More news from NATE(S)

It’s been an interesting August for Scottish education, hasn’t it? With a furore over SQA results – happily now resolved by the government’s unusual decision to actually trust teachers’ judgments – and justifiable concerns about a full time return to school in the middle of a pandemic, there’s been a lot  to occupy our thoughts.

NATE(S) has been busy trying to support you.  We’ve held a number of webinars, all available on our SATE YouTube channel.  Google guru Tom Coles kicked off with a session on Blended Learning, and NATE(S) coordinator Raymond Soltysek followed that up with a webinar on techniques for teaching  RUAE. A panel discussion for probationers and NQTs featured Sharon Loder from the University of Strathclyde and Leanne Welsh, student mentor and author of the NQT Reflections blog, along with former probationers.

A session on Decolonising the Curriculum with Nav Govender from the University of Strathclyde and Mélina Valdelièvre of the Anti-Racist Educator collective provided some timely advice on how we can construct and deliver a curriculum that is truly anti-racist.  Follow the collective on their blog and on Twitter.

The SQA results situation prompted a high level panel discussion featuring Tom Coles, Raymond Soltysek, Mélina Valdelièvre and the legendary Kenny Pieper and Lindsey Duncan.  NATE(S) hopes to have an input at all levels of future discussions, and we will publish our response to the SQA consultative exercise shortly.

Our last webinar featured Susan Brownlie and Tom Coles in discussion with Paula Cowan and Henry Maitles of the University of the West of Scotland about the teaching of The Holocaust in the English classroom.  NATE(S) has visited this in the past (see our previous blog for reactions to an earlier session with The Holocaust Education Trust), and we’d recommend their advice on resources which are appropriate to use (and resources, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which are inappropriate to use!) when considering The Holocaust with your classes.  You’ll find some here and here.

Upcoming, we have a range of fascinating sessions planned, on alternatives to National and Higher courses, personal reading, the Scottish set texts and using Scots in the English classroom.  If you have any requests for sessions you’d like to see or you’d like to offer a session yourself, please get in touch at and we’ll have a chat.  Consider joining NATE, our parent organisation, which offers access to a plethora of resources and to the only magazine and research journal dedicated solely to teaching English in the UK.

In the meantime, stay safe, enjoy your time with your pupils and subscribe to our blog, YouTube channel and Twitter account to keep updated.

SQA – advice to English teachers

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:

Component Marks
Reading for understanding, analysis and evaluation 30 Marks
Critical reading 40 Marks
Portfolio–writing 30 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 (

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.



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