Assessment and Reporting for the Junior and Senior School

Information on S4 Assessment and Reporting can be downloaded here.

Information on S5 & S6 Assessment and Reporting can be downloaded here.


Junior School

In S1 and S2, assessments of pupil progress are built in naturally as part of class teaching.  Courses tend to be structured into units of work and pupils are tested at the end of the unit.  This means that assessment in different subjects may take place at different times, and, along with class work and class projects, such “continuous assessment” throughout the session is more appropriate and indeed fairer than one formal end of term exam.

This programme, linked with types of assessment which attempt to spot strengths or weaknesses in pupil’s learning, is also very important in directing pupils to the most appropriate next stage of the course.  Such assessment is referred to as “diagnostic” and is linked in certain subjects to “core and extension” teaching.  To summarise briefly:

All pupils in a subject will attempt a central unit of work and, depending on their performance, will either move on to further units which are designed to stretch the more able, or work at additional revision units.

Departments base their assessments on the various elements into which their subject is subdivided.  These elements may be topics or, more usually, the skills are now assessed in reading, writing, talking and listening.  In subdividing the subject into its various elements, the class teacher can highlight relative strengths and weaknesses, which are often masked by an overall grade.

A letter to parents explaining how pupil progress is assessed is issued at the start of S1.

In the second term of second year S2 pupils must make their provisional choices for S3.  This is a very important moment in secondary schooling as the choice of subjects will normally determine the course that a pupil will follow for at least the next two years, and leads directly to national qualifications.  At this time, when pupils are selecting, and as a guide to their potential in that subject, a grade is given to pupils as an indication of their potential performance in S4.

In S3 and S4, this regular on-going and diagnostic assessment does continue, although the frequency and type of assessment will vary with the level of course studied.  Letters explaining the various kinds of assessment are prepared for parents at the start of S3 and again at S4.

Formal school exams, however, are built into the S4 programme: preliminary exams; and the actual exams in May/June organised by the SQA.  The preliminary exams in S4 (prelims) adopt similar format, conditions and marking to the actual exams of the SQA and give pupils a “trial run”.  They are important not only in demonstrating to pupils the mental and physical effort required to cope with an extended diet of exams, often on consecutive days, but also provide evidence for the SQA in, for example, cases of illness at the time of the actual examinations.

A similar pattern of formal exams takes place in S5 and S6.

Pupil Reports

Our pupil progress reports and evaluation sheets for S1 and S2 are designed to give detailed information to parents on each subject and in line with the assessment procedures described above.  The major reports are in the form of a booklet which contains individual subject reports, with a record of the pupil’s attendance, and a final page which acts as check/acknowledgement for parents and invites comments, as appropriate.  Parents, for example, may wish to take the opportunity to arrange an interview with Pupil Support staff.  Evaluation sheets (and reports) list the various topics/skills into which a subject may be subdivided.  Targets of performance are then set against each of these topics or skills and each pupil is assessed individually by his/her ability to meet the target.

S1 reports, in general, will indicate how your son/daughter is settling to the various subjects; S2 reports will help pupils/parents select courses for S3; S3/S4 reports will inform parents as to how your son/daughter is coping with the chosen courses.  As the S4 course develops, comments increasingly take into account the pupil’s grade in relation to national standards.

Parents are asked to retain all progress reports issued during their child’s secondary schooling.  Pupil Support Staff retain a copy in the pupil’s file which also gives details of the pupil’s progress in primary school.  Pupil records are kept up to date by Pupil Support staff, including general and medical information, as appropriate, and are retained in the House office.

At the time reports are issued Pupil Support staff meet with pupils to set targets for future work and review progress so far.

This links with the process of recording achievement which starts in S1.  Pupils are encouraged to carry out personal development plans by reviewing, setting targets and recording their achievements.  This record in time becomes part of the Profile which all youngsters have to complete in S3.

Senior School

This session we are offering courses at National 5 as well as Intermediate 1 and 2, Higher and Advanced Higher.  National 5 is graded A to D or No Award.

