SQA National Progression Award (NPA)

Country
  • Scotland
Purpose

National Progression Awards (NPAs) are not the standard entry requirement for Scottish applicants to Scottish universities but, along with other qualifications at SCQF Level 6, may be used to help facilitate entry to short-cycle higher education (HE) such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) offered in some Scottish HEPs. Some universities may also consider them – alongside achievement at Higher – for entry to certain HE programmes.

They generally tend to be considered by HEPs as qualifications that help learners develop a range of additional skills or wider achievements that  complement their learning journey in the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence.

NPAs also provide access to employment, further education and training.

NPAs are aligned to National Occupational Standards (NOS).

NPAs are aimed at developing learners’ knowledge and understanding and, where appropriate, practical experience of a given area of vocational education.

The aim is to provide a solid basis for progression into further education and training, as well as higher education, while developing learners with a more mature approach to study that will help sustain success in Modern Apprenticeships and in HNC/HND study and beyond.

Education context

In Scotland, secondary school is organised into six school years, S1–S6 (first year to sixth year). In Scotland, sixth year covers only one academic year.

Many state secondary schools work in school-college partnerships with tertiary colleges in different areas of provision, particularly in vocational areas.

NPAs are taken in all Scottish tertiary colleges and in several state schools, or in school-college partnerships.

NPAs support the aims and principles of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and also the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce agenda. See ‘What is Curriculum for Excellence?’ at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/thecurriculum/whatiscurriculumforexcellence/ and also Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/developingtheyoungworkforce

The Scottish qualifications system designed to support CfE provides an opportunity for greater variety and diversity in curriculum planning, which may lead to different patterns of presentation for qualifications, including increased exposure for candidates to different types of qualification. The aim is to ensure an appropriate curriculum for each learner. This means that learners in schools may take NPAs in any of the three years of the Senior Phase of secondary school – S4-S6, or across more than one academic year. In tertiary colleges, where NPAs are more likely to be taken, they will generally be studied over one academic year. To date, NPAs in schools have most commonly been taken in S4 or S5 and often concurrently with other National Qualifications, such as National 5, Higher or National Certificates. In colleges, NPAs are usually taken as part of programmes of full-time or part-time learning. This involves learners taking a range of credits from SQA units either directly related to the subject studied or which are designed to develop a wider range of core and transferable skills.

Awarding organisation
  • SQA
Structure

SQA allocates a unique qualification number to each subject as a 4 + 2 code: Gxxx (‘G’ refers to Group Award and ‘46’ refers to both Group Award (the ‘4’) and level (the ‘6’) – National Progression Award at SCQF Level 6).

NPAs are available at SCQF Levels 2-6; at SCQF Level 6 they are made up of National Units, Higher National (HN) Units, National (Workplace) Units, or Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Units with a minimum of 12 SCQF credit points (120 notional learning hours), with no maximum size.

NPAs may be made up of mandatory units only or a combination of mandatory and optional Units. At least half of the SCQF credit points (i.e. more than half of all of the credit points) must be at the level of the NPA and these can come from either the mandatory or optional sections of the qualification, or both.

They may include Higher National (HN) Units, National Units, National (Workplace) Units, or Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Units, though the latter should ideally be SCQF credit-rated.

All NPAs incorporate opportunities to develop Core Skills, particularly to meet employment and progression needs.

NPAs must include a minimum of two units, but there is no maximum, and component units may be of different credit values, though normally 6 or 12 SCQF credit points, depending on the fitness for purpose of the unit.

Units at SCQF Levels 5 and 7 may be included in NPAs at SCQF Level 6, though more than half of the credit points must be at SCQF Level 6 or higher.

All NPAs are developed according to SQA’s Design Principles for the qualification, as well as the SCQF level descriptors, in order to ensure the consistency of standards, validity and reliability across subjects.

Subject areas

National Progression Awards at SCQF Level 6 are currently available in 52 subjects. These are:

  • Achieving Excellence in Sport
  • Acting and Performance
  • Animal Technology
  • Art and Design: Digital Media
  • Business with Information Technology
  • Computer Games Development
  • Conservation of Masonry
  • Creative Hairdressing
  • Cyber Security
  • Digital Media Production
  • Digital Passport
  • Enterprise and Business
  • Events
  • Exercise and Fitness Leadership
  • Financial Services
  • Food Manufacture
  • Geographical Information Systems: an Introduction
  • Health and Social Care: Promoting Reablement
  • Health & Social Care: Skills for Practice
  • Horse Care
  • Human Resources and the Law
  • Jewellery: Advanced Techniques
  • Journalism
  • Laboratory Science
  • Legal Studies
  • Local Food Production
  • Mobile Technology
  • Music Business
  • Music for Wellbeing
  • Music Performing
  • Musical Theatre
  • Organising Volunteering Events in Sport
  • PC Passport
  • PC Passport: Advanced
  • Play in a Sports Environment
  • Professional Computer Fundamentals
  • Professional Theatre Preparation
  • Scottish Bagpipes
  • Scottish Pipe Band Drumming
  • Social Services and Healthcare
  • Social Services, Children and Young People
  • Software Development
  • Sound Production: Live
  • Sound Production: Recording
  • Sports Coaching: Football
  • Sports Coaching: Rugby
  • Sports Coaching: Swimming
  • Sports Development
  • Technical Theatre in Practice
  • Theory and Approaches to Youth Work
  • Water Operations
  • Woodland Operation
Levels
  • SCQF Level 6

