction (F6AM 11)
Fisheries Capture and Handling (F6AN 11)

Route 6 — Forestry
Forests and Woodlands: An Introduction (F6AP 11)
Production and Care of Young Trees (F6AR 11)

Route 7 — Gamekeeping
Gamekeeping: Role of the Gamekeeper (F6AS 11)
Quarry Species: An Introduction (F6AT 11)

Route 8 — Horticulture
Soft Landscaping: General Plantings (F6AW 11)
Horticultural Skills (F6AV 11)

Other information

SQA’s team of Rural Skills External Verifiers will be able to advise centres on suitable delivery models for this NPA. 

Key national policies and priorities are placed upon specific industries because they are critical to the sustainability of rural economies. The priority areas currently supported by the Scottish Government are tree and timber industries; environmental conservation; aquaculture; fisheries management; agriculture (crops and livestock); and game and wildlife management.