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Grade D is still not a pass

There has been some media coverage lately (which began with a piece by your columnist Alex Wood, in the 1 April issue) about the number of Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) points awarded to grade D at Higher. I want to make it clear that passing grades remain as A, B and C. Grade D is not recognised by SQA as a pass.

Confusion has arisen because two separate elements are being conflated - the SCQF level and credit points allocated to qualifications and the grading of national courses. Some people have then concluded that, based on a change to the number of SCQF credit points allocated to grade D, we have redefined what we classify as a pass in a Higher.

When learners sit national courses, they are awarded a grade based on how well they have done. Grades are the most informative indicator as to how well a learner has mastered that subject at that level. Universities set their entry requirements according to the grades achieved in Highers and Advanced Highers, as well as taking into account information presented in learners' personal statements.

The SCQF shows a series of levels of difficulty of qualifications and awards (levels 1-12) and gives a measure of the amount of the associated learning.

There is an anomaly with the number of SCQF points allocated to all grades of Higher. Previously, candidates who passed the Higher at grades A-C were awarded 24 SCQF credit points and candidates who got a grade D were awarded just 18 points. Because they have covered the same amount of learning as candidates passing at A-C, it is right that these learners should get the same number of SCQF credit points.

As this anomaly has existed since 2004, the decision was taken to backdate the change. In future, any candidate who gets an SQA certificate for another qualification and has got a grade D for a previous Higher will find that their SCQF credit points have been amended accordingly, but the grade they got in their Higher will remain unchanged.

Just to be absolutely clear, there is no change to how SQA reports passes. Pass rates will still be defined as the number of people getting grades A to C in a national course.

Dr Gill Stewart, Director of qualifications development Scottish Qualifications Authority.

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