Title/Summary

NQ School and college practitioners

If you are delivering National 2 to National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher, National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses and Awards.

Concertina(s)

What is happening to this yearís examination diet?

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 national examination timetable has been cancelled.

The Scottish Government has asked SQA to develop an alternative certification model. This will ensure that learnersí hard work is rightly and fairly recognised.

For this session, teachers and lecturers should continue to exercise their professional judgement and estimate a learnerís grade and band based on their demonstrated and inferred attainment of the required skills, knowledge and understanding for each National Course.

SQA will work to ensure learners receive their results no later than Tuesday 4 August. A free appeals service will be available to ensure that schools and colleges continue to have a mechanism to question any result, and guidance will be provided.

We also recommend that schools and colleges encourage their learners to sign up to MySQA to receive their NQ results by text and/or email. Any learner who has previously signed up to receive their results through MySQA will continue to do so, and we recommend that those learners review their profile to make sure their contact details are correct.

Do learners still need to undertake their practical assessments and/or coursework?

Higher and Advanced Higher

No. SQA has confirmed that schools and colleges are not required to submit learner coursework for marking for Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

Also, we do not require schools and colleges to submit marks for internally assessed coursework.

National 5

We confirmed earlier that National 5 coursework already submitted by schools and colleges will not be marked. We also do not require schools and colleges to submit marks for any internally assessed coursework.

National 2 Ė National 4

Schools and colleges should provide unit results, based on either existing evidence from assessments that have already been completed, and/or using their professional judgement of other learner evidence, including knowledge of their learnersí progress and achievements to date. The results should be submitted to SQA, in the normal way, by Friday 22 May for schools, and by Monday 1 June for colleges.

National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses and Awards

We are asking schools, colleges, employers and training providers to provide us with the results of their internal assessment decisions (where some evidence from the course already exists but further progress is not possible), based on teaching staffís professional judgement of learnersí work from throughout the year.

What guidance is there to help teachers and lecturers with establishing learnersí estimate grades?

For this session, teachers and lecturers should continue to exercise their professional judgement and estimate a learnerís grade and band based on their demonstrated and inferred attainment of the required skills, knowledge and understanding for each National Course. There is no requirement for schools and colleges to set any more prelims or mock exams, or homework tasks for the purpose of determining an estimate grade.

It is also important to remember that it is not necessary for teachers and lecturers to mark any other work that would have been externally marked by SQA. An estimate is a judgement of a grade and band based on a holistic review of a learnerís performance in the assessment evidence available.

The integrity of the estimates we receive this year is very important as it will provide the core element of the certification process, in the absence of national performance data such as marked question papers, and non-question paper components.

Therefore, to assist SQA in the awarding and certification process for 2020, we are taking steps to refine the existing system and ensure it is as fair and robust as possible. Firstly, we will be subdividing each existing band and asking teachers and lecturers to place their learners within these band categories. Secondly, we will be asking teachers and lecturers to rank order their learners within each estimated grade. 

This will provide us with the information needed to allow us to adjust estimates where necessary, to ensure consistency both across the country and in comparison, with previous years. 

This process may be informed by previous subject and qualification performance at both a national and centre level and prior attainment information where that is available. 

Detailed guidance to schools and colleges on how to determine and submit refined estimate information is now available:

Information on Providing Estimates (177 KB)

We understand that teachers and lecturers will need more time to access evidence and have departmental and faculty discussions, in order to provide this information. We are also conscious that this will be more challenging with school and college closures.

We are extending the existing estimates deadline by a month from Friday 24 April to Friday 29 May.

Will SQA continue to offer its Post-Results Services to schools and colleges?

A free appeals service will be available to ensure that schools and colleges continue to have a mechanism to question any result, and guidance will be provided.

Does SQA have enough Markers in place to support this yearís activities?

With the decision to cancel the 2020 exam timetable, and no coursework being marked for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses, there is no need for the normal marking activities, this year.

We thank all those who were due to mark, for their willingness to do so, and for all the work they do for us.

We are currently planning for alternative assessment, certification and post result activities, and we may still need Markersí help and their expertise to support these activities. We hope that our Markers will be able to continue to support us, and we will be in touch with them, if their assistance in an alternative role is required.

Are all external assessment, and external verifications visits related to the NQ 2020 examination diet, cancelled?

