Alternative certification model - National Qualifications 2021

National Qualifications 2021 groupThe Alternative Certification Model (ACM) was developed for National 5 courses, in response to the Deputy First Minister's announcement on 7 October 2020 of the cancellation of National 5 exams. Following the cancellation of Higher and Advanced Higher exams on 8 December, it was decided that the ACM would be expanded to cover Higher and Advanced Higher, as well as National 5. The approach for all three levels is broadly the same, although there are different timescales within Stage 1 due to the timing of the announcements that exams were cancelled.

The First Minister announced on 4 January and 6 February 2021 that schools would be closed to most learners until at least 22 February and that remote learning would take place during this time. Consequently, a revised plan has been developed for the delivery of the ACM, moving stages to later in the academic session to accommodate the period of remote learning. The submission date for provisional results has been moved and is now 25 June.

The proposed revised alternative certification model (ACM) has five stages:

1Stage 1: Ongoing until April 2021

Teachers and lecturers access subject specific guidance, assessment resources and Understanding Standards materials and webinars from SQA.

  • Learning, teaching and assessment (to guide further support for learners) together with consolidation of learning, are ongoing
  • Subject-specific guidance on selecting the appropriate learner evidence is available for all subjects at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher
  • National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher assessment resources are available to help inform assessment planning and evidence gathering
  • SQA supports schools and colleges by adding new materials and webinars to its established Understanding Standards programme
  • Schools and colleges are supported by local and national networks
  • Schools and colleges further develop assessment plans (including any assessment arrangements needed for individual learners) and become familiar with internal quality assurance arrangements for learner assessments, including standardisation of all assessment instruments and marking instructions, sampling of assessment evidence and teacher marking to ensure that national standards are being applied consistently
  • Schools and colleges carry out internal quality assurance processes in line with agreed procedures and engage in local authority / RIC activity as appropriate

Teachers and lecturers access subject-specific guidance, assessment resources and Understanding Standards materials and webinars from SQA.

Role of SQA

  • produce generic guidance on producing estimates (published Nov 2020) (now 'provisional results')

November/December 2020 - for National 5:

  • produce subject-specific guidance clarifying assessment requirements
  • publish and promote subject-specific assessment resources for centres to use
  • provide Understanding Standards resources and activities

January/February 2021 - For Higher and Advanced Higher:

  • produce subject-specific guidance clarifying assessment requirements
  • publish and promote subject-specific assessment resources for centres to use

January - April 2021 for all levels:

  • provide Understanding Standards resources and activities
  • provide direct advice and support to centres, on request, where queries have not been addressed in guidance

Role of teachers/lecturers

  • teaching and learning ongoing - planning opportunities for assessment, in line with subject-specific guidance from SQA
  • engage with Understanding Standards activities
  • participate, as appropriate, in local and/or national subject networks
  • develop assessment plans and assess learners' assessment evidence when appropriate
  • ensure familiarity with centre and local internal quality assurance arrangements on learner assessments (this includes pre-assessment agreement of assessment instruments, standardisation activities and sampling of learners' assessment evidence to ensure that marking is consistent with national standards)

Role of centre senior management

  • support teachers and lecturers in their roles and responsibilities
  • ensure that teaching staff are aware of, and using, SQA guidance on assessment and producing provisional results
  • ensure that the centre's quality assurance procedures are being defined and made available to staff
  • in colleges, to support course teams, set up internal quality assurance systems to support/facilitate:
    • Understanding Standards
    • centre-level assessment approaches

Role of local authorities/Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)/Education Scotland

Local authorities should consider how best to support/facilitate:

  • Understanding Standards
  • centre-level assessment approaches
  • centre-level quality assurance
  • local authority/area-based subject quality assurance
  • quality assurance support by subject from Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC), where a need is identified
  • access to local SQA appointees to support identified subject areas

SCIS:

  • share key messages with members
  • provide a service to link schools to support external quality assurance
  • facilitate a series of virtual communities of practice (V-CoPs) for subject specialists, with access to sector SQA appointees as appropriate
  • facilitate virtual meetings with SQA co-ordinators and senior leaders
  • share practice from across the sector to enable reflection, discussion and action

