Coronavirus: SQA says no coursework required this year

Long-awaited SQA statement still leaves schools and colleges seeking more clarity about assessment plan

Coronavirus: SQA statement on 2019-20 qualifications

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has said that schools and colleges do not have to submit coursework for Highers and Advanced Highers.

The picture is less clearcut for National 5 in the wake of SQA exams being cancelled last week, as much of the coursework at this level has already been submitted.

The SQA said it would provide "further details" on the estimation of grades...and fuller details of our approach to certification, as soon as possible".

One headteacher asked for an immediate reaction by Tes Scotland said: "The estimate thing is the biggie: these are not estimates anymore – they are the actual grades."

Some teachers tweeted that the statement still lacked critical detail and left "many unknowns".


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In a further update, sent to teachers who assist with exams, the SQA said: "While we can confirm that question paper marking will not now be needed this year, we may still need your help and expertise to support other activities, pre- and post- results. I do hope that you will be able to continue to support us, now and going forward."

And in another development, shortly after the SQA statement was released at about 3.45pm today, the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee said that a meeting planned for tomorrow morning – at which members were due to put questions to education secretary – would not take place, "due to the additional health restrictions in place". All business scheduled in the Parliament tomorrow has been called off.

Fiona Robertson, SQA chief executive and Scotland’s chief examiner, said: "Following the announcement by the first minister on Sunday, that no young person with SQA coursework to complete should attend school to do so, we continue to work hard on how we should take coursework evidence into account, in determining young people’s final grades.

"Everyone here at SQA will do their utmost, given the current situation, and with the support of the education system, to ensure that learners’ hard work is rightly and fairly recognised and allows them to proceed to further learning or work.

"The current public health advice has meant that we have had to make some really difficult decisions about coursework. This means that for this year, schools and colleges are not required to submit learner coursework for marking, in Higher and Advanced Higher courses."

She added: "We have taken this difficult decision to be as fair as possible to all Higher and Advanced Higher candidates, whilst taking on board the current public health advice, the many varied coursework requirements across different subjects, and how these are managed in schools and colleges across the country.

"I appreciate that some learners may have already completed their coursework for Higher and Advanced Higher courses. This work can still be used as part of the suite of evidence for teachers and lecturers to draw on as they consider estimated grades.

"We have received coursework for a range of National 5 subjects and have contacted National 5 coursework markers to confirm marking arrangements. All National 5 coursework, due to be uplifted in April and May, will not be submitted for marking."

The statement concluded: "We will provide further details on the estimation of grades, that we will need from teachers and lecturers to inform certification, and fuller details of our approach to certification, as soon as possible.

"This is an unprecedented situation for us all, and circumstances are rapidly changing. With every change in circumstances, we continue to consider how best to recognise learner achievement in as fair a way as possible.

"Please be assured that everyone here at SQA is fully committed to working with you to deliver for Scotland’s young people. Thank you for your patience and continued co-operation."

One depute headteacher tweeted seeking clarity on whether Higher and Advanced Higher grades would now be "based on teacher estimate grades, with supporting evidence sent to validate professional judgement?"

The same depute head queried whether students would be able to sit "modified" exam later in the year "if they are unhappy with their grade", adding that there were "many unknowns" and asking whether "there is now a need to rewrite 2020-21 exams?"

The SQA  last released a statement on Thursday 19 March, the day that education secretary John Swinney announced that this year's exams would be cancelled.

Previously, the SQA had released statements on Wednesday 18 March and Thursday 12 March. In the latter, the advice was to "prepare as normal" for exams.

Over the past week, a number of teachers have contacted Tes Scotland with issues they would like the SQA to clarify, which we rounded up in an article on Saturday, 21 March. A day later (Saunday 22 March) first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that S4-6 pupils should not be gathering at school to complete home, and we agani asked for an SQA update.

Until today's statement, however, there had been no public statement from the SQA since Thursday 19 March.

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