Thursday, 6 April 2017

What exactly is happening with National 5 next year?

If your youngster is starting S4 soon, and taking National qualifications next session, you will probably have picked up on changes being made that might affect them.  It’s been very difficult to keep up with qualifications over the last few years, so here’s a short, plain English, outline of what’s been happening.

Since the new National qualifications were introduced to replace Standard Grades a few years ago, there has been a lot of worry about the massive number of assessments youngsters were expected to take as they worked towards the qualifications. What made it worse was that, while all of the assessments had to be done (they were mandatory), they were not actually taken into account for the qualification.

So, after a lot of pressure on Government and SQA, it was announced that these unit assessments would be removed for N5. On the face of it that sounds good because it should mean that youngsters can focus on their course assessments and the final exam. (In fact, in our view, many young people should be heading straight to Higher if they have the ability, but that is another issue!)

Sadly it is not that simple – one of the things that was lost as a result of this new approach was an option for young people who did not pass at N5. The only good thing about the unit assessments was that they could count towards an N4 if the N5 was failed.

To plug this gap, the Government has now announced that schools will be able to keep using unit assessments, but only in exceptional circumstances.

What these exceptional circumstances will be, we don’t know. It is likely to benefit only a small number of young people, who unfortunately will have to complete both unit and course assessments (including what is called the Added Value Unit – it is needed to get an N4 pass when you have taken N5 units).

It looks more than likely that there will be more changes over the next few years, and we will do our best to keep you posted.

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