Education Scotland:

  • continue supporting centres and practitioners in providing learning, teaching and assessment to inform next steps, including through remote learning
  • through National e-Learning Offer, provide well-targeted and easily-accessible:
    • live, interactive webinars for study support and other provision
    • recorded lessons
    • supported materials
  • work with practitioners to identify priority resources required
  • arrange professional learning opportunities in using digital platforms for effective remote learning, and subject-specific webinars for delivering NQs remotely
  • provide a national overview of practice in the delivery of remote learning
  • support local and national curriculum networks to share practice and quality assurance approaches. Provide signposting for practitioners to support them to network with practitioners for quality assurance purposes.
  • work with all RICs and local authorities to develop online solutions for sharing learner evidence to support quality assurance processes in local authorities and schools
  • provide clarity and support for local authorities and centres on preparing arrangements for small groups of senior-phase learners to return to school to complete the learning and teaching of critical practical work that can only be carried out in school
  • provide support to school leaders and local authorities for the leadership required to take forward the 2021 ACM arrangements through facilitated, themed online conversations, Headspace and Blethers

Existing subject-specific and other collaborative support networks such as those already set up by local authorities, RICs and Education Scotland will be used to support teachers.

2Stage 2: April to May 2021

School, college and local authority quality assurance continues. During May, SQA requests, reviews and provides feedback on samples of assessment evidence from each school and college.

  • Learning, teaching and assessment (to guide further support for learners) together with consolidation of learning, are ongoing
  • Schools and colleges put in place and record any assessment arrangements required by individual learners
  • Schools and colleges assess learner evidence, carrying out and recording decisions in line with internal quality assurance procedures.
  • Schools and colleges continue to provide feedback to learners on progress, including results based on evidence
  • Schools and colleges continue to carry out and engage in internal quality assurance in line with their procedures and local authority / RIC quality assurance processes
  • During May, on a proportionate basis, SQA selects courses from each school and college for national quality assurance and provides subject-specific feedback. For national quality assurance, this package of evidence will be less than that used for reaching provisional results. The assessment evidence can be partial or incomplete. For example, it could consist of one or two pieces of key evidence from a small number of learners in the subjects selected.
  • Schools and colleges start to develop provisional results based on the available learner evidence and feedback from local and national quality assurance, including checking that results are consistent across the centre and based on learner evidence
  • Schools, colleges or local authorities can speak to SQA if further support is desired.
  • SQA issues further information on how to submit the provisional results

Learning, teaching and assessment (to guide further support for learners) together with consolidation of learning, are ongoing. School, college, training provider and local authority quality assurance continues. During May, SQA requests, reviews and provides feedback on assessment evidence from each school and college as part of national quality assurance.

Role of SQA

  • during May, issue selections to centres
  • receive assessment evidence from centres for the subjects/levels
  • externally quality assure marked learners' assessment evidence from every centre, to ensure that marking is to the national standard
  • provide subject-specific feedback for National Courses to centres (and the local authority, where appropriate) on the extent to which assessment approaches were valid and marking was reliable and to the national standard, and provide advice on any adjustments that need to be made.
  • obtain a declaration from the head of centre that the feedback from SQA has been acted on within the centre
  • collate any common issues from national quality assurance for each National Course and publish this to inform all centres
  • issue further information on how to submit the provisional results

Roles of teachers/lecturers

  • learning, teaching and consolidation of learning continues
  • assess learner evidence
  • carry out internal quality assurance on learner assessment evidence, in line with centre procedures (and local authority / RIC quality assurance processes for local authority schools). This includes pre-assessment agreement of assessment instruments, standardisation activities and sampling of learners' assessment evidence to ensure that national standards are being applied consistently.
  • if selected for SQA quality assurance for a subject/level, submit assessment instruments, marking instructions and examples of assessed learner evidence. For national quality assurance, this package of evidence will be less than that used for reaching provisional results. The assessment evidence can be partial or incomplete. For example, it could consist of one or two pieces of key evidence from a small number of learners in the subjects selected.
  • act on any feedback received from SQA's quality assurance, to ensure that assessment is consistent with the national standard
  • share any relevant feedback from SQA's quality assurance with others, for example through local subject networks
  • start to develop provisional results based on the available evidence and feedback from local and national quality assurance

