Campaign: Should assignments and projects be externally assessed?

9 years ago

The assignment element of our new qualifications in Computing Science are set by the SQA but currently internally assessed by classroom teachers and externally verified. However the majority of other subject areas and levels are externally assessed by the SQA. Even a cursory a look at the SQA web site reveals the following subjects areas and levels have externally assessed assignments: Business Management (N5, H, AH), Physics (N5, H, AH), English (N5, H, AH), Chemistry (N5, H, AH), Administration and IT (N5, H), Geography (N5, H, AH) and History (N5, H, AH) are just the tip of the iceberg.

However, there are some good reasons for the internal assessment of Computing Science – the approach supports candidates and the marker understands the level of support given. Also, the  number of programming languages used could make external assessment a more challenging task to complete.

The current situation does place additional workload on Computing Science teachers and is seen, by some, as unfair particularly as teachers receive no additional payment for this marking and the assessments themselves are complex and require between 45 minutes to an hour each to mark. A change to externally assessed assignments/projects could be made with very little change needed to the assessments themselves. The existing tasks would be valid but would be sent away for marking instead of being marked by the class teacher.  Such a change would need to be taken to iROCC, the group within SQA which agrees course details and changes and is unlikely to be made by the SQA itself given the costs they’ve managed to avoid incurring compared to most other school qualifications they administer.

Before we start a major campaign to seek immediate change in this area we’d like to know what you think. Do you want to mark assignments or do you think that assignments/projects should be marked externally by SQA? If there is general support to move forward with this campaign we would engage in a sustained process of lobbying through CAS Scotland to make the case for change, reduce the burden of assessment and make more time for teaching. 


Please use the comments below this article to contribute OR contribute to the Higher Computing Science Forum here.


  1. I totally agree that Computing Science assignments should be externally assessed. Computing Science teachers are not given any extra time in school to mark assessments. If some subjects are marked externally, then ALL subjects should be. Else the SQA should pay teachers the equivalent of their hourly teaching wage rate to mark the assessments.

    Moira Feldman said on 02/12/2014 at 9:12 am Reply
  2. Definately agree that the assignment be externally marked.

    Vince Avarl said on 02/12/2014 at 10:09 am Reply
  3. I remember attending a markers meeting when to my surprise, one of my student’s programming work was used as an exercise. My students were using Prolog as a programming language for Higher Computing at the time,which had obviously flummoxed some of those attending. Marks ranged from 5 to 28 out of 30. I can see the attraction of external marking by the SQA, but the wide variety of programming languages now being used might make finding enough markers familiar with all the possibilities rather tricky.

    ianking said on 02/12/2014 at 6:39 pm Reply
    • @ianking – that is the SQA’s problem. The fact that no specific language is prescribed for Unit Assessment or Coursework in any of the current Computing/Computing Science qualifications is well documented in the relevant arrangements, so SQA have to be be prepared for that and stand by their own paperwork. If they are not then this yet another way that they are not fit for purpose.

      With regards to the issue as a whole, I have raised it with representatives of three of the teaching unions in Glasgow as it has legal implications regarding inequality of working conditions. The negotiated Working Time Agreements in schools will have to be different for teachers affected by this issue. If no consideration is made then affected teachers are being discriminated against.

      Enrico Vanni said on 03/12/2014 at 6:10 pm Reply
  4. I agree that the coursework should be externally marked. This would bring some equity across the range of subjects.

    jasebain said on 02/12/2014 at 9:22 pm Reply
  5. I would be happy to continue to mark Computing Science Assignments as long as the additional workload that comes with that is recognised through payment in as similar way to the old Standard Grade. Alternatively, Working Time Agreements should be altered to reflect the time spent marking them.

  6. I agree with previous comments on where any responsibility rests in finding appropriately skilled markers – and it is certainly not the teaching profession, since we are not an ‘awarding body’. I am not averse to internal assessment since teachers are the only people positioned to determine the guidance that pupils might need and to mark accordingly; however, I agree with Moira that there should be remuneration for this additional activity, but I would also like internal assessment to be ‘voluntary’ whereby colleagues who do not wish to mark can send scripts off to ‘expert markers’ at SQA.

    Jan Holt said on 11/01/2015 at 4:14 pm Reply

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