University of Edinburgh

 SQA Special Assessment Arrangements for Sensory Impaired Pupils

Wednesday 26 June 2013

 Feedback & Questions from Group Sessions

Could talks be pre-prepared on the ipad and given instead for someone who is not able to speak?

Augmentative assistive communication may be used if the candidate can meet the assessment standard. You would be looking at all the things assessed within that: in this case talking. It is more than just simply preparing the talk there would have to be a degree of interaction/discussion. If the candidate uses something that would allow that, it may well be acceptable.

Remember the specifications say what is not allowed, everything else is open to individual consideration and SQA will continue as always. When Standard Grade talking was assessed, there was a candidate using technology and delivered the Toast to the Lassies for a Burns Supper. She definitely demonstrated all the criteria for talking, she was a very sophisticated user of her communication device. So it is individual, based on how well a candidate can use the technology. It is not ruled out but it must be talking, it is not a piece of writing being spoken by a machine, you have to meet the criteria for talking.

Added value units are compulsory, as a group we should be looking at these to make sure that the SQA assessment meets the requirements of our candidates.

p>There is flexibility in any of the unit assessments for a centre to devise their own, to modify. For the first couple of years you will have to use the SQA assessment support pack for the Added Value Unit at National 4 - it's about consistency of standards. It would be useful for you to go onto the secure website and have a look at the support packs for the Added Value Units, just to see if there are any particular issues. In special circumstances, they would still be open to something being changed as long as it was prior verified, but the generality of candidates will have to use our own.

There is a deadline for prior-verification of 30th September 2013, so if you need to make substantial modifications they have to be in by then.

The verification deadlines are not something I am au fait with but there will be tight timelines because of the turnaround times. They've got to get verifiers to look at modifications and get them back to you. These timelines will all be on the SQA website under Prior verification.

So is that not as flexible as standard grade, where you could submit alterations almost up to the 11th hour?

Looks like it is not, but if it is just small tweaks they do not need to know about it. For substantial changes, usually a different assessment or video, they will want to know about those early on. The first verification requests are coming out at the end of Oct. So it has got to be approved, back to you and in use by the time you could be getting verified on that unit. Go to the SQA website, every area has a Curriculum for Excellence customer liaison manager, talk to them because they know the deadlines and about flexibility if there are extenuating circumstances.

Teachers are still writing the courses, you don't always know what you're going to be doing. Literacy is across all subjects, so you're not just dealing with one teacher.

Where teachers are still trying to get to grips with the new curriculum, specialist teachers will have to try to be one step ahead. Assessment of literacy will fall within the English department but the idea is that it is delivered across. It is every teacher's responsibility to promote literacy and numeracy. It's an issue for ASL staff to ensure that all departments are aware of assessment needs of candidates.

Progression: if a candidate hasn't achieved National 4 because of the literacy unit, it shouldn't be an issue moving up through the other qualifications?

Yes, candidates can progress to National 5 even if they failed at National 4 (because of the literacy units) but could be capable of National 5, Higher or Advanced Higher. There is no barrier to progression, if the candidate is otherwise progressing in English. Units are certificated and are qualifications in their own right.

Regarding the introduction of Unified English Braille (UEB) in 2015/16. Will there be a crossover period for pupils?

I've brought it to the attention of our Assessment Materials people and I know they have attended a UKAAF (UK Association for Accessible Formats) meeting, so they know about it. There could be a year where students require certain question papers in either format. We need to convene a meeting of key VI representatives in the new term. We would be looking at producing the exams in the appropriate format whenever candidates need them.

SSC is aware of this issue. Literary braille is quite a straightforward transition but mathematics and technical Braille is quite different. SSC will contact the Scottish Mathematics and Science Group (VI) to see what they are planning.

What are the Universities planning too? Lots of change.

There is a problem in English of every teacher using different texts: obviously for producing alternative formats this is difficult. I don't get that information till the start of term, so we're scrambling around and there are shortages of large print anyway. i) Does the SQA have any data on texts that are used most? ii) is there anyway that there could be some sort of standardisation across Scotland?

That question is more about teaching and learning than assessment. I suppose there are the new prescribed Scottish texts in National 5 and Higher English. That list is available so schools will have to do at least one or two from that set list, it would be useful for you to check that list, I don't think we record that data. We can take that back but it's not an SQA issue. Maybe there is data in the Principal Assessors report in the Higher English? Don't know. Would CALL Scotland be a good place to start with the Books for All database. SQA have a meeting with CALL coming up, teachers should liaise with them too.

