Should Assignments and Projects be externally assessed by SQA

  • chalove

    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) just the tip of the iceberg.

    The current situation places 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.

    Andy McSwan

    I think this should be handled by the SQA and not internally assessed.


    The nature of our assessments and principally the marking of these assessments is a much more complex operation than was the case pre-Nationals. Look at a current Information Systems Higher assignment, say (which is studied in our school). It’s relatively straightforward to apply the marking scheme consistently for all candidates in all schools with different members of teaching staff due to the system of ‘micro marking’ in place. Not so in the new National awards, and with the holistic approach to marking.

    To ensure that all candidates are being marked consistently and fairly it stands to reason that external marking should be the norm in computing science as in other subjects.

    Chris Wilson

    I do not want to mark assignments.

    I am not employed by the SQA.

    I am employed as a teacher and my terms and conditions are set nationally (and in part locally) through negotiation between my professional association and my employer. These conditions cannot be varied by my employer never mind by an organisation that is not my employer.

    Last Easter as colleagues went off to enjoy their holiday the Computing and Technical staff in my school were filling up their car boots with vast amounts of unpaid additional marking.

    I would very much support a campaign to rectify this situation and remove this additional and unfair workload burden.

    No lurkers on this thread please.

    Even if CompEdNet members just reply ‘I agree’ that would help to gather opinion on the matter.

    Lee Murray

    I agree that assignments should be externally marked. For the reasons already mentioned but also because of my experience of verification.

    My assignments were verified and I was given an unconditional acceptance, despite my marks being consistently 5 to 8 marks too harsh. I was given no indication as to where I was being too harsh and as far as I could tell (going by the information in the assessment pack) I had followed the marking scheme perfectly (I have since found out through informal conversation with verifiers where I MAY have gone wrong).

    If we don’t have the appropriate information and training required to accurately mark an assignment, then why should we be expected to mark them?

    Richard Tierney

    I can only tell you of my experiences teaching both Nat 5 Business and Nat 5 computing. SQA has never made public an example(s) of a correct or good example of a Business Management assignment. I am therefore as much in the dark this year as last.
    In computing, on the other hand, we have this forum and the chance to make our own decisions.

    For the record – I was verified in both subjects last year and my errors in Business meant none in Computing.


    Did we not used to be able to claim for marking SG work? The concern I have is that we are not given feedback on where the marks are awarded. As already mentioned in this forum SQA don’t tell you their thinking on this. The ‘marking schemes’ we are given are very poor and most of the time it educated guesswork as to what they are looking for. I have heard that we are supposed to get feedback but this doesn’t seem to be happening. In summary, if we got paid to do it fine, if not it should be marked by SQA and in both cases ‘useful’ feedback is imperative.


    I think they should be externally assessed by the SQA.

    Robert Young

    I would agree that these should be external assessed.


    I was verified twice last year for the SDD Unit and then for the assignment at National 5. These scripts took approx. 1 hour each to mark and annotate the paperwork, ensure that all materials were as they should be and package up with the paper work that goes along with that. I did pass both verifications, however as the only member of the department who teaches certificate classes this was a workload issue. I would welcome a change to external marking by the SQA.

    Vi Smyth

    I also agree that these should be externally assessed


    I agree they should be externally marked.

    Chris MacLeod

    The assignments should definitely be externally assessed both to remove the excessive burden of marking from computing teachers and to ensure consistency for the candidates.

    Tracy Rennie

    I agree they should be externally marked for all of the above reasons.


    If some subjects are going to be externally marked then they should all be externally marked. The cross marking is also problematic for one teacher departments and given the amount of unclear and unsatisfactory verification going on, the SQA should mark them all and verify itself…

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