Tag Archives: qualifications

SQA Overview of Qualifications

Deciding which national qualifications to develop

The SQA have published the overviews of qualifications for most of the curricular areas:

The Overview of Qualifications publications outline the list of subjects that fall within each curriculum area. The list includes the names of the subjects and the levels at which qualifications will be developed. The publication also gives details of the scope of the curriculum area, skills, progression, and learning and teaching approaches. Qualifications will be developed in line with the broad vision set out in the Overview publication.

You can use the links below to download the overviews:

Progress On Curriculum For Excellence: Decisions From June Management Board Meeting

The following letter was sent from Colin MacLean, Chair of the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board, to Headteachers and College Principals on 22nd July. It outlines the decisions made at the June Management Board meeting:

Dear Colleague


1. I am writing to update you on further progress on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and would ask that you share this information with all of your teaching staff and others who support learning.

2. I last wrote to you in May about progress made to that date. My letter included an update on advice from the CfE Management Board on the timetable for introduction of the new qualifications following its meeting on 22 April.

3. The purpose of this letter is to update you about decisions made by the Management Board at its most recent meeting on 16 June, specifically about key decisions on recognition of literacy and numeracy skills developed through CfE and about reporting to parents and learners.

4. I mentioned in my May letter that a significant factor in the Management Board considerations when providing its advice was the ten point plan announced by the Cabinet Secretary on 30 March. The ten point plan included a proposal for literacy and numeracy units to be built into English and Maths qualifications to simplify the system for formally recognising these skills which will be developed across the curriculum. Management Board welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s proposal to remove the qualifications in literacy and numeracy from S3 and agreed to provide advice in due course on an alternative approach.

5. At its meeting in June the Board agreed the following approach to recognising literacy and numeracy skills developed through CfE, subject to the outcome of detailed work being taken forward by SQA and further consideration by the Board as that work progresses. The approach agreed is that:

  • the S3 profile will have a focus on literacy and numeracy skills and will be seen as the main means by which learners gain recognition of the literacy and numeracy skills they have developed across their broad general education up to the end of S3. This would build on the annual reporting of progress in literacy and numeracy in each year prior to S3;
  • freestanding units in literacy and numeracy will be made available at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5;
  • at SCQF levels 3 and 4, these units will be designed to form part of English and Mathematics courses;
  • at SCQF level 5, appropriate coverage of literacy and numeracy skills will be embedded across English and Mathematics courses. At SCQF Level 5, English and Mathematics courses also need to focus on higher order skills in order to prepare learners for progression. Therefore embedding of literacy and numeracy will provide partial coverage of these skills in English and Mathematics courses. SQA would not certificate literacy and numeracy skills on this basis as coverage is partial. For those who require or would like certification, free standing units in literacy and numeracy will be available. Guidance will be provided to show what evidence can be extracted from courses and, with some topping-up of evidence, can be used to gain certification of literacy and numeracy through free standing units.

6. Further information about the formal recognition of literacy and numeracy skills will be provided during the qualification development process. SQA is working directly with the education community to make sure that all new qualifications take forward the aims of Curriculum for Excellence and meet the needs of schools, colleges, learners and end users. SQA will also be maximising the use of their website and other on-line communication to share information and encourage feedback from a wider professional audience. Information on proposals for the future suites of National Courses will be published in SQA’s Overview of Qualification reports for each curriculum area which will be available on their website from the end of July. People can also sign up to SQA’s ‘My Alerts Service’ (www.sqa.org.uk/myalerts) to receive email alerts of the latest CfE news from SQA direct to their in-box.

7. Finally, Management Board approved advice on reporting which was issued at the end of June and is available on the CfE website within the BtC 5 suite of documents. That advice indicates that parents and learners will continue to receive reports on progress in all curriculum areas, including literacy and numeracy, at all stages. Reports will also provide information on a learner’s progress within and through curriculum levels and the guidance provides further advice on reporting progress within a level.

