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SQA Exam FAQs

SQA Exam FAQs

Updated 4/6/21

On 2 June, SQA announced a free appeals service, available directly to learners. More information on this, including support and resources for learners can be accessed on the SQA website. Additional information is available on the 'appeals information' page of the SQA website

SQA has recognised that some learners have been unduly disadvantaged by severe disruption to learning and teaching throughout 2020-21, and as a result has announced an arrangement to support any learners unable to complete evidence by 25 June. Details can be found on the 'contingency arrangement' page of the SQA website 

The National Parent Forum of Scotland has worked with SQA to answer questions from parents, which are posted on their website 

Background

On 7th October the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, announced the cancellation of the National 5 2021 exam diet, followed by his announcement on 8th December that the Higher and Advanced Higher 2021 exams were also cancelled.

These decisions were based on the principles of ensuring equity and fairness for all learners, due to the significant disruption caused by Covid-19, and the concern that no guarantee could be given regarding future disruption to learning, either for individuals or for groups of pupils.

This year has been very challenging for everyone, and we are acutely aware of the anxiety this may have caused to families.

If your child attends Alloa Academy, Alva Academy, Lornshill Academy or CSSSS, please see our FAQs below for further information, in addition to the guidance, advice and support being offered by each school to their own communities.

Why have the exams all been cancelled?

Unfortunately learning and teaching time has been affected as a result of Covid-19, for all schools across Scotland during the Summer term lockdown, and also since returning in August, and subsequently throughout 2021. Some schools have been disproportionately affected, with some staff and pupils having to self isolate, perhaps on multiple occasions.

The principles of equity and fairness underpinned the decision to cancel the exam diet at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher because of this, and also due to the further disruption to learning and teaching which has taken place.

How will my child’s SQA grades be awarded if there is no final exam in 2021?

SQA has released guidance for schools on how to gather evidence throughout the school session. These key pieces of evidence will be carefully chosen, in order to demonstrate your child’s acquired level of skills, knowledge and understanding of all their course-work.

These graded assessments will be subject to robust discussion at both school and Local Authority levels, and also at times with subject-specialists from across Falkirk, Stirling and West Lothian, in order to ensure that there is complete rigour, and a consistent application of assessments and marking across all our schools, not only just within Clackmannanshire, but throughout our Forth Valley and West Lothian Regional Improvement Collaborative.

It is important that an A awarded in the North of Scotland is the same as an A awarded in the South of Scotland, and everywhere in between, to ensure fair and credible results.

Your child will receive their final SQA grades on 10th August 2021, following the submission of their provisional results to SQA by 25th June 2021. Your child will receive these by text and/or email in addition to receiving their SQA certificate in the post, if they register for this service at MySQA.org.uk.

How will the changes made to National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher course content affect my child?

As we all understand, this has not been a normal year. Changes have been made to the course content, and assessment requirements, of subjects, after a series of consultations between SQA, teachers and focus groups of parents and young people. Each of your child’s teachers will have explained to their classes what these changes mean for them.

The changes are all very subject specific, with the aim of reducing assessment and freeing up teaching time.

It has been confirmed that evidence that was generated prior to changes in course content can still be used, if it is deemed to be an appropriate piece of evidence which clearly demonstrates a candidate’s ability, skills and knowledge.

Any assessments made will still maintain the standards of each qualification, ensuring that what your child is awarded will not be of any less value than previous years.

In 2020 my child’s grades submitted by their teachers were downgraded by SQA. How can I be assured that this will not happen again in 2021?

It is important to reassure you that following the concerns from the 2020 SQA awarding process, the SQA will not alter the provisional results submitted by your child’s school on the basis of the algorithm that was used in 2020. Instead, SQA will sample pupil evidence from schools throughout Scotland, and provide feedback, to support schools, and allow them to act on feedback from SQA subject specialists, prior to the submission deadline of 25th June 2021.

Be assured that SQA will not change your child’s provisional results, on any basis other than an administrative check which may pick up any errors which have occurred when the data has been entered into the system.

In 2020 I feel my child was disadvantaged due to one or more of their grades not accurately reflecting their true ability, but I was unable to appeal on the grounds of this. How can I be reassured that this will not happen again in 2021?

It has been confirmed that awards will not be given, or taken away, on the basis of a school’s or department’s past performance, and that teacher professional judgements will be submitted as ‘provisional results’. There will be no algorithm applied, which resulted in SQA changing so many awards in 2020, and instead SQA will only carry out administrative checks following the submission date of 25th June 2021.

An important change that will happen this year, taking into account concerns from the 2020 awarding process, is improved dialogue between SQA and schools, prior to the final results being awarded on 10th August 2021.

The appeals process has not yet been finalised for 2021, and is still under consideration. There is a consultation underway, which closes on 26th March 2021 which can be accessed via the SQA website.

It is important that your child will be involved in regular learner conversations with their teachers. This will ensure that any areas for development are highlighted, and that progress towards their intended provisional result will be under constant review and discussion. This should mean that there are no surprises for their final results which they receive on 10th August 2021.

What will happen to study leave in 2021?

There will be no study leave, the purpose of which is to allow learners the time and space to study and be fully prepared for an exam diet. This will provide maximum time for quality learning and teaching, which will be able to continue for as long as possible until the submission of provisional results on 25th June 2021.

How will my child be affected if they have had to miss school as a result of self-isolating, perhaps more than once, throughout the school session prior to their provisional results being submitted at the end of June?

This will be taken fully into account by teachers when informing their professional teacher judgement, which will be based on demonstrated attainment, not inferred attainment.

Due to the complexities surrounding this very real issue, the details and mechanisms of this are still under discussion at a national level.

When your child returns to school for full-time face-to-face learning, which we hope will be after the Easter Holidays, they will need time with their teachers to review their learning, and consolidate what they need to cover. This will be key to help them to be as fully prepared as possible for their assessments and evidence gathering, in addition to the work that has already been done since having returned for at least some of the week since Monday 15th March.

It is important to reinforce and to reassure pupils and families that any teacher professional judgement will be based on evidence of each individual learner's demonstrated ability, understanding and knowledge of their subjects, and that the unique context of each and every learner will inform that judgement.

Further information can be found on: