Action on digital skills

I attended an event organised by Scotland IS yesterday, entitled: “Action on digital skills in Scotland”. It was held in the beautiful Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh. The event was opened by Polly Purvis, the CEO of Scotland IS.

The speakers (who included the Minister for Employability & Training) were very good. They all emphasised the vital importance of digital skills to the Scottish economy. The following skills were highlighted:

software development
cyber security
data analytics
artificial intelligence
computational thinking.

We have qualifications in all of these areas. We recently developed a suite of PDAs in Software Development (in addition to the existing HND); our cyber security qualifications are well known; we recently developed a new HNC in Data Analytics; and we’re currently devising an HN unit called Artificial Intelligence. Computational thinking is embedded in all of these awards.

I was delighted when one of the speakers praised SQA’s qualifications. He said that he was surprised when he “realised that all of these vital …

Read more

Cyber Skills Day

This week (17-21 April) is the Scottish Government’s Digital Skills Week. Today’s particular topic is cyber skills. The cyber resilience blog provides more information about Cyber Skills Day, with a focus on careers in this field. Also being highlighted today are Cyber Games for school pupils, organised by  Cyber Security Challenge.

To get a foot on the rung of a …

Read more

External Verifier opportunities

Every year I’m asked to appoint (or re-appoint) my team of External Verifiers (EVs) around this time of the year. I’m in the process of doing that now for session 2017/18.

I like to rotate my team by adding one or two new EVs each year. So, please let Helen know if you are interested in joining the team. We’re particularly …

Read more

Support group for NPA Cyber Security

I’ve received several requests from people asking if there is a dedicated support group for teachers who are delivering the new NPAs in Cyber Security. There isn’t. As a result, I’ve created a dedicated group on Yammer. The group is intended for teachers and lecturers who deliver the NPAs – and anyone else with an interest in this curricular area.

The Computing team in SQA has a Yammer network, which has almost 150 members, and you have to join that network before you can join this group. Simply request membership on the home page (anyone with a bona fide e-mail address will be accepted). If you’re already a member of the SQA Computing network, search for the new group using the search facility (the group is called “NPA Cyber Security”) or simply use this link.

I hope that, in time, this group will help teachers to provide each other with support. …

Read more

New subject pages

I’ve recently received notification that the subject page for the new HNC Data Analytics is now available and the subject page for the updated HNC/D Computer Games Development has now been revised. Subject pages are “one-stop-shops” for everything that you need to know about a particular qualification. You can see a list of Computing subject pages here.

Read more

Maths in Computing

I’ve previously mentioned issues surrounding maths within Computing qualifications. There are some long-term issues, such as the absence of maths as a mandatory component in HND Computer Science, but matters were brought to a head when the Maths team in SQA revised some units, generally lowering their level.

I’ve now formed a short-life working group (SLWG) to look into these …

Read more

NC and NPA Computer Games Development

We’ve had a busy week, kicking off a number of developments. In addition to the NPAs that I recently mentioned, me and Emma also met with the consultants responsible for scoping NC Computer Games Development and NPA Computer Games Development. This means that, at this time, we have commenced the review of the following non-advanced awards:

NPA Computer Games Development (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6)
NC Computer Games Development (SCQF Levels 5 and 6)
NPA Software Development (SCQF Level 4)
NPA Digital Media Basics (SCQF Level 4)
NPA Digital Media Editing (SCQF Level 5)
NPA Web Design Fundamentals ( …

Read more

Review of NPAs

We have commenced the reviews of some NPAs. These are:

NPA Software Development (SCQF Level 4)
NPA Digital Media Basics (SCQF Level 4)
NPA Digital Media Editing (SCQF Level 5)
NPA Web Design Fundamentals (SCQF Level 5)

Two school teachers are leading these reviews. These awards are particularly popular in Scottish schools. At this time, we are scoping the changes required for each award. …

Read more

Lead Person Network event

The Lead Person Network (LPN) event took place yesterday in the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow. This replaced the annual Heads of Computing event, which had been running for years previously (the one exception being last year).

The event went well. It was the usual mix of updates, keynotes and networking. I was both MC and presenter at the event. My presentation summarised changes to qualifications.

The keynote, from Andy Neagle of Microsoft, was particularly interesting, and the demonstration of virtual reality, by David Renton of West College Scotland, was great fun

David also gave an interesting talk about emerging technologies and how these can be used within SQA qualifications.

Claire Gillespie, from Skills Development Scotland, gave an interesting talk about the Scottish Government’s digital skills strategy.