SCQF Level 6 is the level at which Highers sit on the SCQF.

SCQF Level 6 is equivalent to Level 3 of the RQF which is the level at which A Levels sit.

Grading

This qualification is ungraded and is awarded upon candidates achieving a Pass in each of the units required to successfully complete the qualification.

The flexibility of NPAs enables other qualifications, including National Courses such as Higher or certain graded units to be included in their structure. Graded achievement from component National Courses is not and should not be taken as a proxy for the overall qualification.

Assessment

Unit assessment may be undertaken at the end of each unit or through holistic or combined assessment across two or more units.

Unit assessment is marked by the teacher or lecturer and is not graded. It is subject to internal verification in the centre and to rigorous external quality assurance by SQA.

Units are assessed according to the Conditions of Assessment appropriate to the subject and the level.

Where appropriate, some units are assessed through methods such as an assignment, practical activities, performance or portfolio evidence.

Where a National Course – such as a Higher – is included in a specific NPA, course assessment arrangements are explained in the QIP for Highers.

The Unit Specifications stipulate the nature of unit assessment and are available on the Unit Search, along with information on the Group Award: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/controller?p_service=Front.searchNQ&g=0&pMenuID=6710&t=nq_unit&q=&r=

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The qualifications are not graded.

Resit arrangements

Remediation of Unit Assessment allows for a second attempt with a further attempt in exceptional circumstances.

Guided / notional learning hours notes

At least 12 SCQF credit points with no maximum size

At least 120 notional learning hours with no maximum size.

UCAS Tariff points

SQA National Progression Award (Band A)

Grade Points
P 14

SQA National Progression Award (Band B)

Grade Points
P 21

SQA National Progression Award (Band C)

Grade Points
P 28
Key issues for UK HE admissions

NPAs are of variable size and may contain units that are at a lower or higher level than the level of the award. Where credit is at a lower level than the award then these units have not formed part of the Tariff calculation. Only units at or above the level of the award have been used for this purpose. Units which are above the level of the award have been calculated at UCAS grade band 7.

Candidates would generally not be expected to apply to undergraduate degree study directly with a NPA at SCQF Level 6, unless it is at least an equivalent size to the National Certificate and unless it is taken as part of a wider programme of learning, including Highers. However, for progression to short-cycle HE such as HNC and HND it may provide a more suitable pathway in Scotland, dependent on relevance, size and whether taken alongside other qualifications at SCQF Level 6. Many of these learners will then enter undergraduate degree study at Scottish HEPs directly into the second or third year with their HNC or HND. A smaller number will apply with their HNC or HND from Scotland to HEPs in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Some learners – particularly if taking NPAs at school – will take them alongside Highers. Also, other learners will have taken Highers at school prior to studying for a NPA at a tertiary college. There is therefore likely to be a relatively mixed pattern of qualifications for applicants to HEPs who hold a NPA.

Under CfE, there is an enhanced emphasis on ensuring that learners undertake their learning journey and the qualifications and assessment which support it, at a pace which best meets their needs, allowing them some personalisation and choice in the overall curriculum they engage with. As such, different patterns of provision and attainment  are likely to emerge.

Timing of assessments and results

NPA assessment is internal and occurs throughout the qualification.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

Certification information

Certification of achievement in NPAs is published on an ongoing basis.

For NPAs at SCQF Level 6, 1,370 were awarded in 2015.

Entries and achievement rates for NPAs by year are available at: www.sqa.org.uk/statistics

Progression information

This NPA at SCQF Level 6 qualification provides learners with the opportunity to pursue a diversified curriculum at school, as well as an opportunity to specialise in a particular vocational subject area in school or tertiary college.

It also complements other SCQF Level 6 qualifications and learning and can be used to support applications to higher education courses, particularly short-cycle HE in Scottish HEPs (particularly tertiary colleges).

In addition, this qualification provides learners with the opportunity for progression into further education, employment, apprenticeships and other forms of training.

Further information

SQA’s Group Award and Unit specifications and other supporting documentation for each NPA subject are available at: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/41280.2540.html

SQA’s website is: www.sqa.org.uk

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website is available at: www.scqf.org.uk