Response to SQA Statement

Created on: 03 Apr 2020 | Last modified: 10 Sep 2020

SQA Statement


Please find here a link to the latest SQA statement on the 2020 qualifications.

I am sure that there will be much discussion about the proposals, and there are aspects about which more information is still required; ultimately, any system to replace the normal diet of exams will have its challenges.

At the heart of the proposal for N5 (note that N5 coursework is now not to be marked), Higher and AH, is the need for teachers to exercise professional judgement in submitting evidence-based estimates for their students. The SQA advice is quite clear that generating new evidence Is not required and should not be happening.

To support its statistical modelling approach, the SQA is asking that estimate bands be subdivided (presumably to assist in establishing the equivalent of grade boundaries) and, also, that departments create rankings in their cohorts.

Rankings were a part of the SQA procedures for many years and will be familiar to some but not all members.

What a ranking order does is create an anticipated spread of performance (usually based on hard evidence such as a prelim but critically not linked directly to estimates) which allows for a level of statistical adjustment to final awards. It was used, also, as part of the old appeals system.

Clearly at a time of school closures there are logistical issues to be resolved, although ranking was usually an exercise processed by the relevant PT. Further advice from SQA will be issued.

Applying a more differentiated estimate approach and re-introducing ranking, appears to be a belt and braces approach from the SQA which combined with looking at previous concordance between estimates and performance and, also, progression pathways from N5 grades to H grades, means that teacher estimates will have been subjected to a fairly rigorous moderation process which should mean that final awards have an added degree of validation and any undue pressure on teachers about estimates can be rebuffed more easily.

The re-establishment of a free post results service (an appeals process) is welcome, as this provides an external final arbiter for awards.

In relation to other awards which do not have an external exam, many of which are delivered by Colleges, the principle of professional judgement based on existing evidence is again centre stage, although the detail is not clear for all awards as some of them are linked to regulatory thresholds.

EIS FELA reps met online this week with SQA representatives and presented robust suggestions which not only sought to validate student achievement but was mindful also of the limitations imposed by the immediate circumstances of the COVID 19 lockdown on both students and lecturers.  

As indicated in the SQA communication, further information and detail is required. EIS FELA, however, has established a dialogue with the SQA and will continue to feed views into future discussions.

The extension of deadline dates for submission is welcome, also, providing a little breathing space for consideration of existing candidate evidence and the preparation of estimates and cohort rankings.