2020 Qualifications: Parent and carer support

11 August 2020

As the Deputy First Minister has outlined in Parliament today, through a Ministerial direction SQA will change the previous approach to certification this year and instead award candidate results based solely on the estimates provided by schools and colleges. The results of those learners who were awarded a higher grade during the process will also be maintained.

We are considering in more detail, with the Scottish Government, any appeals process which should support this direction and will announce further details very shortly.

Read the full statement from the Chief Executive of SQA.

Student questions answered

Which qualifications are covered by the guidance in this section?

The guidance in this section is currently relevant to the following SQA qualifications:

  • National 2 to National 5 courses
  • Highers
  • Advanced Highers
  • Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary Project unit
  • National Certificates (NC)
  • National Progression Awards (NPA)
  • Skills for Work courses
  • Awards

Previous questions you've asked

Why did SQA take the decision to cancel the exams?

Following the latest medical and scientific advice, The Scottish Government decided to cancel the exam diet due to social distancing and to keep everyone safe.

What about pushing the exam timetable back to later in the year?

We did think about this however, as we don't know when your school or college will reopen, the Deputy First Minister asked SQA to look at another way to produce your results.

How will National Courses be certificated this year?

Experienced teachers and lecturers will review all the evidence that is available to them to assess whether you have met the course aims. They have a strong understanding of your performance and know how you compare to other learners in each department, and in previous years.

Your teachers and/or lecturers will take account of any available work that you have completed throughout the course. Using their teaching experience, and their knowledge of your work and your progress so far, they will make an estimate of the grade you would have achieved under normal circumstances.

Estimate grades will be based on how well you have demonstrated the required skills, knowledge and understanding for each course at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. We will then have the information we need to adjust estimates where necessary, and to ensure consistency — both across the country and in comparison, with previous years.

On Monday 20 April, we sent detailed guidance to your school or college on how to determine and submit this estimate information to us.

When should schools and colleges supply estimate grades to SQA?

SQA asked your teachers or lecturers to discuss your estimated grade with another teacher and senior member of staff before sending it to us by Friday 29 May.

What does this mean for National 2 to National 4 courses and the Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary Project?

National 2, National 3 and National 4 qualifications are made up of units (including an Added Value Unit at National 4) which are internally assessed as pass or fail by the school or college, and externally quality assured by SQA.

Schools and colleges will continue to send us your unit results based on either existing evidence from assessments that have already been completed, and/or by using their teaching experience of your work from through the year. The same arrangement applies to the Scottish Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary Project unit.

What about other internally assessed qualifications, such as National Certificates, National Progression Awards and Skills for Work courses?

For National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses, and other 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) using their teaching experience of your work through the year.

Why aren’t you marking my coursework?

Coursework for Higher and Advanced Higher courses are submitted later in the year, so as a result of the current public health advice on social distancing, you may not be able to complete it and we would not be able to receive it and mark it.

We looked at the possibilities of marking National 5 coursework that we had already received, however it became clear that we could not go ahead with marking it in a way that was safe and secure for the hundreds of markers who work with us over the course of the exam diet, or in a way that ensures all results are viewed with the same importance as those from previous and future years.

We know this will be disappointing news. But we have taken this difficult decision to be as fair as possible to all learners, whilst responding to and following the latest public health guidance.

Can I progress to the next stage of my education or employment with the grades I receive?

Yes. SQA is in regular discussion with UCAS (the University and College Admission Service), Colleges Scotland, and Universities Scotland, who are fully aware of the situation and will help you to progress on to the next stage of your 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 I sit my exams next year and use whatever result is better?

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

I have been studying for a National Course at home/with a private tutor. What arrangements are there for me?

As an approved centre, your school or college has a responsibility to gather the appropriate evidence that will enable them to submit a refined estimate for you. It is for the school or college to decide what evidence they are prepared to accept and review, such as work you have completed throughout the year at home or with your private tutor. The school or college needs to be happy to authenticate this evidence and use it as a basis for your estimate. They may wish to discuss this further with you.

If the school or college is unable to authenticate this evidence – or they have no evidence upon which to base an estimate for you – they will be unable to submit an estimate grade. If this is the case, they will have no option but to withdraw you from the course.

If the school or college chooses not to proceed, you 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 you of any centres in your area that will accept new entries for external candidates.


With the closure of schools, you may want to explore home schooling. Below is a range of free resources and guidance you may find useful.

Home learning support and resources

Past papers for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher

Past papers are useful to confirm your understanding of subjects - and you don't need a teacher to check answers as marking instructions are included too.

Download past papers and marking instructions


Brings you links to learning resources that have been recommended by teachers and learners that support SQA's qualifications.

Browse learning resources on Ushare

BBC Bitesize

Use BBC Bitesize to help with your homework and learning - find videos, step-by-step guides, activities and quizzes. Bitesize also has daily lessons in a range of subjects.

Education Scotland - Learning at home

Help support your child's home learning - including creating a home learning environment.

Access Education Scotland learning from home resources

The National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)

NPFS have put together a wide range of educational resources that offer you and your child options for lessons at home.

Educational resources for parents and families


Connect work with parents and educators and have a wide range of useful links and resources for you.

Access Connect resources

Mental health and wellbeing support

If you’re worried about coronavirus and how it may affect you and your child, you’re not alone. Find information on how to protect yourself and others and tips on talking to children about the virus.

Parent Club

Parent Club offer tips and ideas by age and topic on how you can help support your child.

Find out more about Parent Club

Education Scotland - Supporting health and wellbeing 

Education Scotland has some simple ideas and activities to help you talk to your child about mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Read more about Education Scotland's tips


The UK Government has guidance for you on looking after the mental health and wellbeing of children in your care, including those with additional support needs.

Read government guidance