The national awards are to be Scotland's new exams for S4 pupils at levels 4 and 5. The former are to be internally assessed and the latter externally examined in what is likely to be seen as a compromise deal that avoids increasing teachers' workload.
The award at level 4, equivalent to Intermediate 1 and Standard grade General, will be assessed by teachers. The level 5 award, equivalent to Intermediate 2 and Standard grade Credit, will be assessed and graded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, with some internal marking. They will start in 2013-14.
Schools will have access to exemplars of internal assessment units, similar to the NABs, part of Intermediate 1 and 2.
Unveiling her plans in Parliament last week, Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, announced that she would be sticking with her controversial policy of testing literacy and numeracy, starting in 2012-13, from S3 onwards. The Educational Institute of Scotland, the biggest teacher union, is likely to press for most pupils to be assessed in S4.
Literacy and numeracy will initially be externally assessed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, but once standards are established, the amount of external assessment will be reduced. nm.