The Teachers of the deaf (ToD) discussion raised a big issue: the listening component of the literacy unit. In terms of listening, there needs to be a broader definition of what listening means for severely or profoundly deaf children. The use of subtitles is an important part of how they listen. We'd like the SQA to give that more consideration. Preparing new assessments when the video clip is unsuitable is putting the burden on ASL staff and ToDs. Compared with blind candidates, although assessing reading, they were allowed a screenreader, it should be the same for deaf children so there is parity there. Also an assessment bank specifically designed for deaf children who do not have BSL.

In the assessment of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) we commissioned CALL Scotland to look at some items as part of the National Assessment Resource (NAR) although SQA is not part of that anymore. There were ones which were more suitable for VI candidates so we've got a model of how best to do that. It might be similar to the supplementary guidance that will be available for pupils who have difficulty reading and writing, then we wouldn't need prior verification for those cases. This wouldn't be ready in August though! We'd need to set up a working group, people should express interest to become involved in that.

I will also look into the idea of subtitles. Subtitles are okay to support listening as long as it doesn't become an exercise in reading. I think that's the issue. We'll have a look at that for Literacy but it applies in English too. There are English Units assessing reading, writing, listening and talking. One unit is creation/production (writing/talking), the other is listening/reading. Is it acceptable to exempt a disabled candidate from the listening in that unit because the outcome is about creating/producing as a reasonable adjustment on the writing only. That's something we need to consider for some candidates.

What we're saying for some deaf candidates is that reading subtitles is part of listening, it's the definition of listening that needs to be considered. It's a case of nomenclature, it's receptive skills you are talking about. Deaf children will use lip patterns, body language etc.

Skills have been defined by those who have developed the qualifications. They are looking at listening as hearing and understanding - so if we look at that step, they're not doing the hearing bit but they are understanding. The units are deliberately assessing receptive skills and productive skills. Literacy has been designed as something different. We need to look at that, if it is acceptable in English, is it also acceptable in Literacy? We will take this back.

Literacy is one of the mandatory units, if they haven't got access to that, they haven't got access to the full English course either. BSL is an easy one but how do the other deaf kids listen?

It might be, if in a live situation, these deaf children are using lip reading, body language, etc then we don't go near media for them. In most instances the reason you've got a video is because it's impossible to recreate a live situation for everyone doing the assessment. It is internally assessed, create a live situation. Let your deaf children talk and listen in the way they would do that in a normal situation. That would be the best solution.

There is media everywhere, in every subject. You can't get away from it.

That's fine, subtitles are available in every subject, the issue is going to be literacy. I'll take this back to the listening in literacy team. It might well be the reasonable adjustment for an individual candidate because that's how they would listen. I think if you are acquiring the evidence to show that a candidates has listened and has met the criteria for listening, the best way to do that would be in a live situation, in a live situation there are no subtitles.

What about candidates who use live notetaking?

Okay, we'll take it back to consider again. It doesn't affect the specification because what we've specified is what is absolutely not allowed, everything else can be considered on an individual basis. The specifications will be reviewed annually. Please get in touch, we are looking for feedback. What is the impact of someone not having a National 4 in English as opposed to having 2 units? We know what the perceptions might be but what is the impact? We have to look at these bigger questions.

Can we clarify about assistive technology? eg is use of a thesaurus in a digital paper allowed?

We said we'd take this back to CALL. My feeling is why not? But then why isn't everyone allowed access to spellcheckers etc? I suppose because not everyone has access to those things and so it goes back to parity and equality. Is the technology there to overcome disability or inability? It's a hard question and technology is changing things.

We have concerns about subject teachers' accessing training in newer technology, the availability of resources and candidates having access beforehand.

If the candidate uses particular technology then they should be able to use it in an exam. We want to promote independence in everybody but we recognise that resources are not equally available across the country. Case studies of good practice will be available.

General points

Finally look at the assessment arrangements on the website. Patricia is reviewing the guidance and updates will be forthcoming. Quality assurance will be with you after the summer. Look out for Unit Assessment Support Packs. Your SQA co-ordinator gets monthly communications on Curriculum for Excellence so we always try to get something in there about what's happening. If they don't feed it directly to you, which they should, ask them.

Where do you get an SQA coordinator if you are in a service?

Any school or centre will have one. The SQA coordinator is a good person for you to be liaising with. They often request the assessment arrangements and are very much involved in all the links with SQA. Access to the secure part of the SQA website is through them, you will need to negotiate access for yourself. If access to an SQA coordinator is difficult for peripatetic teachers, that's a point, we will need to make sure you have access.