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Coronavirus and additional support for learning


Changes to SQA exams and qualifications

In this section we have summarised some of the key information we know so far about exams and course assessments in 2020/21 and how these will be affected by coronavirus. We will keep this page under review as more information comes to light.

As with all guidance at the moment, the plans currently in place for 2020/21 exams and assessments could change if this becomes necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Our website for children and young people, Reach, has useful information you can pass on to your child about the changes: Understanding changes to how you’ll be graded by the SQA in 2021.

There will be no exams or externally assessed coursework of national 5 courses in 2020/21. Instead, your child’s grades will be based on estimated grades given by their teachers. When making their estimates, teachers will use their best professional judgement, be fair to all pupils, and look at what evidence there is to support their estimated grade. Teachers should take into account your child’s additional support needs. For example, if your child would have had reasonable adjustments in place for sitting a final exam, their teacher should base their estimate on what grade your child would likely be able to achieve with these adjustments in place.

The SQA have explained that it will be about the quality, and not necessarily the quantity, of evidence schools can provide to back up their estimated grades. Due to the January school closures lots of pupils will not have been able to sit their prelims or mock exams. Teachers can draw evidence from a range of sources including: past papers, class tests, class work, coursework, and overall performance – so cancelled prelims should not affect your child’s ability to get their qualifications.

The SQA have set out how they will make sure teacher estimated grades are as fair and consistent as possible. Teachers will make subject assessments between November 2020 and March 2021. Between January 2021 and March 2021 the SQA will give feedback to schools on samples of the evidence they have submitted on these assessments. The school, working with their local authority, will then take the SQA feedback on board and quality assure their estimated grades. By 28 May 2021 schools will submit their predicted results for pupils. The SQA will then nationally check these predicted results and they may follow up on any issues they find with the school or local authority before awarding final grades.

There may also be an appeals process for if you or your child feel they have not been awarded the grades they deserve. The SQA has not yet announced what this will look like, but we will update this page when we know more.

There will be no exams or externally assessed coursework of higher and advanced higher courses in 2020/21. Instead, your child’s grades will be based on estimated grades given by their teachers. When making their estimates, teachers will use their best professional judgement, be fair to all pupils, and look at what evidence there is to support their estimated grade. There is likely to be more flexibility on what evidence can be used by teachers compared to guidance for schools on national 5 courses.

Teachers should take into account your child’s additional support needs. For example, if your child would have had reasonable adjustments in place for sitting a final exam, their teacher should base their estimate on what grade your child would likely be able to achieve with these adjustments in place.

The SQA are still to explain how quality assurance of teacher estimated grades will work for higher and advanced higher courses. The model will likely be very similar to the model for national 5 courses explained above. As we find out more, we will update this page with new information.


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