Role of centre senior management

  • continue to support teachers and lecturers in their roles and responsibilities in relation to assessment and centre quality assurance
  • support and facilitate teaching staff awareness and use of SQA guidance on assessment and producing provisional results
  • support and facilitate the consistent application of centre's quality assurance procedures
  • support teachers and lecturers in their roles and responsibilities within the national quality assurance process
  • support and facilitate teaching staff to act on any feedback received from SQA's quality assurance, to ensure that marking is consistent with national standard
  • act on feedback received from SQA's quality assurance process to consider the effectiveness of the centre's quality assurance process and any adjustments required
  • provide a declaration from the head of centre that the feedback from SQA's quality assurance has been acted on within the centre
  • carry out checks that results are consistent with evidence, to inform any initial discussions within the centre

Role of local authorities/Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)/Education Scotland

  • local authorities and independent schools should consider capacity to support the national quality assurance exercise by releasing a limited number of appointees to undertake this work if required
  • identify and provide any additional support based on the findings of SQA's quality assurance
  • Education Scotland will continue work from Phase 1 with RICs, local authorities and schools to identify and provide further support to centres and practitioners
  • Education Scotland will provide support to school leaders and local authorities for the leadership required to take forward the 2021 ACM arrangements through facilitated, themed online conversations, Headspace and Blethers

3Stage 3: End of May to 25 June 2021

Schools, colleges, local authorities and SQA work through final stages of local and national quality assurance and feedback to reach provisional results that are consistent, equitable and fair.

  • Learning, teaching and assessment should be concluding for the purposes of certification in 2020-21
  • Schools and colleges provide ongoing assessment feedback to learners, including provisional grades based on evidence
  • Schools, colleges and local authorities complete final stages of quality assurance, taking account of feedback from the prior stages
  • Schools and colleges record provisional results based on evidence of demonstrated attainment for each learner
  • Schools and colleges record any learner eligible for the incomplete evidence contingency arrangement
  • Heads of centre sign off the outcomes per subject, and local authorities endorse the process and engagement in reaching those outcomes

Continuation and completion of learning, teaching and assessment in centres. Provisional results will be produced by teachers and lecturers and quality assurance will be carried out internally by centres and then more widely by local networks. This may include exploration of rationales for variances and dialogue with SQA. Any adjustments would be made based on current candidate evidence.

Role of SQA

  • encourage use of existing published training materials for centres and local authorities on how best to check results during local quality assurance of provisional results, while ensuring that these are firmly based on current candidate evidence

Role of teachers/lecturers

  • complete learning, teaching and assessment and continue internal quality assurance
  • reflect on feedback from national quality assurance and make adjustments as appropriate
  • provide ongoing feedback to learners regarding their progress and assessments, including, at the conclusion of the course, provisional grades based on evidence of demonstrated attainment
  • produce provisional results for every candidate with the exception of any candidate utilising the incomplete evidence contingency arrangement. These candidates should be identified on the provisional results system.

Role of centre senior management

  • carry out centre quality assurance on provisional results, prior to submission to SQA, including checking that provisional results are based on current learner evidence.
  • engage in any further local quality assurance on provisional results with the local authority, clusters/partner schools, as appropriate to the centre
  • local quality assurance could also include dialogue with SQA where the centre requests further support
  • make any adjustments to provisional results and/or processes required as a result of centre, local and/or national quality assurance. Any adjustments would be made on the basis of current candidate evidence.
  • endorse the process and results per subject and level
  • ensure that the incomplete evidence contingency arrangement is only being used in circumstances where the learner has completed the learning and teaching of the course and has completed some, but not all of the required assessment, due to severe disruption during the evidence-gathering process
  • in colleges, constitute an internal quality assurance panel, building on processes implemented in 2020, support/challenge conversations
  • in colleges, implement a process for endorsing the course team¿s results, considering:
    • the processes used by the course team
    • the outcome of the checking exercise
    • the rationale for any variances

