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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, higher or 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 and look at what evidence there is to support their estimated grades.

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 school closures earlier this year some 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 work together with schools and local authorities to make sure teacher estimated grades are as fair, accurate and consistent as possible.

Teachers are making ongoing assessments up until April 2021. They will use their best professional judgements, follow subject specific guidance from the SQA, and look at what evidence there is to support their estimated grades.

Between April and May your child’s school, working together with the local authority, will review the school’s assessment evidence to check grades are being estimated in as fair and consistent a way as possible. They will also send samples of their evidence to the SQA for feedback.

From the end of May until 25 June your child’s school, working with the local authority, will take the SQA feedback on board before submitting their quality assured provisional results to the SQA by 25 June 2021. 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.

If you feel there are particular factors the school should be taking into account when estimating your child’s grades, you should speak to the school about this. They may already be aware and taking the things you are worried about into account. However if they are not, you can discuss with them their understanding of your child’s individual needs, and what supports and reasonable adjustments they can put in place to make sure your child is given a fair opportunity to evidence their full potential.

Our factsheet on Working together with your child’s school has some helpful tips for working together with the school to get the right support in place for your child. If you have already tried this and you are still worried, our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems explains what other things you can do.

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.

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