Yes. All external assessment visits, and external verification visits related to this yearís examination diet, have been cancelled. While no further visiting assessment will take place this session, we know that some visiting assessors have already sent us marks from activities that were completed. We can confirm that these marks will not be used in determining learnersí final grades. We have taken this decision to be as fair as possible to all learners, as we do not have a complete set of data for all learners across all subjects that are marked by visiting assessors.

What is the deadline for schools and colleges to submit estimate grades? Is it possible to get an extension to the deadline to the end of the cancelled examination diet?

Yes. We are extending the existing estimates deadline by a month from Friday 24 April to Friday 29 May.

When will we receive further updates or more detailed information from SQA?

We have provided detailed guidance to schools and colleges on how to determine and submit refined estimate information.

Information on Providing Estimates (177 KB)

We will also provide fuller details of our approach to certification, as soon as possible.

A free appeals service will be available to ensure that schools and colleges continue to have a mechanism to question any result, and guidance will be provided.

Are schools and colleges required to send in copies of Internal Assessment Marking Forms?

No Ė schools and colleges should not send us Internal Assessment Mark Forms (IAMF). The marks and the coursework evidence are no longer required, given the information in our statement on coursework, published on 24 March.

Should schools and colleges still be asking learners to complete coursework, or other assessments, even though SQA no longer needs it?

No. There is no requirement for learners to complete coursework or other assessments. Schools and colleges are not required to set any more prelims or mock exams, or homework tasks for the purpose of determining an estimate grade.

Schools and colleges are best placed to make decisions about the completion of coursework, given their knowledge and understanding of the status of their learnersí coursework and the circumstances in which it can be completed, within current public health advice guidelines.

How will SQA ensure that learners get the grades they deserve

It is vital that we base our decisions on the principles of fairness to all learners, and the safe and secure certification of our qualifications, whilst recognising the current challenges we all face.

Are there any subjects where the grade is based solely on the exam?

Mathematics and Latin do not have coursework, but we use other information during the awarding process to determine grades, including teacher estimates and prior attainment.

Are you going to charge late fees for changes to entries?

No. To help support you through this exceptionally difficult time, we can confirm that we will not be charging late fees, for any changes you make to entry levels or withdrawal of entries for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses, after 31 March. While any new entries that you make will incur the usual entry fee, we will not charge you a late fee as well. In line with our normal data management processes, SQA will continue to monitor the data submitted by centres until certification. However, it is essential that you provide complete and accurate data by the timelines set by SQA to ensure that learners are awarded the achievements they deserve and that they are able to take their next steps into further or higher education, employment or apprenticeships.

Will these qualifications be recognised by universities and employers?

Yes. SQA is in regular discussion with UCAS, Colleges Scotland, and Universities Scotland, who are fully aware of the situation and will help learners to progress on to the next stage of their education or employment. We are also in close discussion with Skills Development Scotland, to ensure employers and their representatives are kept aware of the decisions being made.

Can learners sit their exams next year and use whatever result is better?

Yes, as in any year, learners can sit the exams next year if they wish. All results will be listed on their SQA record of attainment.

If this is all possible then why do we need an exam system from now on?

This is an unprecedented situation, and the closure of schools and colleges for an extended period means that it will not be possible for learners to sit exams.

What about pushing the timetable back in the year?

This was considered as an alternative but with no clear timeline for when schools and colleges would be reopened, the Deputy First Minister asked SQA to develop an alternative certification model.

Who took the decision to cancel this yearís diet and what was the decision-making process?

As outlined in our statement, on 19 March 2020, the Deputy First Minister asked Scotlandís Chief Examining Officer to develop an alternative certification model following the cancellation of this yearís timetable.

How should I result learners for internally assessed qualifications?

For internally assessed qualifications, you are required to determine a result for each unit. Where further progress is not possible, you should base your assessment decisions on available evidence from unit assessments that learners have already completed, or your professional judgement of other available evidence (such as class tests), or a combination of both. You must then submit these results to SQA in the normal way. Following feedback from centres, we have extended the deadline for unit results to Friday 12 June.

Please note that our process and guidance for producing estimates in session 2019-20 is for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses, which are externally assessed by SQA. It does not apply to these internally assessed qualifications.

Can a learner be resulted with a pass in a unit if they have met some, but not all, of the outcomes and assessment standards?

Yes, this may be possible. Where further progress is not possible, you should make a holistic professional judgement on whether the learner would have passed the unit.  

