SSTA Survey on SQA changes to National 5 Qualifications

In addition to the report in today’s Times Education Supplement (Scotland) the SSTA has written to John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, asking for an urgent review of the changes to National 5 Qualifications introduced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and intended for implementation in 2017-2018 session.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “The SSTA welcomed the decision of the Minister to reduce workload for learners and teachers by making the National 5 Units non-mandatory. However, the solutions announced by SQA on 31 January have not been received well in schools by SSTA members” (see SSTA Survey Report ).

“The survey showed a concern for pupils and a belief that teacher workload will be increased as a result of the changes. The response from members was that 63% believed the proposed SQA changes overall would result in an increase in workload with a further 18% indicated there would be no change to workload”.

Seamus Searson added “The changes have been put through without consultation with the SSTA and most importantly the teachers in the school who have to try and deliver the courses. S3 Pupils have already made course choices without teachers being in the position of the detail and outcomes of the new proposals. At the recent SSTA Council meeting members wanted the whole process to stop but we need to find a practical solution very quickly for the pupils who are moving onto the new courses”.

Euan Duncan, SSTA President concluded “The overriding concern of SSTA members to the changes was for their pupils. Members believed that candidate stress would rise as a consequence of the SQA’s proposals.  Candidates at the margins risked having additional barriers that could reduce their chances of success.  These changes have no done anything to address the Bi level and Tri level courses in many of our secondary schools”.

Teacher comments taken from the SSTA Survey

“All our N5 materials must be revamped from learning outcomes (course booklets, homework, powerpoints, class tests, S3 Exam, S4 Prelims). Worryingly we will not know about these changes until September by the time the timetable will be up and running and we will have no time to develop the materials required”.

“The removal of end of unit tests will not reduce work load as these will have to be replaced by internal testing of some description for reporting. To reduce work load they should remove the assignments in Nat 5 & higher and the AV unit in Nat 4”.

“I have never supported strike action before - but I would do so now as I am at a loss as to understand how these changes are going to improve attainment. I no longer have the confidence in knowing what I am supposed to teach and how!”

“The ‘removal’ of units is great - however - we are almost certainly going to have to continue to teach national 3, 4 and 5 in the same class, and at the moment, for any pupils who end up being national 3 or 4, this means they will still need to have passed unit assessments and so all pupils will have to complete a unit assessment anyway!”

 “I do not see how removing an 'element' of the course to reduce workload and then adding more onto other areas can in any way be deemed a way to reduce teacher workload. Is anybody actually asking teachers on the front line? All the resources and materials we have produced for the assignment over the last few years may now just be put in the bin - a waste (yet again) of time, money and resources”.

“It seems like retaliation for commenting on workload issues; the changes will have little or no effect on workload and the consequences of removing units has a big knock on effect on borderline National 5/ National 4 pupils. In school we are told that all pupils will be entered for National 5 regardless of their ability and then we find great difficulties changing their level when they do not pass the existing Unit assessments”.

The SSTA Survey Report on the can be downloaded at the following link -  SSTA Survey Report

Further information from:

Seamus Searson
General Secretary


10 March 2017