Scots firms are devising their own tests for candidates due to confusion over school qualifications

(Rui Vieira / PA)


BUSINESSES are developing their own exams to test candidates due to confusion over school qualifications, MSPs have heard.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) chief executive Janet Brown faced questions at Holyrood on the controversial National 4 qualifications, which have no external exams.

National 4s were brought in as part of the Curriculum for Excellence along with National 5s to replace Standard Grade courses.

Conservative Michelle Ballantyne questioned Ms Brown at the Education and Skills Committee on the extent of SQA’s engagement with employers.

The South Scotland MSP said there was “a lot of confusion” among some businesses over National 4s.

She said: “A lot of employers are telling me that they are going to devise their own assessments when they are trying to recruit people because they really don’t understand it any more. So what are you doing about that?”

Ms Brown said the SQA engaged with businesses during the development of qualifications, adding: “Working with employers is an absolutely critical part of what we do.”

She said businesses were comfortable with the concept of internal and ongoing assessment as used in National 4.

She added: “I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is an increasing concern about how National 4 is perceived across the board and we need to go back and have that further discussion with them on that”.

She said the SQA had carried out research on National 4s and there was a difference of opinion on the qualifications across the country, within local authorities, schools and subjects, but a “significant proportion” of teachers believed there should be an external assessment, in some cases exams, at the end.

She added: “Those opinions vary from the fact that both learners and some teachers both felt that not having an exam for National 4 was an appropriate way of doing it as it prepared people for a different pathway, potentially going into college and other vocational qualifications that are internally assessed, whilst others felt that the lack of an exam was an issue that needed to be addressed.”

She told the committee the Scottish Government’s working group on Assessment and National Qualifications (ANQ), chaired by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, would make a decision on the future of the qualification which would be carried out by SQA.

Repeatedly asked if the SQA would present an opinion on National 4 at the next ANQ meeting and what the organisation’s opinion would be, she replied: “The SQA will be giving the pros and cons of the different options that will be available.”