Update from the National Qualifications 2021 Group - National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher

Tuesday 12 January 2021

On Monday 4 January, the First Minister announced that, as part of a national lockdown, schools will operate on a remote learning basis until at least the beginning of February. Following this announcement, the National Qualifications 2021 Group* has met to consider the impact this will have on schools delivering National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses under the alternative certification model.

The National Qualifications Group is working through a range of scenarios and is considering potential flexibilities for the alternative certification model, should they be needed. This may include extending the date for submitting provisional results.

Learning and teaching

The priority for schools and colleges during January should be to maximise learning and teaching time. Given the move to remote learning and the challenges learners face, the assessment of learner evidence cannot be undertaken unless young people have the foundation of teaching and learning of course content. This will impact on the timing of assessment, which can take place in the later stages of the 2020-21 session.

Quality assurance

The purpose of quality assurance in the alternative certification model is to provide support to teachers and lecturers by combining resources from SQA, local authorities, colleges, independent schools, and Education Scotland. It aims to strengthen teachers' and lecturers' understanding of how to consistently apply the national standard and make accurate assessment judgements.

Quality assurance is embedded throughout the co-created alternative certification model; however, it will only take place at the most appropriate time.

Understanding Standards

A broad range of SQA subject-specific materials are already available to help teachers and lecturers in their understanding of the standards to be applied when assessing learner evidence. They include webinars, audio presentations, and candidate evidence and commentary materials.

While existing Understanding Standards materials remain relevant for session 2020-21, SQA is supplementing existing resources with additional material to support teachers and lecturers with this session's changes to National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher assessment, where a need has been identified. So far, this has included new candidate evidence and commentary materials, webinar recordings, audio presentations and video resources that demonstrate how teachers and lecturers can reduce the time required for specific assessment activities.

Understanding Standards materials are available from SQA's NQ subject pages and Understanding Standards website.

Update on Higher and Advanced Higher subject-specific guidance and resources

To support schools and colleges, SQA is continuing to publish Higher and Advanced Higher subject-specific guidance and resources, as planned.

Subject-specific guidance on gathering evidence will be published between 18 and 29 January to advise on the types of evidence that can be used to determine a provisional result for each learner. This will include enhanced guidance for some practical-based subjects.

Higher and Advanced Higher assessment resources, including question papers, assignments and marking instructions, will be made available on the SQA secure website during January and February. Teachers and lecturers will have the option to use these resources to support the internal assessment requirements for each subject. They can be used in full or in part, when appropriate. The subject-specific guidance will detail how such resources and other relevant assessment resources can be used when gathering evidence to support provisional results.

Keeping you updated

SQA will provide schools and colleges with regular updates on any newly published guidance and assessment resources, including Understanding Standards materials and webinar sessions. The National Qualifications 2021 Group is continuing to work through the details of the 2021 alternative certification model, including appropriate contingencies, and will provide further information as soon as possible.

National Qualifications 2021 Group*

*The National Qualifications 2021 Group is represented by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), School Leaders Scotland (SLS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the Scottish Government, National Parent Forum of Scotland, and the Scottish Youth Parliament.