Where full evidence to satisfy the unit has not yet been generated, you must consider, and document, alternative learner evidence. When making assessment decisions
based on alternative evidence, you must consider a range of learner evidence with strong predictive value, such as class tests. This will give you an indication of the learnerís knowledge and skills.

If the unit is part of an internally assessed course, such as National 2 to National 4 and Skills for Work courses, and the learner has completed other units within the course, there may be transferable evidence from those units that you could use when making a holistic assessment decision.

Can a learner be resulted with a pass in a unit if they have not met any of the outcomes and assessment standards?

If the unit is part of an internally assessed course, further progress is not possible, and the learner has completed other units within the course, there may be transferable evidence from those units that you could use when making your assessment decisions.

Where full evidence to satisfy the unit has not yet been generated, you must consider, and document, alternative learner evidence. When making assessment decisions
based on alternative evidence, you must consider a range of learner evidence with strong predictive value, such as class tests. This will give you an indication of the learnerís knowledge and skills.

If a learner has passed one or more units in an internally assessed course, such as National 2 to National 4 and Skills for Work courses, but has not started the remaining units, can I also pass them for those remaining units?

Where full evidence to satisfy the aims of an internally assessed course has not yet been generated, and further progress is not possible, you must consider, and document, alternative learner evidence. You should consider whether the evidence from other units is transferrable to any of the remaining units. If it is, you could use it to make a holistic judgement on whether the learner has met the overall course aims. If there is enough evidence that the learner can be deemed to have met the course aims, then you can result them as having passed all units within the course.

What about freestanding units? Can evidence be transferred from one freestanding unit to another?

Yes, it is possible to result of freestanding units if the overall requirements of the unit are broadly met.

For freestanding units at all levels, you must consider the evidence that you have against the unit outcomes for each unit. This can include alternative evidence, such as class tests, where formal unit assessments have not been undertaken. This could also include evidence of transferable skills which are common across the units (such as problem-solving).

What do I do if I a learner has been withdrawn for National 5 and has now been entered for National 4?

You should review the learnerís performance/class work over their National 5 course to date, reflecting on the National 4 assessment standards. You should do this holistically for each individual candidate. You should ensure robust arrangements for agreeing the learnerís overall result, relative to the review of their National 5 work. There is no requirement this year to match candidate performance to the detailed National 4 unit evidence requirements; the approach is more about a broad comparability of overall standards. It is essential that you keep records to document this process.

What records should I keep of how I have reached my decisions on resulting internally assessed units?

You should retain all assessment evidence, and the justification for your decision making, until 31 December 2020 to enable SQA to verify the decision-making process in future.

It is advisable to keep a list of the learners you have entered and resulted for each unit and to note the following information for each learner:

  • State whether the learner is entered for a corresponding group award or doing the unit on a freestanding basis.
  • Record the result awarded for each learner, for each unit
  • State how the decision on the result was reached ó for example:
    • if you reviewed full or partial unit assessment evidence
    • if you reviewed other available evidence and/or used your professional judgement
    • if you used your professional judgment to consider evidence from other units within the same group award to determine if the learner has met the overall course or award aims

You must also include a statement or other indication of how your decisions have been peer reviewed and/or internally verified.

Here is an example of how you could collate and present this information:

What are the options for entering unit results?

When submitting unit results, you have the following result options:

Pass

The learner has met all the required outcomes and assessment standards, based on any of the following:

  • Complete unit assessment evidence
  • Partial unit assessment evidence plus other alternative evidence and professional judgement
  • Evidence from other units within the same group award, in relation to meeting the overall course or award aims

Fail

Based on the assessment evidence available, and using your professional judgement, the learner has not passed, or would not have passed, the unit.

Withdrawn

There is no available evidence, or insufficient evidence, to support a result decision

Open entry

Leave as open entry, if it is feasible to postpone assessment to a later date.

You should enter and submit unit results in the normal way. We have extended the deadline for unit results to Friday 12 June, following feedback from centres.

What arrangements should be made for learners undertaking qualifications delivered in partnership between schools and colleges?

As part of these partnerships, schools and colleges should work together to jointly agree whether it is possible to continue with learning, teaching and assessment. These decisions must be based on the best interests of individual learners.

Where some evidence of the course already exists but further progress is not possible, college lecturers will be able to take a holistic approach, where necessary, in making their assessment decisions. This will enable colleges to use their professional judgement to assess the available evidence, including other evidence produced by the learner, and their knowledge of the learnersí progress and achievements to date.