In this section we have summarised some of the key information about exams and course assessments in 2020/21 and how these have been affected by 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.
The SQA also have a useful Frequently Asked Questions section on their website.
There were no exams or externally assessed coursework of national 5, higher or advanced higher courses in 2020/21. Instead, your child’s grades will have been based on estimated grades given by their teachers. When making their estimates, teachers used their best professional judgement and looked at what evidence there was to support their estimated grades.
Teachers should have taken into account your child’s additional support needs and individual circumstances when estimating their grades. The SQA have explained that it is about the quality, and not necessarily the quantity, of evidence schools provide to back up their estimated grades. Teachers were able to draw evidence from a range of sources and grades should not have generally been based solely on a one-off assessment.
If your child sat any assessments once schools reopened, they should have had the support and adjustments they need to have an equal chance with their peers to show their abilities.
The SQA have set out how they worked together with schools and local authorities to make sure teacher estimated grades are as fair, accurate and consistent as possible.
Teachers made assessments which were often based on question papers and/or coursework assessment tasks produced by the SQA. Your child’s teachers then used their best professional judgements, followed subject specific guidance from the SQA, and looked at what evidence there was to support their estimated grades. The school should also have been giving your child feedback throughout this process, including their provisional grades based on evidence.
Your child’s school, working together with the local authority, then reviewed the school’s assessment evidence to check grades were being estimated in as fair and consistent a way as possible. They also sent samples of their evidence to the SQA for feedback.
Your child’s school needed to submit their final provisional results to the SQA by 25 June 2021. Your child should have been given the opportunity to discuss their provisional results with their teacher. The SQA will now be doing administrative checks and they may follow up on any issues they find with the school or local authority (e.g. if they think there has been a data inputting error) before awarding final grades.
Your child’s school should have done all they could to try and make sure they had enough evidence to give your child a provisional grade by the 25 June. However, if this was not possible, they should have considered the situation carefully and spoken to you and your child about their options. Depending on what would be in your child’s best interests, they may:
• Have been given a provisional grade for an alternative qualification if there was enough evidence for that
• Need to repeat the course next year in 2021/22 (for example, if your child has not been able to undertake significant parts of their course’s required learning this year), or
• Use ‘contingency arrangements’, which is when your child can be given until 3 September to complete their assessments. This option is explained further below.
The SQA have made ‘contingency arrangements’ for some pupils to have until 3 September (rather than 25 June) to complete their assessments and receive their provisional grades. This is intended for a small number of pupils who have undertaken all the required learning for their course, but through no fault of their own have not been able to complete all their required assessments in time for the 25 June deadline.
This option is not for pupils who have been unable to complete the required learning for their course. For example, there is no expectation for schools to provide additional teaching over the summer holidays for pupils who have missed parts of their learning throughout the school year. It is also not a resit option for pupils who want to try and get a higher grade.
The contingency arrangements are for learners who have been able to engage sufficiently with their learning and teaching, but who have not quite had time to complete their required assessments. For example, during the school’s evidence gathering process:
• Your child had a medical condition that disproportionately affected them
• Your child was self-isolating or shielding due to coronavirus, or
• Your child suffered a bereavement or other trauma.
Under these arrangements, after the summer break your child would be given a tailored assessment to allow the school to fill the gap in their evidence. This will then enable them to decide your child’s provisional grades.
Your child’s school needed to request contingency arrangements to the SQA by 25 June. You can find out more at the links below.
Pupils can appeal for free directly to the SQA this year. If they are unhappy with their results, they can register that they want to appeal on the SQA website from 25 June until 12 August. If needed (or if the pupil would prefer it), parents and carers can register on their child’s behalf.
Appeals will be processed after results day on 10 August, and priority will be given to those who are waiting on results for college or university places, or employment or training programmes. Once appeals have been processed, the SQA will tell your child's school the outcome, and they will let your child know.
It is up to your child themselves to decide whether they want to appeal. It can be helpful for them to understand that if they appeal their mark might stay the same or go up, but it could also go down. Your child should therefore speak to their teachers to discuss whether appealing is in their best interests. If your child registers that they want to appeal with the SQA, but then speaks to their teacher and decides they don’t want to anymore, they can withdraw their appeal by Thursday 12 August by contacting email@example.com.
If your child misses the 12 August deadline to register that they want to appeal, a teacher can do this for them until 16 August if their appeal needs to be treated as a priority (e.g. if they need the result for a college place), or 27 August for other appeals.
There are three reasons why an appeal can be made:
• against the academic judgement that has been made (disagreement with the mark the teacher has given your child)
• against an administrative error (your child has been given the wrong mark by mistake)
• discrimination (your child has not been treated fairly).
If your child believes they have been discriminated against, this needs to be either where:
• there has been a breach of the Equality Act 2010, which must have either been acknowledged by the school, or established by a court or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
• the school failed to provide agreed support or adjustments for any assessments your child completed (known as ‘assessment arrangements’).
Our factsheets Inclusion, equality and wellbeing and Disabled pupils and the law explain more about discrimination and the Equality Act 2010. We’d also suggest contacting the Equality Advisory and Support Service for advice if your child is considering this reason for appealing.