Reforming qualifications and assessment

New national qualifications to be developed.

Exams and national qualifications are to be reformed, the Education Secretary has confirmed.

Shirley-Anne Somerville said new qualifications will be developed to ensure learners’ achievements are fairly recognised. It is expected that externally marked exams will remain part of the new assessment approach.

Learners studying for national qualifications in spring next year will not be affected by any changes.

A wide range of views will be sought on the reforms, with young people and teachers informing how the new system will work.

The decision to make changes was influenced by:

  • the recommendations in the OECD’s independent review of Scotland’s school curriculum
  • renewed debate about assessment following the cancellation, due to COVID-19, of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 and 2021
  • a paper by renowned academic Professor Gordon Stobart setting out options on Scotland’s future approach to assessment and qualifications

The Education Secretary made the announcement as she updated Parliament on plans to implement the 12 recommendations in the OECD’s review of Curriculum for Excellence. The OECD’s recommendations are being taken forward and will involve input from stakeholders including children and young people.

Ms Somerville said:

“It remains a key priority of this Government to ensure that our approaches to curriculum and assessment are fit for purpose and so guarantee the best possible educational experience for children and young people, not least as we emerge from the pandemic.

“I am convinced that given the experience and views expressed over the last two years, the time is right to signal that the Scottish Government supports reform of national qualifications and assessment.

“It will be vital when considering reform that we work with all those with an interest, to, as far as possible, build a consensus on this issue.

“We will consult on the purpose and principles which should underpin any reform of national qualifications and assessment. This will be the first step in a process which must be done with careful thought and consideration, recognising the importance of national qualifications to learners.”

A reference group, led by Professor Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation at Glasgow University, will be set up to provide advice to Ministers on the reforms.

Professor Hayward said:

“Professor Stobart’s review offers Scottish education an opportunity to bring the vision for Curriculum for Excellence and practice in the senior phase into better alignment: to design a system that offers better life chances for every young person. 

“In the senior phase, assessment and qualifications matter for all young people, their parents/carers, their teachers, to local authorities and regional improvement collaboratives, to colleges, universities and employers. 

“Any change needs to be based on insights from each of those communities and grounded in evidence from research. Crucially, the voices of young people, so often peripheral to debates in the past, must be listened to and heard.”


OECD report backs Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence review: Implementation Framework

Scotland’s approach to future assessment and qualifications


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