Learned Societies’ Group response to SQA’s consultation on proposed modifications to National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher assessments for 2020-21

The Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish STEM Education (LSG) was pleased to hear that SQA were consulting on proposed modifications to National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher course assessments for 2020-21. However, given that courses have already started, it was felt there was limited opportunity to consider potential changes, especially given the importance of ensuring that any changes are communicated to the teaching profession in good time.

The LSG had previously proposed a reduction in examinable course content for 2020-21 back in May 2020 in a letter to members of the Scottish Government COVID-19 Education Recovery Group. Recognising that schools and classrooms take different approaches to curriculum delivery, it recommended that any changes in content be consulted upon and communicated to schools as early as possible and offered its assistance in this regard. The LSG was therefore disappointed this proposal was not acted upon at that time as it would have allowed teachers and pupils more time to understand and adapt to any changes.

While the LSG in principle supposed SQA’s proposals to modify assessments, it believed the proposed changes to STEM assessments would be insufficient to alleviate the risks posed to pupils by additional impacts on their schooling due to COVID-19. In particular, the LSG supported reductions in the length of exams, greater flexibility, and the modification of assignments whilst still providing for high-quality practical lab work as much as possible.