Coronavirus: SQA issues new exam grade guidance

Teachers told their estimates will be ‘the core element of the certification process’

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: SQA issues new guidance on exams

Scotland’s national qualifications body has told teachers their estimated grades will be “the core element of the certification process” this year.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has also extended the deadline by which schools and teachers must submit their estimates of pupils grades for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses – the original deadline was April 24 but this has been extended to May 29.

In a statement, SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson also said that schools and teachers do not need to gather additional evidence through the setting preliminary exams or homework tasks and that “an estimate is a judgement of a grade and band based on a holistic review of a learner’s performance in the assessment evidence available”.

There would also be a free post-results service, she said, so schools could question grades.


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She said: “The integrity of the estimates we receive this year is very important as it will provide the core element of the certification process, in the absence of national performance data such as marked question paper and non-question paper components. 

“Therefore, to assist SQA in the awarding and certification process for 2020, we are taking steps to refine the existing system and ensure it is as fair and robust as possible. Firstly, we will be subdividing each existing band and asking teachers and lecturers to place their learners within these band categories. Secondly, we will be asking teachers and lecturers to rank order their learners within each estimated grade.

“This will provide SQA with the information needed to allow us to adjust estimates where necessary, to ensure consistency both across the country and in comparison with previous years. This process may be informed by previous subject and qualification performance at both a national and centre level and prior attainment information where that is available. “

Ms Robertson said the SQA would provide more detailed guidance to schools and colleges on how to determine and submit “this refined estimate information after Easter, and by 20 April 2020”. 

She added that in the meantime schools should not submit estimates and that “any estimates data already received will be processed and shared back to schools and colleges for reference in completing the information we now require”.

The body also confirmed that – as with Higher and Advanced Higher – National 5 coursework would not be marked this year and that the SQA would not request any further N5 coursework to be submitted.

Ms Robertson continued: “I know this will be disappointing news to many of you. We have taken this difficult decision to be as fair as possible to all National 5 learners, whilst responding to real risks to our operations, including the safe receipt and delivery of coursework materials and difficulties in delivering some of the key processes remotely, which are so central to the work we do each year.”

When it came to certification for National 2, National 3 and National 4 courses and free-standing units at SCQF levels 5, 6, and 7, Ms Robertson said: “Schools and colleges should provide unit results based on either existing evidence from assessments that have already been completed, and/or using their professional judgement of other learner evidence, including their knowledge of their learners, their progress and achievements to date. The results should be submitted in the normal way, by 22 May for schools, and by 1 June for colleges.”

The full statement can be found here.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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