Alternative certification model - National Qualifications 2021

National Qualifications 2021 Group

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


1Ongoing until April 2021

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

2April 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.

3End 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.

4By 25 June 2021

Schools and colleges submit quality assured provisional results to SQA

5Appeals process for 2020-21

Appeals process for 2020-21 - to be advised following consultation.

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • Heads of centre sign off the outcomes per subject, and local authorities endorse the process and engagement in reaching those outcomes

  • Schools and colleges submit provisional results 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.

Roles and responsibilities

Find roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders for each stage.