Coronavirus: NQ teacher/lecturer support

This guidance covers National 2 to National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher, Scottish Baccalaureate, National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses and Awards.

Introduction

Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 exam diet cannot go ahead. SQA has been asked to develop an alternative certification model for 2020.

This work is based on three principles:

Estimates

We need you to provide us with estimated grades and bands for learners entered for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

SQA Academy course

 

Certification model

Step 1 - Estimates

Estimated grades will be the core element of certification.

You are best placed to have a strong understanding of how your learners have performed and, based on experience and the evidence available, what a learner would be expected to achieve in each course. An estimated grade is not just the result of one prelim or one project, but is an judgement based on activity across the year.

By Friday 29 May, you provide us with your estimates of the grades, bands and rank order for each learner, for each course at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. 

The 2020 Refined Estimate Submission service is now open and is available from the homepage on SQA Connect, where you will also find a step-by-step guide to using the service.

Step 2 - Awarding

We will then check and validate that information. We will moderate it, if necessary, to ensure consistency across schools and colleges and with results from previous years.

We will use the information from these estimates to produce the results for learners, using our national grades for each subject and level.

Step 3 - Results and Certification

We will process the results to issue learners with their results on 4 August. Please encourage your students to sign-up to MySQA to receive their results by text/email.

Step 4 - Appeals

After 4 August, a free appeals service will be available to allow you to request a review of the grade awarded for a learner or a group of learners.

SQA coronavirus statements

Estimate questions answered

I have 30 candidates in one refined band – can I use tied ranking?

Yes, for large multi-class cohorts tied rankings may be entered eg if you cannot distinguish between three candidates whom you would rank fifth in your rank order, enter 5 three times.

SQA strongly advises minimising the number of ties and minimising the number of candidates in any tied ranking.

My candidates were unable to complete their practical assignment/performance/portfolio – what evidence should I use?

You should draw on your evidence of candidate performance throughout the course and your experience of teaching the course to other cohorts and their attainment to estimate grades and bands. You should also rank your candidates in each refined band. SQA will moderate your estimates drawing on centre and national data.

Please see the SQA Academy course for more guidance.

It is impossible for me to access the physical evidence for preparing estimates – what should I do?

You will need to draw on the evidence available to you eg prelim results, records of homework and classwork, evidence in e-portfolios etc to inform your decision about the most likely, realistic outcome for each candidate had they been able to complete the course assessment. Please see the SQA Academy course for more guidance.

My candidates’ assignments were completed under controlled conditions and are packaged in school. It is not possible for me to access these materials – how do I prepare a fair estimate?

You are likely to have seen other work by candidates that is related to the assignment, this should give you an indication of the likely standard of the assignment. You might find it helpful to refer to the SQA Understanding Standards site where exemplar assignments are available.

I am a new teacher and have not taught a National Qualification class before?

Your SQA coordinator and subject lead will support you in making estimates. Centres will have data for cohorts in previous years.

Will SQA return coursework that I’ve already submitted?

No, SQA will retain any coursework to inform post-certification review.

Where it was possible for visits to take place in February and March, can marks awarded by visiting assessors be issued to centres to inform estimates?

No, this is not possible. Centres should estimate as they would in previous years for components assessed by visiting assessors. It has not been possible for marking to be quality assured and, due to COVID-19 restrictions, some marks have not yet been received by SQA. Centres must not contact visiting assessors directly to request that marks are disclosed.

What advice is available to ensure that equalities and bias are considered during the estimate process?

Our SQA Academy course on estimates provides teachers and lecturers with advice and guidance on taking a range of factors into account that may impact on their decision making on individual estimates for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

This includes candidates who have assessment arrangements, or who would have reasonable adjustments. Teachers and lecturers are asked to consider that these candidates may have been unable to access their usual levels of support in home learning situations, and that they may normally be taught by peripatetic teachers or support for learning specialists. Teachers and lecturers may wish to include these staff in estimate discussions.

The course also includes a section on bias, making clear that any discussion of fairness must take account of the possibility of bias. When coming to a decision about a candidate’s estimate, teachers and lecturers are reminded that they must try to detach themselves from the individual in order to be as objective and as ‘standard’ in their decisions as possible.

Candidate evidence should be valued for its own worth and merit as an indicator of course assessment, and a conscious effort should be made to consider and avoid the negative impact of potential implicit bias. Teachers and lectures should do this as they finalise their estimates and ranking by considering the accuracy of the decisions they make alongside candidate data on background, gender, disability, race and ethnicity, at both class and cohort presentation level.

Moderation across departments, learning areas and faculties, as well as Head of Centre sign-off, will ensure fairness for all candidates and ensure that robust standards are maintained.

How do I submit estimates for external learners who are home-schooled, privately tutored or who have previously studied at another centre?

If the learner is registered to your centre, then as the approved centre, you need to gather the appropriate evidence to enable you to submit a refined estimate for the learner. It is for you to decide what evidence you are prepared to accept and review, such as work completed at home, with a tutor or in a previous centre. You also need to be happy to authenticate this evidence and you can do this in a number of ways, such as discussing the work with the learner (and/or discussing with their tutor, where applicable).

If you are unable to authenticate the evidence – or you have no evidence upon which to base an estimate for the candidate – you will need to withdraw the learner.

If you choose not to proceed, the learner will need to be entered for the course by another SQA-approved centre, and that centre will also be required to submit an estimate grade to us. Your local authority may be able to advise the learner of any centres in your area that will accept new entries for external learners.

Teacher questions answered

What is happening to this year’s 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 learners’ hard work is rightly and fairly recognised.

For this session, teachers and lecturers should continue to exercise their professional judgement and estimate a learner’s 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 – 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 learners’ 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 staff’s professional judgement of learners’ work from throughout the year.

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

For this session, teachers and lecturers should continue to exercise their professional judgement and estimate a learner’s 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 learner’s 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 year’s 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 Markers’ 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 year’s 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 learners’ 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 – 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 learners’ 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 year’s diet and what was the decision-making process?

As outlined in our statement, on 19 March 2020, the Deputy First Minister asked Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer to develop an alternative certification model following the cancellation of this year’s 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 learner’s 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 learner’s 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 learner’s 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 learner’s 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 — 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 learners’ progress and achievements to date.