Guidance on Core Skills

The Core Skills Profile

There are two ways in which the achievement of Core Skills can be recognised on a learner’s Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC):

  1. By achieving Core Skills Units;
  2. By achieving embedded Core Skills that are listed on their Core Skills Profile

Where a learner achieves a particular Core Skills Unit, the Unit title and SCQF level will be listed on the certificate they receive from SQA (the SQC), alongside any other Units they may have achieved.

Core Skills can also be achieved where they are embedded in SQA qualifications. For example, a candidate who achieves the National 5 Mathematics Course, is deemed to have achieved the requirements for the Core Skill in Numeracy at SCQF level 5.

A full list of all qualifications that carry embedded Core Skills is given in the Core Skills catalogue.

To help identify which embedded Core Skills a learner has already achieved, the Scottish Qualifications Certificate issued by SQA contains a Core Skills Profile. The Core Skills Profile identifies the highest level reached by the learner in each Core Skill across all of the qualifications they have achieved.

The Core Skills Profile breaks each Core Skill down into components, for example the Communication Core Skill has two components: Oral Communication and Written Communication. In some cases a learner may achieve the components of a Core Skill at different levels. For example, they might achieve Oral Communication at SCQF level 4 and Written Communication at SCQF level 5.

The following table shows the Core Skills Components listed on the Core Skills Profile.

Core Skill Components
Communication Oral Communication
Written Communication
Problem Solving Critical Thinking
Planning and Organising
Reviewing and Evaluating
Numeracy Using Number
Using Graphical Information
Information and Communication Technology Accessing Information
Providing/Creating Information
Working with Others Working Co-operatively with Others
Reviewing Co-operative Contribution

The Core Skills framework

The Core Skills framework describes each Core Skill. The framework identifies the standards required in each Core Skill component. The framework provides the source for all other Core Skills documents and uses. This includes unit specifications, assessment support packs and embedded Core Skills.

Difference between NQ Core Skills units and Workplace Assessed Core Skills units

The NQ Core Skills units form part of SQA’s national framework of units and courses. These units are for classroom delivery in schools and colleges.

NQ Core Skills units may count towards group awards, such as National Certificates and National Progression Awards. Delivery may be as freestanding units. Or they may recognise achievement and progression in communication and numeracy.

Learners achieve Workplace Assessed Core Skills in the workplace. Most learners use naturally-occurring evidence from tasks completed in the workplace. This shows that they can meet the unit requirements. The SQA Accrediting Body owns these units. Any Awarding Body can seek accreditation to award and certificate them.

The Workplace Assessed Core Skills units contribute towards Modern Apprenticeships. This is when learners have not already achieved the level of Core Skills required.

Qualifications required by Core Skills Assessors and/or an Internal Verifier

This will depend on which type of units the centre is delivering.

The rules on delivery of NQ Core Skills units are different from those covering Workplace Assessed Core Skills units.

Using Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) towards the achievement of Core Skills units

Evidence of formal and non-formal learning from past activities may contribute to Core Skills units achievement. The rules that apply to this approach are in our policy on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

A further source of evidence for APL purposes is the Core Skills Profile. A learner may not have achieved a particular Core Skills unit. But they may have achieved Core Skills components embedded in another unit or course. The Core Skills Profile may be used as APL evidence towards completion of the Core Skills unit.

A learner’s Core Skills Profile may show partial attainment of a Core Skill at the appropriate level.

For example, a Core Skills Profile that showed Oral Communication component at SCQF level 5 and Written Communication component at level 4. If this learner was entered for the Core Skill Communication unit at SCQF level 5, then their Core Skills Profile could be used as evidence of attainment in some but not all the requirements of the unit.

The assessor needs to identify which:

Core Skills required as part of a group award framework

A hierarchy arrangement exists for Core Skills units that are part of NC and NPA frameworks. This gives recognition to candidates who have achieved a Core Skill unit at a higher level than any Core Skill units specified in a framework. For example:

Core Skills units included in NC or NPA frameworks

Candidates must achieve a Core Skill unit for it to count towards achievement of the group award.

Achievement of a Core Skill embedded within another course or unit cannot count in place of a Core Skills unit towards completion of an NC or NPA.