Support for learners taking National Qualifications in 2022 – an overview

Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development at SQA, provides an overview of support for learners taking National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses in 2022.

10 February 2022 - SQA - Categories: Advanced Higher, Awarding 2022 Programme, Higher, Learners, National 5, Parents, Teachers

National Qualifications

Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen Scotland’s learners, and their teachers and lecturers, face unprecedented challenges. We understand that many young people continue to experience disruption, through no fault of their own.

Delivering qualifications which learners can have pride in, and which colleges, universities and employers can have trust in, has been at the heart of our decision-making.

We are committed to listening to the views of young people and working with them as we develop services for them. We have an active learner panel, in partnership with the Scottish Youth Parliament, that meets monthly and provides young people with an opportunity to feedback directly to SQA on issues relating to their National Qualifications.

We have published a booklet for learners – Your National Qualifications 2021-22 – that explains what they need to know about completing coursework and how to prepare for exams. We are also preparing a guide to exams for learners – Your Exams – that will be available from mid-March.

Modifications to courses

At the start of the school term, SQA confirmed changes to course assessments for National Qualifications, to support learners to achieve the qualifications they deserve.

These modifications to assessments allowed for lost learning and teaching caused by the pandemic by reducing the volume of assessment and easing teacher, lecturer and learner workload, while maintaining the integrity and credibility of the qualifications.

Central to delivering these changes is our Understanding Standards programme. Through subject-specific resources, including webinars and videos, teachers and lecturers are equipped with an understanding of the national standards for National Qualifications, which helps them prepare learners for assessment. Over the past two years, these resources have reflected the published modifications to assessments.

Additional support measures

To ensure fairness and credibility are maintained in light of the ongoing impact of the pandemic, SQA has recently announced additional support measures for learners who are taking National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher courses in 2022. This compliments the vital support being provided by teachers and lecturers across the country.

We understand that the run up to exams can be an anxious time for learners and their parents and carers. Given the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic, and that most learners will be sitting formal exams for the first time, this is likely to be especially true this year.

To help alleviate this anxiety, we will provide revision support for learners during week beginning 7 March, to help them prepare and focus their revision, in the run up to the exams.

Revision support will be available for all courses that have an exam. The type of revision support for each course will depend on the modifications to assessment that we made at the start of the school term and will reflect the types of questions that are in the exam. A table showing the type of revision support that will be provided for each course is available on our website.

The revision support is being developed and tested with teachers, lecturers and learners before being published.

We have published information on our exam exceptional circumstances service, which will be available during the exam diet. This will be in place for learners who are unable to attend an exam due to a reason beyond their control, such as a medical condition (including Covid-19 related absence) or bereavement, or who have been impacted by a disruption at their school, college or training provider on the day of the exam, which means the exam can’t take place.

In these instances, the learner’s school, college or training provider will send evidence of their assessments from throughout the year to SQA to be reviewed by subject experts, who will judge it against the national standard for that course to determine their grade.

In recognition of the disruption that learners have faced over the last two years, and the different approaches to assessment, this year we are prepared to be more generous in our approach to grading than in a normal year to factor in the impact of the pandemic on learners. In line with the approach being taken across the rest of the UK, SQA therefore expects that the overall outcomes in 2022 will represent an intermediary position between 2021 and pre-pandemic years.

SQA’s approach to grading the exams in 2022 will be based on its established awarding processes. Using ‘grade boundaries’ – the marks needed to achieve an A, B or C grade in each course – SQA will check that each assessment was set at the right standard or level of difficulty, making sure learners are treated fairly and that their grades accurately reflect what they know and can do.

When determining the 2022 grade boundaries, practising teachers and lecturers who are subject experts in each course will look at all the available assessment evidence and course information, including the impact disruption has had on how learners have performed in the assessments.

The final element of our recently published support measures relates to the 2022 appeals process, which will be available after results are published on Tuesday 9 August. This is an important service for learners who want to question their SQA results. In 2022, all learners will continue to have free direct access to the appeals service and a priority service will also be available for those applying to university, college, training or employment.

This year’s appeals service will involve practising teachers and lecturers reviewing evidence of the assessments that learners have completed through the year. They will judge this evidence against the national standard for that course. SQA will also conduct a clerical check on exam scripts.

Through the appeals process, learners will be awarded the higher grade of the two types of evidence (their exam and/or coursework and the assessment evidence submitted in support of the appeal).

The successful delivery of all these measures relies on the support of the education system, and they have therefore been developed following discussion with our partners and stakeholders, including representatives from the National Parent Forum of Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

In this spirit of mutual collaboration and support, we will continue to work alongside Scotland’s education sector to deliver for learners this year.

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