Write Times 2

The SQA recently published Write Times 2 to celebrate the writing of pupils in National Qualifications.  Leanne Welsh went along to the launch event to represent SATE. 



Opportunities are often taken to celebrate the success of pupils involved in physical activities such as sporting achievements and practical accomplishments; however there are not always opportunities to celebrate the written accomplishments of young people in Scotland – until now.

Write Times 2 is a collection of fantastic creative writing produced by SQA candidates over the past academic year.  The book includes: fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. The pupils in this collection of writing have used their talent to share compelling personal experiences, as well as thought-provoking pieces on fairy-tales with a twist.  The work in this collection is inspirational and a free copy will be sent to every school in Scotland!

The SQA Write Times 2 launch was a fantastic night filled with fascinating readings and performances from pupils across Scotland.   We were introduced to the event by John Loughton who is the chief executive officer of leadership training company Dare2Lead and a motivational speaker. John stressed the importance of putting young people’s voice at the heart of what we do as they are, after all, the future. Their views need to be taken into consideration and prioritised as they will be the ones who will inspire positive change for future generations to come.

The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, followed on from John’s speech and he also emphasised young people’s shrewd awareness of current world affairs. Some of the pupils in this collection have chosen to write about these concerns and the affect they have on them personally. This is one reason why this collection is so inspiring.  The collection clarifies what our young people are capable of. They are often more aware of what is going on than we are because, as we get older, we are often too wrapped up in our own world to see the bigger picture.  The pupils show maturity when dealing with the major issues of today and there is no doubt that this collection reflects the talent and ambition of the young people in Scotland.

All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

In addition to these fantastic speeches, we were also lucky enough to hear some of the pupils read their work at the launch event. Hannah, from the High School of Dundee, started the readings with her creative story: ‘Gone Mad’.   This piece is a fairy-tale with a twist and tells the story of what really happened after Cinderella met her Fairy Godmother and animal friends. Hannah’s use of language in this piece is superb.  An example of language is shown through her description of a hut as ‘showing the scars and wounds left by the forest and its harsh climate’.  She also adds humour to her story and, again, shows young people’s awareness of the issues around them with the lines: ‘Well ladies.  Never invest all your happiness in happy ever after – develop your own independence’. ‘Gone Mad’ is an enjoyable and, at times, dark piece and I’m sure it will inspire many pupils in Scotland to have the confidence to adapt another fairy-tale or story.

All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

Another amazing piece of writing came in the form of a poem by Mahee from Kelvinside Academy. Mahee’s poem, titled ‘My Grandfather’, describes his experience of being a first generation Scot and the difficulties that can derive from the confluence of two cultures. One of the many lines that stood out to me was: ‘he holds my soft hands in his calloused paws’. Mahee’s use of language clearly shows the contrast between his roots and the life he lives now. Many pupils have shied away from poetry in the past, however I hope that Mahee’s piece will inspire many to take on the challenge and create their own poems in order to express their own thoughts and ideas.


All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

The final reading of the night came from Michelle, from Eastwood High School, and this was a performance to remember.  Michelle created a non-fiction piece titled: ‘Nyumbani Means Home’. The audience were lucky enough to witness this piece as a theatrical adaption. Tram Direct Theatre supported Michelle, and her co-star Asante, with the performance and it was spectacular.  Michelle took on the role of herself in Scotland, and Asante performed as Michelle from Kenya. In this piece Michelle explores her experience of both Scottish and Kenyan culture and the potential for conflicting feelings to arise. We were treated to Kenyan culture and ceilidh dancing as Michelle tried to decide where she really belonged. However, by the end of the performance, Michelle stressed the importance of being an individual with the powerful line: ‘I’m Michelle Mwende Nyawira Musyoka, daughter of all counties and citizen to none.’  The performance was truly inspirational and Michelle’s piece can be read in the non-fiction section of Write Times 2.

The launch event filled me with ideas to share with my own classes and I’m sure pupils, from across Scotland, will read these pieces and be inspired to create something that is just as powerful and thought-provoking. I was enthused, but not surprised, by the confidence and talent showcased at this event. I’m sure that all the young people in this collection will go on to inspire the next generation of pupils to be ambitious and original.

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 (jay.depellette@sqa.org.uk).

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.