SQA qualifications 2021 – a message for SQA centres

Friday 26 June 2020

As we come to the end of what has been an unprecedented 2019-20 session, I want to thank all the schools, colleges, employers and training providers and all our partners and stakeholders in Scottish education and training, for all their collaboration, support, patience and understanding, as we have worked together to develop alternative assessment arrangements for learners.  

As we look ahead to the start of the 2020-21 session, in what is still an uncertain time, I want to provide a short update on the work we are doing to make alternative arrangements for the delivery of our qualifications.

National Qualifications

A full timetable of SQA exams and coursework is planned at all levels in 2021. Discussions will continue to take place, with partners, in the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group to consider any further changes which might be helpful to schools and colleges. This will include looking at changes to the timetabling of exams to maximise learning and teaching time in the next session, in addition to any other flexibilities and contingencies which may need to be in place to accommodate prevailing public health advice.

The Strategic Framework for Re-Opening School, Early Learning and Childcare Provision sets out the importance of collection and retention of evidence throughout the session. If as a result of public health advice, SQA must move to an alternative certification model for 2021, this evidence would be used for teacher and lecturer estimates.

Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, Professional Development Awards, National Progression Awards, and National Certificates

We are also considering the best approach for delivering these qualifications during session 2020–21. We are focusing on three main areas:

  • Supporting schools, colleges, employers and training providers in taking a more integrated approach to assessment and will provide exemplars to help those not currently taking this approach.
  • Reviewing the changes to conditions of assessment that were allowed during session 2019–20 and advising which changes will be retained. This will help centres to develop flexible approaches to assessment which will, in turn, support their learners.
  • Our external verification activity will be refined to reflect the integrated assessment model.

We will provide detailed new assessment and verification guidance in time for August 2020.

Regulated Qualifications

Working with SQA Accreditation, other regulators, sector and industry bodies, we are also considering what further alternative assessment arrangements will be required for our portfolio of Regulated Qualifications, including Scottish Vocational Qualifications and other licence-to-practise qualifications. We will inform centres of any changes that are required over the coming months.

Foundation Apprenticeships

We continue to work together with Skills Development Scotland and other partners to agree an approach to ensure Foundation Apprenticeship learners in 2020–21 get the recognition of their Foundation Apprenticeship at the same time as any other qualifications they may be doing.

I am very grateful for your continued support. By working in partnership, we can achieve our common goal, of ensuring that learners’ hard work is rightly and fairly recognised.


Fiona Robertson
SQA Chief Executive and Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer