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The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national accreditation and awarding body for Scotland. Our purpose is to help people fulfil their potential and maintain standards across Scottish education.

We engage with learners, schools, colleges and training providers across Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally, to develop, maintain, and improve a framework of qualifications, and to set and maintain standards for many other awarding bodies, and accredited qualifications.

We developed the Professional Development Award (PDA) in Scottish Football Association: Refereeing in partnership with the Scottish Football Association (SFA). It is aimed at learners in schools and colleges who are interested in learning about the laws of the game of football and practical refereeing. 

Set at SCQF Level 7, and worth 16 SCQF points, the award aims to develop occupational skills and enhance learners’ future career prospects. It also enables learners to gain credit within the SCQF, which helps them access further qualifications. Learners who achieve this PDA are exempt from having to complete the SFA’s trainee referee programme to progress in a career in refereeing.

The award has two mandatory units:

Laws of the Game – In this unit, learners will develop their knowledge and understanding of the 17 laws of the game. They will also develop skills in identifying, analysing, and applying these laws while refereeing a match, as well as in other examples of decisions and actions of match officials, which are provided by the SFA. 

Practical Refereeing – Learners will analyse the various means of management and control required for refereeing a football match. They will be assessed by using recorded FIFA match incidents to demonstrate their understanding of the required skills and knowledge. Learners will also be assessed during a practical assessment while refereeing a match. This unit enables them to learn about how misconduct and match reports are completed and, importantly, achieve the fitness standards required of an SFA Football Referee. 

Both units are intended to be practical, where learners are provided with the opportunity to develop as a referee through game-like situations or simulations. 

Teacher Daniel Graves said:


This course gives pupils the chance to become leaders and take ownership over multiple games of football. It allows them to take responsibility for the management of others’ behaviour, make important decisions in a pressured environment and to develop varied levels of communication.
Learners develop skills in problem solving, personal responsibility, confidence and assertiveness – all of which are widely transferable skills for further study or employment. Also, these skills are developed whilst being physically active.
From my own experience, I was fortunate enough to have been a learner on the course when it initially launched, and I am in a position now where I have taught the course for 5 years.
I am incredibly grateful for this course as it spring-boarded a career in refereeing, which I had no intention of doing at the time. I am now a category one referee in Scotland and operate regularly in the SPFL. This would not have been possible without achieving the qualification through school. My role now as a teacher is to inspire young people to enjoy the course and take up the whistle at the end, as the opportunities are endless.

Learner Grant Daly said:

This was a great course where I got to learn all about the laws of the game.
I have played football all my life and there were so many unique rules that I did not know!
I also got the opportunity to learn how to remain calm and composed when making decisions on the pitch. This course has opened my mind into how hard refereeing actually is and the challenges you face. It has boosted my confidence and knowledge of the game. I now plan on taking this forward alongside my studies to earn some money.

Learner Iain Louden said:

This course has given me a different perspective on the game of football and how rewarding the challenge of refereeing can be.
I enjoy discussing and debating different video clips amongst my peers during class time and studying the laws of the game.
I will embrace the opportunity to take up refereeing on a regular basis as it will keep me fit and earn me some money.

To find out more about SQA’s PDA in Scottish Football Association: Refereeing at SCQF level 7, please visit SQA’s website.

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