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Supplementary guidance for SVQ assessment centres to support candidates impacted by COVID-19 pandemic: qualifications (image)

11 May 2020

Your learning

Supplementary guidance for SVQ assessment centres to support candidates impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

The SSSC is the Sector Skills Council and regulator for social services in Scotland. We recognise the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents to services and the impact on gaining benchmark qualifications.

Due to restrictions on workplaces and movement of people there is a need for flexible approaches to observation and assessment to ease some of the anxiety around completion of the qualification. We’ve developed this guidance in partnership with national partners. There is not a change or adaptation of SVQ assessment methodology or the  assessment strategy. The guidance  focuses on achievement of SVQs used by the social service sector wherever possible and practicable, while maintaining the integrity of the qualifications. It is in response to COVID-19 and government restrictions and we will review it in partnership with members of the SSSC Awarding Body Forum. It also applies to other qualifications where SVQs feature, including HNC and apprenticeships. SQA Awarding Body has developed separate guidance on completion of the HNC in Social Services and HNC Childhood Practice in partnership with the SSSC. Read the HNC Social Services and HNC Childhood Practice – COVID-19 guidance here


As workplace awards, SVQs have a holistic approach to acquisition of the knowledge, skills and values required to operate safely with people who use services at the centre. We would advocate that if direct observation is not possible due to the current restrictions any gaps in evidence should be addressed through other methods set out in the SVQ Assessment Strategy (Appendix 1). These should be agreed in partnership with assessors and candidates and noted in the assessment plan. 

This guidance complements the SVQ Assessment Strategy and clarifies the range of methods which can be used to gather evidence. It is crucial that all methods support confidence in the quality and integrity of the qualification and provide candidates with the skills needed to meet the current challenges and needs of people who use services.

Candidates should, wherever possible, continue to engage in learning, teaching, and gathering evidence to enable completion of the qualification. We have developed a wide range of free and accessible online resources to support this on our Learning Zone. In most circumstances, candidates will continue to practice within work settings and have opportunities to gather evidence which can be used in reflective accounts and/or professional discussion. If this is not possible, for example due to furlough, discussions should take place between assessor, employer and candidate to consider how they can best continue their studies and plan for when they can resume the SVQ.

We would advocate that any gaps in evidence be addressed in partnership with assessors and the following provides guidance to support these discussions.

  1. Review evidence gathered – in situations where candidates have already undertaken observed practice, assessors should review evidence to identify where it may provide additional evidence to meet identified performance criteria and knowledge. Candidates should also complete written reflective accounts and professional discussions to provide additional evidence.
  2. Observed practice – assessors observation of candidates practice is a fundamental principle of SVQs and is reflected in the principles and criteria used by the SSSC for qualifications we accept for registration. Where observation to meet gaps in evidence is difficult due to the COVID-19 restrictions, you should consider using video/electronic evidence and/or expert witness.  
  • If using video/electronic methods assessors and candidates must obtain permission from individuals involved and comply with legislation and policies related to GDPR and the SSSC Codes of Practice. Any materials gathered should be traceable, auditable, and authenticated to meet the assessment strategy.
  • The SSSC carried out exploratory work on use of video enhanced observation to support remote assessment of practice. Read about the work here. You can find more information on the software here:
  • Use of expert witnesses must reflect the requirements set out in the SVQ Assessment Strategy.
  1. Learning plans – alternative arrangements should be agreed by all relevant parties and noted in the assessment plan. The plans should be accessible for verification.
  2. Simulation –using simulation, other than in the circumstances set out in the SVQ Assessment Strategy, is not an appropriate alternative method of assessment.
Role of assessor and verification process

The assessor is key to implementing this guidance and their professional judgement is pivotal in assessing competence of a candidate’s practice. We recognise the additional work required of assessors in managing the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. Verification of the approaches taken by assessors provides confidence in consistency and standardisation of decisions made. As the awarding body for SVQs in social service subjects, SQA Awarding Body have made a commitment to use processes, including external verification of centres to examine the approach taken. This may include external verifier (EV) provision of additional support in monitor the approaches the approaches taken.

In relation to centre’s standardisation processes it is important to keep a record of how they are accommodating circumstances related to the pandemic. It will be important that SQA EVs visit considers the centre standardisation minutes/records. These include:

  • how is the centre operating during the pandemic? (this could include anything from all assessment is suspended, to all is continuing)
  • what is the centre doing in relation to amending candidate assessment plans in the current circumstances?
  • how is the centre dealing with observation and observation shortfall in candidate evidence?
  • what has the centre agreed is acceptable use of other methods of observation such as using video etc
  • how and when will the centre review ongoing delivery of SVQs during the pandemic.
Registration with the SSSC – qualification conditions

To lessen the challenges of the crisis we’ve extended the time for new workers to register with the SSSC registration from six to 12 months. We’ve also given current registrants with a condition to gain a qualification an extra 12 months while carrying on working as normal. We will consider situations where individuals are unable to evidence achievement of qualifications within the required timeframe due to the demands the pandemic. More information is on our website here.

We have developed guidance for employers and staff on core learning required for those who are redeployed, volunteer or as temporary members of staff. View the guidance here.

Read the Assessment Strategy for Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Social Services and Healthcare SVQ 2, 3 and 4 and Social Services (Children and Young People) SVQ  2, 3 and 4.  

Contact information

Sandra Wilson
Communications Officer
Scottish Social Services Council