Role of local authorities/Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)/Education Scotland

Local authorities:

  • local authorities should consider how best to support/facilitate:
    • centre-level quality assurance
    • local authority/area-based subject quality assurance, perhaps through subject networks
    • RICs-level subject quality assurance, where a need is identified
  • local authorities should develop and implement processes for the checking stage, building on processes implemented in 2020. This should include:
    • the processes implemented by the school/centre
    • the outcome of the checking exercise
    • the rationale for any variances
  • this could also include engagement with schools/centres to agree a model for corresponding school/centre level checks and endorsement
  • local authorities engage with schools and centres to consider centre data by subject. Internal checking processes provide a rationale for the centre's assessment judgements and may lead to a review of candidate evidence, if required, using local subject expertise.
  • appropriate local authority senior officer endorses the process and notes the outcomes per centre

SCIS:

  • share key messages with members
  • provide a service to link schools to support external quality assurance
  • facilitate a series of virtual communities of practice (V-CoPs) for subject specialists
  • facilitate virtual meetings with SQA co-ordinators and senior leaders
  • share practice from across the sector to enable reflection, discussion and action
  • assist in awareness-raising of issues for consideration by schools

Education Scotland:

  • provide further professional learning for good practice, including through technical solutions, that highlights ease of sharing learner evidence on a range of formats and supports practitioners with good practice in quality assurance
  • provide support to school leaders for the leadership required to take forward the 2021 ACM arrangements through facilitated, themed online conversations, Headspace and Blethers

4Stage 4: By 25 June 2021

Schools and colleges submit quality assured provisional results to SQA

  • Schools and colleges submit provisional results or identify learners using the incomplete evidence contingency arrangement by 25 June
  • SQA undertakes administrative checks and addresses any queries with centres (eg potential data inputting errors)
  • Schools and colleges retain learner assessment evidence.
  • submission of provisional results by centres to SQA
  • identification of learners using incomplete evidence contingency arrangement
  • SQA undertakes administrative checks and addresses any queries with centres (eg potential data inputting errors)

Role of Centres

  • centres to provide a named contact who is able to deal with administrative queries regarding provisional results after the submission date
  • centres retain learner assessment evidence and records

5Stage 5: Appeals process for 2020-21

A free appeals service, available directly to learners for the first time, is the fifth and final stage of the alternative certification model.

The model gives teachers and lecturers the necessary flexibility to support their learners, whom they know best. Teachers and lecturers, with the support of the system and SQA, are working hard to deliver the right results to learners, first time. However, it is important that a direct right of appeal is available, and the appeals service is the final essential part of the model.

Once learners have discussed their provisional results with their teacher or lecturer, if they are still unhappy, they can register that they want to appeal directly on the SQA website. The registration service will open on Friday 25 June and will close on Thursday 12 August. Appeals will be processed after Results Day on Tuesday 10 August.

If learners are waiting on a result for a university or college place or for an employment or training programme, their appeal will be processed as a priority. If they do not register with SQA by Thursday 12 August, they can ask their teacher or lecturer to submit a priority appeal for them until Tuesday 24 August.

If they do not need to use the priority service, learners can still ask their teacher or lecturer to submit an appeal to SQA for them until Friday 27 August.

Further information on the appeals process in 2021.

  • learners should be supported by their school, college and training provider with the information they need to make decisions that are in their best interests
  • schools, colleges and training providers cannot stop an appeal request
  • schools, colleges and training providers will still be able to submit an appeal on behalf of their learners, if the learner prefers to use that route
  • SQA will inform schools, colleges and training providers that their learners have registered that they want to appeal
  • schools, colleges and training providers will provide SQA with the necessary evidence that was used to determine their learners’ results
  • SQA will discuss appeals against an unresolved administrative error or on grounds of discrimination with schools, colleges or training providers
  • schools, colleges or training providers can advise SQA of any administrative errors they identify
  • once appeals are completed, SQA will inform schools, colleges and training providers of the outcomes and they will tell their learners
  • if there has been a change to any grades, SQA will issue learners with a replacement certificate later in the year