Jay de Pellette (Qualifications Officer, English and Literacy) offers the latest SQA advice to teachers of English on recent changes to the curriculum and qualifications structures and on available advice and resources.
Changes to assessment in National 5 English course
As announced by the Deputy First Minister in September 2016, units and unit assessments are being removed from all National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses on a phased basis over three years:
- 2017/18 academic session – National 5 (changes already implemented)
- 2018/19 academic session – Higher
- 2019/20 academic session – Advanced Higher
The National 5 English course is now assessed through the following components:
|Reading for understanding, analysis and evaluation||30 Marks|
|Critical reading||40 Marks|
|Performance–spoken language||Achieved/not achieved|
Following the removal of units and unit assessments, the decision was taken to retain assessment of talking and listening skills within the National 5 English course through the creation of a new course component — performance–spoken language. The introduction of this new course component ensures that all four literacy skills continue to be assessed.
The performance–spoken language component is internally assessed by teachers on an achieved/not achieved basis. Historic delivery experience in Scotland, and research from awarding bodies across the UK, indicates that the most successful way of assessing speaking and listening is on an achieved or not achieved basis.
Full details of the new performance–spoken language component, including detailed marking instructions, can be found in the revised National 5 English course specification which was published in April 2017 and can be found on the National 5 English web page.
An assessment checklist for this component can be found in the course assessment task document, also available on the English subject page. The revised course specification contains information and guidance on all aspects of National 5 English course assessment.
Please note that the spoken language component has a discrete code (HK57 75) which must be entered alongside the course code.
Supportive resources for practitioners
National 5 CPD webinars
To help teachers and lecturers prepare for the changes to assessment in the National 5 English course, we ran a series of subject-specific continuing professional development (CPD) webinars that focused on the requirements of the new course assessment.
These webinars provided a detailed overview of the new National 5 English Performance–spoken language component.
Recordings of these webinars are available to view online via our website and can be accessed from the CPD webinar/audio and support tab on the National 5 English web page.
Q&A document on the changes to assessment
We have published a Q&A document that provides answers to the questions asked during the National 5 English Performance–spoken language webinar, as well as questions we have received from teachers and lecturers. You can access the Q&A document from the National 5 English web page
Understanding Standards materials
We have published Understanding Standards materials which exemplify assessment of the new performance–spoken language component. Understanding Standards materials are intended to provide teachers, lecturers and assessors with a clear understanding of why specific pieces of candidate evidence have or have not met the national standard.
The new National 5 English Understanding Standards materials includes videos of candidates’ individual presentations and group discussions and are accompanied by example checklists and commentaries on assessment decisions.
These can be found on the Understanding Standards website. Login details, which have been shared with SQA Co-ordinators, are required to view these materials.
Changes to assessment in Higher courses (from academic session 2018/19 onwards)
Units and unit assessments will be removed from Higher courses from academic session 2018/19 and we have already started our review of Higher course assessment across all subjects. For this, we are working closely with our National Qualifications Support Teams (NQSTs) for each subject. Our NQSTs include teachers and lecturers who currently deliver National Courses, and representatives of professional associations. We will also meet with a sample of teachers to gauge their views on the proposed changes and the implications of these.
The publication of new and revised Higher materials will follow a similar timescale to National 5:
|End of April 2018||Revised Higher course specifications|
|End of May 2018 to End of September 2018||Course support notes
New/revised specimen question papers
New/revised coursework assessment tasks
We will provide further information on what the changes to assessment are for each subject by the end of January 2018.
We hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact Jay de Pellette, Qualifications Officer: English and Literacy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
SATE National Coordinator Raymond Soltysek is a member of the National Qualifications Standards Team for English and Literacy. Questions for and representations to the NQST on behalf of SATE can be made through him.