New guidance over National 4 and 5 qualifications

Exam hall Image copyright PA

New guidance is due to be published later this week to help ensure school students study for the right qualifications.

The aim is to ensure that the best use is made of National 4 and 5 qualifications.

The qualifications replaced Standard Grades during the 2013-14 school year.

One aim of the official guidance is to minimise the chance of a youngster leaving school without any qualifications.

The National 4 qualification is seen by some teachers and parents as being of little value in itself - it does not involve an exam while the amount of assessment carried out by teachers may have deterred some from using it.

However, it has an important role to play in the system - helping ensure that the minority of youngsters likely to leave in S4 still obtain a qualification and offering a platform which could help others go on to obtain National 5s and even Highers.

Borderline candidates

A National 4 is likely to be taken by a candidate who might, under the previous system, have studied for a Standard Grade at foundation or general level.

Until the 1980s they may have studied non certificate subjects as they might have had a limited chance of passing an O Grade. The National 5 is broadly equivalent to a credit in a Standard Grade or a good O Grade pass.

Anecdotal evidence suggests some teachers may have been pushing borderline candidates towards studying for the more advanced National 5s - even when a National 4 may actually have been a more suitable option for them.

But changes to the system mean it will be harder for someone who failed a National 5 to get a National 4 qualification as a consolation.

The "fall-back system" which meant that someone who failed to get a National 5 qualification could get a National 4 instead by completing a so-called "added value unit" is being scrapped.

This adds to the risk that a borderline candidate, pushed to do National 5s with only a limited chance of passing, could end up with nothing.

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