We’re looking for volunteers…

In 2016, SQA revised the Internet Safety Unit and, in February this year, online teaching and learning materials were made available on the SQA Academy, in order to support the delivery of this award. The online learning materials can be accessed by teachers and learners via the following link (https://www.sqaacademy.org.uk/course/view.php?id=667).

We have now …

Read more

Digital Teachmeet

I attended my first “teachmeet” event yesterday, held in the National Library of Scotland. The idea behind teachmeet is for teachers to share best practice using (very) short presentations on a wide range of topics. It’s a bit like speed-dating for academics. There was a fantastic turnout, around 100 teachers attended, considering it started at 5pm.

I’ve never been asked to …

Read more

Reviews of NPAs and NC

I’ve spent the last couple of days reviewing the scoping reports for a number of NPAs and an NC. We commenced this work a couple of months ago and things have ran to schedule.

The purpose of a scoping report is to outline the likely changes needed to an award. Scoping is the pre-cursor to development. We commissioned a report …

Read more

HNCD Technologies in Business consultation

We are currently developing HNCD Technologies in Business (the revised HNCD Information Technology).

As part of the development process, we consult with stakeholders about the nature and content of the award. I would appreciate if you could take 5 -10 minutes to complete this short questionnaire about the new qualification.


Please feel free …

Read more

We’re hiring

I recently encouraged readers to consider becoming an SQA External Verifier (EV). We are now formally advertising for EVs. I hope that you consider applying. We’re looking for new EVs in all three of my cognate groups – Computer Science, Digital Literacy and Information Technology. We’re particularly looking for people with experience of the school and university sectors – but …

Read more

HNC/D Computer Science review

As previously mentioned, we started scoping the changes needed to HND Computer Science in February. We also considered the need for a separate HNC Computer Science.

The consultant has now completed the work. His report makes interesting reading. His main conclusions are:

no need for a separate HNC
significant changes to the HND.

The report contains a lot of details about why he recommended these actions and also a lot of information about the sorts of changes needed to the HND. These include:

inclusion of maths in the mandatory section
greater focus on computer science knowledge and skills
review of the Graded Unit
clearer distinction between HND Computer Science and HND Software Development.

We consulted with a lot of people to come up with the report (including employers) and there was a great deal of consensus …

Read more

Adding units to qualifications

My team get a lot of requests to add units to existing qualifications. These requests are passed to the Qualifications Support Team (QST) for consideration. If approved, these units are added (as options) to the award(s).

We normally do this on an ad hoc basis but we’re going to change that. In future, we will update frameworks once per …

Read more

National Action Plan on Internet Safety

The Scottish Government published the National Action Plan on Internet Safety on Friday. It contains detailed information about how the Government is seeking to protect young people when they are online. One of the (many) actions in the document is that school inspectors should consider this aspect of pupil behaviour when they visit schools.

SQA has had a qualification (a National Unit entitled Internet Safety) in this area for some time time. It was recently updated to reflect the latest threats that face young people (including online learning material and assessments). We also, more recently, introduced a new, basic qualification on cyber security (another …

Read more

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