NQ2021 Group answers questions from parents and carers

Yesterday evening we had the privilege of taking part in an online question and answer session delivered by the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS).

With the 2021 exams being cancelled, we know how important it is to help parents, carers and learners stay informed of what this means for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

Hundreds of parents and carers listened in last night as representatives from the NPFS, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) and SQA answered questions about how this year’s results will be awarded.

This year’s Alternative Certification Model will see teachers and lecturers using learners’ assessment evidence to decide provisional results for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

The model has been created in partnership with the National Qualifications 2021 Group* which is led by SQA and includes representatives from across the education system, including the NPFS, and ADES.

Everyone at SQA understands that this is a really challenging time for parents and carers of learners undertaking National Qualifications, and we thank you all for your continued support.

We really value opportunities like the webinar with NPFS to hear directly from parents and carers and address your queries and concerns. We received a huge number of insightful questions and we have summarised our response to some of these below.

Your questions answered…

How results will be decided

Q:        Are the assessments learners are soon to start undertaking the same as an exam?

A:         While the look and feel of assessments will have some similarities to exams, they will be  tailored by teachers and lecturers to tie in with learning that has taken place. This will also enable assessments to be carried out at a time that best suits the needs of the school and learner, such as during class times.

Q:        What evidence is required to determine results?

A:         Different subjects have different requirements. We have provided guidance to schools about the assessment requirements for each course, and we have cut back on those requirements as much as possible this year, whilst still maintaining the integrity of the qualification.

Q:        What is demonstrated attainment?

A:         Learners need to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to match the course requirements. For example, in English if a young person hands in a piece of writing, it needs to match specific criteria to demonstrate their ability. It is important that results are based on evidence of learning and skills so that learners can have confidence in their certificate.

Q:        How will practical subjects be assessed?

A:         We have made modifications to reduce the assessment requirements this year. For example, in Music and Physical Education, learners have the option to only be assessed in one instrument or sport, rather than two as would happen in a normal year.

However, we still require evidence that the learner has met the key requirements, so that we can certificate fairly.

Ensuring fairness

Q:        What is being done to address unconscious bias?

A:         Guidance has been issued to schools and colleges and we are working with them to allow for a fair and consistent approach.

Practical steps around quality assurance can also help address this issue. For example, seeking to ensure more than one person is involved in deciding the provisional result.

Q:        What measures are being taken to ensure learners have appropriate knowledge to progress between qualification levels?

A:         We are very aware that learners have faced disruption to their learning this year. The NQ2021 Group is engaging with the Scottish Government around any modifications that will be put in place next year.

Teachers are best placed to advise on progression routes for learners.

Final results

Q:        Will learners know their grade before Results Day?

A:         Teachers and lecturers will likely be having ongoing conversations with learners about their progress, including their provisional grade once their course is complete.

Learners should be provided with an understanding of how their grades were determined.

Q:        Will the further education sector accept the results awarded?

A:         Yes. We are continuing to engage with the further education sector and employers about the approach we are taking.

Further information

Keep an eye on this parent and carer blog for more Q&As from this webinar.

SQA has produced an information booklet for learners containing key information about the changes that have been made this session, including information about the Alternative Certification Model, Quality Assurance and the Appeals process. A printed version has been posted to their home address and it is also available on our website.

You may find it useful to read our earlier blogposts on the Alternative Certification Model and on how we are working in partnership with schools and colleges to deliver for learners.

All updates are available on our 2021 National Qualifications webpage.

*The National Qualifications 2021 Group includes representatives from 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.