Now that Curriculum for Excellence is coming into place, we need a new framework for assessment as well as new qualifications that best support and reflect children’s learning. This will raise standards of achievement, improve learning experiences and develop skills for learning, life and work. Assessment is crucial to tracking progress, planning next steps, reporting and involving parents and learners in learning. Evidence of progress can be gathered by learners themselves, and by fellow pupils (peers), parents, teachers and other professionals, e.g. staff who provide youth development opportunities such as the John Muir Award and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

What is new?

  • A more effective and consistent system of assessment and updated qualifications.
  • A better connected assessment system with smoother links through pre-school, primary, secondary school and college.
  • More ways of assessing progress to support learning and more flexibility to meet learners’ individual needs.
  • Schools will provide profiles of learner achievement at key points – e.g. end of P7 and S3.


Teachers carry out ongoing assessment to see what children know, understand and are able to do. They assess in a number of ways – watching pupils carry out tasks like practical investigations; performances, presentations and discussions; learners’ assessment of their own work and comparisons with others; written responses like tests; and evaluation of a final product e.g. a piece of artwork, report or a project.

When will teachers assess a child’s learning?

Assessment will take place throughout the school year. Parents are key partners in learning, and assessment gives them a chance to be involved in understanding, reviewing and planning next steps. Parents can discuss any concerns or questions about their child’s learning with the school.

  • Self assessment – learners will be encouraged and supported to look at and revisit their own work, to develop a better understanding of what they have learned, and what they need to work on.
  • Peer assessment – learners will be encouraged and supported to work together to help others assess what is good about their work and what needs to be worked on.
  • Personal learning planning – pupils, teachers and parents will work together to develop planning for next steps in learning.
  • Profiles – a record or statement of learning and achievements both within and outwith school, was introduced at P7 (2011/12) and S3 (2012/13), and will possibly be introduced at other stages at a later date. A range of formats can be used, including ePortfolios.



Reporting informs parents of progress. This could be through a range of approaches, such as at meetings, at parents’ evenings, in written form, ‘Learning Wall’ displays and ‘I Can’ folders. Reporting can already take the form of written reports, children presenting their learning to parents, parents evenings and on-going discussions. This will continue and parents will receive at least annual reports on their child’s progress. Reports will provide clear, positive and constructive feedback about children’s learning and their progress against national standards and expectations. As at present, there are no set formats for written reports, with each Local Authority (Council) having flexibility to develop their own, in line with national guidance.

Key phrases that could be used in reporting are:

  • Developing – where the learner is working to acquire skills or knowledge.
  • Consolidating – where the learner is building competence and confidence in using the skills or knowledge.
  • Secure – where the learner is able to apply the skills nor knowledge confidently in more complex or new situations.


What are profiles?

All children and young people will have their achievements and progress formally recorded in a ‘profile’ at key points of change – e.g. moving from primary to secondary. The profile confirms how they are doing, records their achievements and progress against national standards and expectations, noting any awards. It covers all curriculum areas studied and records achievement in literacy and numeracy. It also contains a learner statement – their thoughts on their own achievements.



The new approaches to learning that CfE brings requires new assessment methods and qualifications, which are being developed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). SQA is working with parents, teachers, colleges, universities, employers and the Scottish Government to make sure national standards are maintained.


How are qualifications changing?

  • National 4 replaces Standard Grade General and Intermediate 1. It will be assessed by teachers.
  • National 5 replaces Standard Grade Credit and Intermediate 2. It will involve a final external assessment; usually an exam plus other types of assessment like coursework or performance.
  • Access 3 replaces Standard Grade Foundation.
  • Access, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications all remain and will be refreshed.


All the new and refreshed qualifications will be quality assured by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to ensure standards and credibility are maintained.


What will be different?

  • Young people will have access to a wider range of qualifications and learning experiences that reflect their abilities and aspirations.
  • There will be more flexibility, with qualifications being taken over 1 or 2 years.
  • There will be more partnership arrangements between schools, colleges, training providers and local employers.
  • Young people will be able to take National 4 and 5 qualifications in S4, S5 and S6 or by-pass these and go straight to Highers if they are ready for it. This gives more flexibility to meet the needs of learners.


When will there be more information about new qualifications?

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is responsible for developing the new qualifications. It is already working on this with teachers, colleges, universities, parents and employers. The timeline is:

  • 2010 – 2012 development of new qualifications
  • 2012 – 2013 last Standard Grades
  • 2013 – 2014 first new and revised qualifications at Access and National 4 and 5
  • 2014 – 2015 first revised Higher qualifications
  • 2015 – 2016 first revised Advanced Higher qualifications


For more information on development of the new National Qualifications see

A leaflet for parents, Qualifications are changing – A guide for parents and carers, has been distributed to schools and can be downloaded from the SQA website at

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