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.

 

 

Literacy and Well-being: some reactions (1)

Laura Jamison is an NQT based at Lochend Community High School in Glasgow. She recently attended the SATE seminar on literacy and well-being presented by Professor Sue Ellis.

As a NQT at the beginning of my school career, the idea of closing the attainment gap in schools is a daunting task which, at times, seems impossible. Professor Sue Ellis highlighted the fact that social class and poverty have the biggest impact on literacy development in Scotland.  She commented that every child comes to school with a virtual backpack filled with experience but only a handful of students get to unpack the bag. This comment really challenged me as I reflected on the content of my classes and realised the importance of trying to make every lesson relevant to every child. This idea seems impossible but Ellis offered some really simple, practical ways to do this and by the end of the seminar I felt more confident in addressing the issue in school.

Professor Ellis emphasised the importance of encouraging students to read, not just for the purpose of closing the gap, but for enjoyment as well. As English teachers it is all too easy to constantly analyse everything we read and ask questions that we already know the answer to. In reality, this takes much of the enjoyment out of the process of reading for many students. Ellis reminded us that reading is an enjoyable task and we should offer students the chance to read texts that they enjoy, whether that’s a guide to fishing or a Steinbeck novel. If students bring prior knowledge to a text they become an ‘insider’ and their motivation to read and learn more is higher. It gives them ownership of their learning and boosts their confidence as they can bring something to the table before even opening the book.

I think that many English teachers would agree that one of the best parts of our job is being able to share literature that we love with students. The seminar reminded me that some students might not appreciate, or be able to relate to, the same texts as I do and it is our job to make sure that every student feels like an ‘insider’ within their own learning.