SQA update to Schools, Colleges, and Local Authorities on arrangements for National Qualifications in 2020-21

Monday 02 November 2020

Dear colleague

I wanted to update you on the progress we have been making to deliver arrangements for National Qualifications in 2021, following the Deputy First Minister's announcement to Parliament on 7 October.

We are committed to working with you to deliver.

We have set up a National Qualifications 2021 Group to develop advice on subject specific guidance for National 5 courses, the Alternative Certification Model for National 5 and contingency arrangements for Higher and Advanced Higher exams, should they be required and to consider communications.

The group which draws its membership from the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES), Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), School Leaders Scotland (SLS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) and the Scottish Government, will continue to meet weekly to drive and monitor progress.

The National Qualifications 2021 Group is supported by a working group, with membership drawn from across the sector, that will co-create the Quality Assurance model and support plan for National 5.

Since September, we have engaged with over 450 teaching professionals from schools and colleges and local authority representatives to understand the challenges they currently face and to discuss contingency arrangements for session 2020-21. We have also engaged with parents, carers, and learners. A Learner Panel, starting this month, will ensure the views of young people are fully heard.

We need assistance and support from you and your colleagues in delivering the alternative certification approach for National 5 courses. This includes the quality assurance of learners' work, to ensure standards are maintained. We also need your assistance and support with the delivery of the Higher and Advanced Higher exam diet, and planning of contingencies should these exams not take place due to public health advice.

We will keep you regularly and fully informed of developments, including further opportunities for you to work directly with us in the delivery of National Courses.

National 5

As you know, National 5 courses will be assessed using an alternative certification approach, based on teacher and lecturer judgement supported by assessment resources and quality assurance.

We are working hard to develop and deliver resources that will support and assist you in assessing your learners, while maintaining the validity, credibility, and standard of the qualifications. As part of this work, today we have published guidance on gathering key evidence for producing estimates for National 5 English, and National 5 Mathematics.

We will publish guidance for National 5 Art and Design, Gàidhlig, Graphic Communication and Practical Metalworking by the end of this week. Guidance for the remaining subjects will be published on a rolling basis until Thursday 19 November.

In addition, we are developing a package of SQA devised subject specific question papers and/or assignments, to support teachers and lecturers in assessing their learners in the relevant key components of each subject and assisting them in making sound and robust professional assessment judgements. We will also provide some additional support, such as understanding standards materials or online events. These resources will start to become available during November on each subject page. I would encourage teachers and lecturers to sign up for MyAlerts to be kept updated.

Higher and Advanced Higher

The exam timetable for Higher and Advanced Higher is currently being finalised and will be published later this week.

SQA Appointees

While being fully aware of the pressures that schools and colleges are currently operating under, we seek your help and support in the release of your colleagues to take up their roles as SQA appointees. Every year we rely heavily on the work carried out by our appointees to deliver for Scotland's learners. This year, to minimise public health risks and the amount of time that teachers and lecturers are away from their classes, we are carrying out all exam and quality assurance procedures virtually, including in the evenings and at weekends.

We look forward to continuing to work with you over the coming months and thank you for your ongoing support.


Fiona Robertson
Chief Executive and Scotland's Chief Examining Officer

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