Coronavirus (COVID-19) - replacement of National Qualifications exams in 2021 session: equalities impact and Fairer Scotland Duty assessment

Equality impact assessment to consider the impacts on groups with protected characteristics and/or those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage of replacing the examination diet for National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers in 2020 to 2021 with an alternative certification model.

4. Methodology

In assessing the equalities and socio-economic impacts, a range of evidence has been considered to supplement understanding gained through both SQA and Scottish Government monitoring and engagement.

There is an existing evidence base on the use of teacher estimates, and this was considered in the context of this policy. This includes:

  • A desk based review of evidence was compiled by SQA for the Equality Impact Assessment[9] published on the use of teacher estimates of grades in August 2020 and highlights evidence from a range of sources including Ofqual Research and Analysis Literature Review and Rules of the Game (Wyness 2017). This also considered learners experiencing socio-economic disadvantage.
  • Analyses of teacher estimates and attainment data using the Scottish Government pupil census[10] and attainment data statistical analysis of the protected characteristics. This analysis covers learners across all publicly funded schools. No information on pupils at independent schools is held centrally.

In addition to evidence on the use of teacher estimates, consideration has also been given to the outcomes and recommendations of the independent review of the National Qualifications 2020 experience, conducted by Professor Mark Priestley and published in early October 2020.

  • The outcomes of SQA’s consultation exercises in August 2020 one on potential adjustments to course assessment, and one on the timing of the exam diet – have also been considered.

The governance group overseeing Scotland’s education recovery – the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG), chaired by the Deputy First Minister – considered these points on numerous occasions including during their early October and December 2020 meetings. A young person, nominated by the Scottish Youth Parliament, also joined this group in early November.

The Qualifications Contingency Group, which is usually convened should circumstances occur which have the potential to cause disruption to the qualifications system, discussed this matter at their meetings on 5 October 2020 and 4 December 2020.

Furthermore, the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) which pulls together stakeholders from across the education system to discuss curriculum and assessment policy, have discussed national qualifications and assessment, including the proposed ACM, on a number of occasions. So too have the Teacher Panel and BOSCH group in separate meetings with the Deputy First Minister and Scottish Government officials.

Information on the extent of interruption to the education of Higher and Advanced Higher candidates across local authorities was also gathered by Education Scotland at the end of November. And a session with college principals was facilitated by Colleges Scotland in early October.

The National Qualifications 2021 Group which is chaired by SQA and includes representatives from ADES, EIS, SLS, SCIS, Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland and the National Parent Forum Scotland (NPFS) has been meeting weekly since October to consider the alternative assessment approach for National Qualifications in lieu of the exams being cancelled.

In addition, the Scottish Government has continued to engage with young people, parents, teacher representative bodies and others since schools returned to full-time teaching in August and the subsequent return to remote learning after Christmas, in light of ongoing public health concerns. These include:

  • Discussions with senior representatives from NPFS in September 2020 and consideration of their own survey (conducted in November 2020) to canvas parental views on whether to continue with the Higher and Advanced Higher exams.
  • A private Ministerial panel discussions with Senior Phase pupils from Fife, Perth and Kinross, and Highlands and Islands in early October and early December 2020.

All of these discussions have helped inform this Equalities and Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment. The Scottish Government continues to discuss these matters with young people, parents/carers and teachers via CERG, National Qualifications 2021 and other formal and informal forums described above.



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