Qualification update

Interim changes to National 5.

Moves to ensure the positive achievements of young people sitting National 5 qualifications continue to be recognised have been announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Mandatory unit assessments are being removed from the qualification from the 2017/18 academic year to reduce teacher and pupil workload. As a result, the course assessments for National 5 – a combination of exam and coursework - have been strengthened to maintain their integrity, breadth and standards.

In response to feedback from education leaders and teachers’ representatives, the DFM has confirmed:

  • The grade required to pass National 5 will not change, and remains at 50%. However, Grade D will be extended to include candidates who achieve between 40-49% (from the current 45-49% band).
  • Schools will be able, in exceptional circumstances and for an interim period only, to continue presenting candidates for both National 5 units and the course assessment. This means candidates achieving less than 40% in the course assessment, and who have completed the relevant units, would be awarded a National 4 qualification.

The DFM said: “Removing mandatory unit assessments will significantly reduce teacher workload and the over-assessment experienced by some young people.

“The changes to National 5 agreed by the Assessment and Qualifications Group will begin to be implemented later this year. Ahead of that, I have been listening closely to feedback about the need to ensure the achievements of young people continue to be recognised.

“Teachers and learners are currently making decisions about courses for the next academic year and it is incumbent upon schools and colleges to ensure learners are presented at the appropriate qualification level.

“The new guidance confirms that a fall back option will be available for National 5 on an interim basis only, until such time as the National 4 qualification has been revised. The guidance also makes clear that this should only be used in exceptional circumstances.” 


Updated guidance has been sent to Directors of Education, headteachers and all registered teachers in Scotland.


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