An important part of the event was to update delegates on curricular changes and we covered a number of recent changes to Computing qualifications, including the recently revised HNC/D Interactive Media (now called HNC/D Digital Design & Web Development), which was explained by Stephen Aitken of City of Glasgow College.

All of the …

Read more

Annual Computing update event

The annual update event takes place on Friday (10 March) at the Radison Hotel in Glasgow. The team will be there to provide updates on a wide range of qualifications and the agenda includes a keynote talk (from Microsoft) and a demonstration of virtual reality. There are still places available so please register online if you want to attend. It’s open to anyone with an interest in vocational education. Contact Helen if you want …

Read more

HNC/D IT review unit writing training

The people who are writing units for the refreshed HNC/D IT (now called HNC/D Technologies in Business) met on Saturday for some training. The meeting was held in SQA’s Glasgow offices.

Some of the writers were old hands and some were brand new. It looks like a good team. There’s always something to learn about unit writing (I’ve …

Read more

HND Computer Science review

I’m pleased to let you know that we have started the review of HND Computer Science. John Sutherland (formerly of Abertay University) is carrying out a scoping exercise to find out what (roughly) needs to be done to the existing award.

Me and Helen met with John yesterday to outline the tasks involved. John has several questions to answer including:

What should be included in an HND in Computer Science?
What do universities expect from students who progress to their degrees?
What skills do employers expect?
Is there a need for an HNC Computer Science?
Is maths essential in any computer science qualification?

Read more

SQA Academy

SQA Academy is the name of the online service that we use to deliver our online learning to SQA staff, appointees (such as markers) and learners. For example, the e-learning material to support Internet Safety is hosted there. We’re also in the process of moving our HN e-learning material to the Academy site.

The Academy team is currently reviewing the …

Read more

Working with centres

Last Friday, we shot a promotional video showing how the team works with centres. Three centres were used as case studies: Kyle Academy which offers the NPA Cyber Security, Dundee & Angus College and its Code Academy, which uses various SQA awards, and Code Clan, which uses the new PDA in Software Development.

These centres were selected as examples of …

Read more

Mathematics within Computing awards

Some time ago, I mentioned that we would be reviewing the role of maths within Computing awards. I’m now in a position to take that forward.

The review was prompted by two things: (1) the re-levelling of existing Maths units; and (2) dissatisfaction with the treatment of maths within Computing qualifications. The Maths team, within SQA, had (provisionally) reviewed a number of units that are used within Computing awards – and, generally, levelled these units down since they were not considered to be sufficiently demanding. Once implemented (these changes were provisional) that would have an impact on several Computing qualifications. The other reason was an on-going disquiet with the ad hoc way maths was treated within Computing awards – with some qualifications having it as a mandatory component and some having it as an option. A particular concern was the lack of maths within HND Computer Science (as a mandatory component).

I plan to form a Short Life Working Group (SLWG) over the next few weeks to look at this. The group will review the entire portfolio and try to find a more consistent treatment of maths. It will also consider the impact of the levelling down of the maths …

Read more

New way of developing qualifications

I recently mentioned that we were working on a new qualification development process. We discussed how we developed qualifications at our last team meeting and agreed that we could do things faster, cheaper and better. So we have came up with new ways of working. This won’t directly affect most people who work with us since it is mostly behind the scenes activities. But centres should see qualifications developed more quickly — 12 months at the maximum, even for major developments. The proof of the pudding is in the eating so we have to actually test these new methods in the real world. The first development to use them will be …

Read more

HNC Data Analytics is published

The new HNC Data Analytics is now published. The subject page can be found here. The Group Award Specification and all the component units are available on the SQA website.

The qualification FAQ containing useful information and links is available here.

We do not develop SOLAR assessment for the qualification at the moment. However, if there is any plan for …

Read more

Updated Internet Safety material

I’m delighted to announce that SQA has, today, published updated learning material covering the revised Internet Safety Award. It seems appropriate that it’s been made available on Safer Internet Day 2017.

The material has been significantly updated to include the latest online threats (such as sexting) and also explains the best ways to protect yourself. It covers the entire National Unit. …

Read more

HND Computer Science scoping

The HND Computer Science GG7D 16 was last developed in 2012 and is now due to review. As Bobby mentioned in his previous post, we will start the scoping exercise first before the full review process. More information about the scoping remit can be found here.

We are seeking to recruit a practitioner to undertake this work. Please contact me if …

Read more

Working with SQA

This seems a good time of the year to remind you about opportunities to work with SQA. One of the unique features of Scottish qualifications is the way that we work with stakeholders. We don’t hand down qualifications from on-high – we develop them in conjunction with practitioners, which includes teachers, lecturers, trainers and employers. There are lots of things …

Read more