The Scottish Qualifications Authority claims to have passed another milestone in delivery of the new National qualifications with its publication last week of key assessment support materials.
By April, the agency will have published 1,000 support documents for the new Nationals 4 and 5.
Although the SQA was included in criticism by secondary and FE members in an EIS survey of Curriculum for Excellence-readiness, the SQA's director of qualifications, Gill Stewart, said that the latest batch of documents should "help reassure teachers and fill in the gaps". Secondary teachers will be particularly relieved to have access now to the specimen question papers for National 5, along with detailed marking instructions.
"The other missing piece is the coursework and added value units for National 4 - and we have started to publish these. The first lot were published last Thursday, there will be another at the end of March and the final lot at the end of April," Dr Stewart said.
Some concerns have been raised that the new system of qualifications does not offer the same safety net as the current Standard grade system.
One secondary head told TESS that he was concerned that borderline pupils would have no fall-back if they failed at National 5. Unlike the current system, where pupils are presented for Standard grade Credit and General, or General and Foundation, they would only gain a National 4 if they had done a National 4 "added value unit" alongside their National 5 course assessment units.
Dr Stewart pointed out that if a pupil did not do a National 4 added value unit en route to National 5, the option remained for them to do that unit the following term - although that assumed the pupil was returning for S5.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan suggested, however, that it was likely to be "standard practice" for schools to make sure that any borderline pupils also did the National 4 added value unit as a "fall-back".
He is more concerned that pupils failing a Higher could not gain a "compensatory" award at National 5 and is pressing the SQA to remedy this by extending the marking range for a D award at Higher from 45-49 per cent to 40-49 per cent.
"This would provide a safety net as not many schools will present for Highers if a pupil is likely to get less than 40 per cent," he said.
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- Second pack of unit assessment support for National 2 to National 5.
- First release of added value assessment for National 4.
- First release of coursework information for National 5.
- Specimen question papers for National 5.