  1. a mix of internal and external assessment with satisfactory performance in both required to achieve a course award
  2. units internally assessed using national materials
  3. regular monitoring of student progress
  4. verification of internal assessment by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  5. courses externally assessed
  6. a grading system for courses – A, B, C,D
  7. a single certificate updated annually
  8. the certificate will record all unit, course, group award and core skills achievements.


All unit internal assessment is subject to verification by the SQA.

As well as providing assessment evidence required by the SQA, internal assessment of units will provide valuable feedback to students and teachers on students’ progress. 
As happens at present, assessment can take a variety of forms depending on the unit.  This might involve, for example, assignments, performing, producing a report, an end-of-unit test or making a product.  Units are awarded on a pass or fail basis.
It should also be noted that a pass in unit assessments does not guarantee a pass in the external (course) assessment; nor is it a guarantee of a certain level of pass.

Course assessment (external assessment)

External assessment tests learning across all the units of a course.  For students to achieve a course they will be expected to pass the units and succeed in the external course assessment which will be set nationally by the SQA.  Assessment takes place in controlled conditions and students’ work will be assessed by external assessors from the SQA.

As with unit assessment, the nature of the external course assessment will vary according to the subject and overall course performance will be graded, A, B, C or D.

Given the different forms of assessment for both units and courses, Midlothian policy on presentation makes it clear that: “Each school is responsible for monitoring the production of evidence for assessment, both preparatory and final drafts to ensure that the work is done by the candidate concerned.  Candidates and schools should submit only evidence which they can declare to be the authentic work of the candidate concerned.  Any material for which such a declaration cannot be made should not be submitted by schools.”

Beeslack programme of assessment/reports to parents

  • By the end of first term, parents will have received a booklet of reports from each subject.
  • In some cases subjects will report whether the student has passed/failed units or learning outcomes; these will be listed on the sheet.
  • The level of pass/fail is set at different levels in different subjects.
    (Sometimes referred to as level of mastery, or cut-off scores, this will be explained to students at the start of the course/unit).
  • Information will also be given about progress; about re-assessment of failed learning outcomes/units; and, in some cases, parents will be asked to come into school to discuss progress with year staff.
  • The policy for re-assessment, as advised by the SQA, is that there should normally be one, or in exceptional circumstances, two opportunities to be re-assessed in a failed learning outcome/unit.  The nature and timing of re-assessment will vary across subjects and this will also be explained to students at the start of course/unit.   The Midlothian policy on re-assessment states the following:

“Very few candidates should require a second re-assessment opportunity.  In the main, two unsuccessful attempts (the original and one re-assessment) would suggest that the candidate is attempting a level that is too challenging and that switching to the level below should be seriously considered.

Exceptional circumstances where a second re-assessment might be appropriate would be the following:
.    Illness, including an accident, which prevents the candidate taking the assessment or achieving the expected level.  A medical certificate would be required in all cases.
.    Family bereavement which causes deterioration in pupil performance near the completion of a unit.
.    Family, or other, circumstances affecting the candidate’s performance close to the time of an assessment.  Outside agencies will be involved or Guidance staff will have evidence of such an effect.
.      Unavoidable incidents or interruptions such as fire or flood.

Students and parents should be aware that disputes arising from a failure to pass a re-assessment will be dealt with by senior management in schools.  Where agreement on re-assessment cannot be reached in school, the case should be referred to the Director, Education.”

Discussion and decisions about SQA presentations will take place February – April and will relate to performance in units and course assessments eg prelims.

As explained earlier, students must pass all unit assessments to achieve an overall course award; this will have implications for the level at which students may be presented: for example if the student has failed to pass assessment(s) in Higher unit(s) he/she may be advised to take the external course assessment at Intermediate 2.

In such cases candidates will be given credit for attainment in the unit(s) (in this case Higher) even if the course presentation level is changed (ie to Intermediate 2).

  • Parents should note, however, that not all levels of National Qualifications can be offered in our time-tabled (column) choices (see subject notes in 'Senior Handbook').
  • It is our clear intention that, from coursing through to presentation for external (course) assessment, students should be presented for units and courses best suited to their ability and application.
  • Any disagreements about presentation decisions may be referred to senior management and: “where agreement cannot be reached between parents, students and senior management the case should be referred to the Director, Education”. (Midlothian policy).