Assessment in the Senior Phase

The senior phase (S4-S6) builds on the broad general education by continuing to develop learners’ knowledge, understanding and skills. It entitles young people to an education that:

  • ​provides specialisation, depth and rigour
  • prepares them well for achieving qualifications to the highest level of which they are capable
  • continues to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work
  • continues to provide a range of activities which develop the four capacities*
  • supports them to achieve a positive and sustained destination.

National Qualifications are designed to be flexible. Discussions are held with young people and parents on the most appropriate learning pathways. These discussions are also informed by assessment information from the broad general education, for example on whether a young person has achieved the third or fourth curriculum level by the end of S3.  Such assessment evidence helps to inform decisions on whether a learner should embark on courses leading to National 4, National 5, or Higher (over either one or two years), or whether they should pursue other qualifications such as National Progression Awards.

Typical presentation options for learners moving on to National Qualifications in the Senior Phase are:

  • Progression to National 4 (for those who have achieved third curriculum level)
  • Progression to National 5 (for those who have achieved fourth curriculum level in their subject)

​Changes to Scottish Qualifications Authority National Qualifications, which were announced in September 2016, mean that unit assessments are being removed from National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers over a three year period.  The removal of units and unit assessments means that course assessments for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher are being strengthened to maintain the same number of SCQF credit points. For example, for each National 5 course, changes have resulted in one or more of the following:

  • the extension of the existing question paper
  • the extension/modification of the existing item of coursework
  • a new question paper
  • a new item of coursework.

The results of a range of qualifications in the senior phase are uploaded to an online benchmarking tool for schools and local authorities known as Insight. The benchmarking tool is designed to help identify where schools are having the most success for pupils in the senior phase and where further improvements can be made. Such data also helps inform the National Improvement Framework improvement plan. School and national level information and data is available on the school information dashboard.

*The overarching purpose of Curriculum for Excellence is to help children and young people develop the following four capacities:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors.

More information on Senior Phase courses can be found on the Scottish Qualifications Authority website.

Related links​​​

Changes to assessment in national courses

National Literacy and National Numeracy units

Skills for Work courses​