8. I appreciate that I am sending this letter in the holiday period but I know many of you have in-service CPD days planned for the first few days of the new academic year and wanted you to have the update in good time for the discussions you will be having then. Many thanks in advance for your help in disseminating this information as widely as possible.

Yours sincerely

Colin MacLean
Chair, Curriculum for Excellence Management Board

Curriculum for Excellence Progress Reports

Progress Reports for seven of the eight Curricular Areas are now available on the SQA website:

Progress Reports summarise the findings and conclusions of SQA’s research and engagement with stakeholders and give recommendations on the scope, skills and issues within each curriculum area.

The first of our Reports are now available for seven of the eight curriculum areas: expressive arts, health and wellbeing, languages, mathematics, sciences, social studies and technologies as well as literacy and numeracy. Work on the report for religious and moral education is continuing and this will be published in July.

Don’t forget that you can keep up to date with developments in your subject at SQA by using their MyAlerts system and you can also nominate yourself for subject working groups.

Statement from the CfE Management Board

The Curriculum for Excellence Management Board met on Thursday 22nd April to discuss, amongst other things, the Cabinet Secretary’s recommendations in his ten-point plan.

The Management Board’s response was as follows:

At its meeting today, the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board considered a range of evidence on progress of the programme. The Board discussed a range of issues raised by teachers, parents and other stakeholders. The Board believes that some of these have already been addressed through recent developments and is committed to tackling the issues which remain, including the need to continue to build teacher confidence.

Overall, the Board is assured that the existing programme plan remains realistic and achievable.

The Board will continue to monitor the plan closely, taking appropriate action to address any issues which may arise as the programme progresses, including issues affecting the current timetable for the development and delivery of the new National Qualifications.

The Board welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s proposal to remove the qualifications in Literacy and Numeracy from S3, and will provide advice in due course on an alternative approach.

The Board acknowledged the EIS position that there should be a year’s delay in the implementation of the new National Qualifications. However, the other members were persuaded that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that the qualifications timetable will be met and the concerns of teachers can be addressed.

Some key messages from this:

  • The Curriculum for Excellence timeline continues as planned.
  • The literacy & numeracy qualifications in S3 have been removed.

New National 4 and 5 Qualifications: Design Principles

The SQA have published the design principles for the new National 4 & 5 Qualifications. You can view them on the SQA website, download the PDF or read them below:

The design principles are the blueprint for developing the new qualifications.

The Design of New National Qualifications

The new courses will use a new type of unit – more skills-based, less prescriptive, and more user-friendly. These units will require knowledge and understanding as well as skills.

Their specifications will be more flexible and open. They will have fewer, broader outcomes that encourage holistic assessment, and will rely on assessors to exercise professional judgement instead of having to satisfy long lists of criteria.

Both National 4 and National 5 will be based on a nominal 160 hours of study, and in both there will be flexibility in the number of units.


Assessment will be appropriate to the subject and level, and will include practical work, performance, case studies, examinations and projects. All Unit assessment will be assessed pass/fail within centres. SQA will provide rigorous external quality assurance, including external verification, to ensure assessment judgements are consistent and meet national standards.

To be awarded the Course, learners would have to provide evidence which meets the requirements of all of the units and (for National 5) pass an external assessment.

Where it is appropriate for the subject area, qualification designers will develop a combined assessment that will provide evidence that the learner has achieved the requirements of the units, reducing the amount of assessment required. Unit by unit assessments will be also available for learners who need to build up their achievement over time.

Adding value

Each course will include a 40-hour added value element.

For National 4, the course will include an added value unit. This will require the learner to demonstrate depth of understanding and/or application of skills. This will not be graded.

For National 5, the course will include an external assessment. This will sample breadth, depth and application from across the Course. The external assessment will be graded.

The full technical version will be available shortly.

More from the SQA on their CfE Website: sqa.org.uk/curriculumforexcellence