Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Agenda for Heads of Computing event

We're currently working on the agenda for the Heads of Computing event, which is taking place at the end of January. It's shaping up well with talks about cyber security, the Wood Report, and the future of assessment, as well as the bread-and-butter stuff about qualifications and support materials.


You can sign-up for the event here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

External verification reports

One of the jobs of the Senior External Verifier (SEV) is to write an annual report on each verification group (VG) in their area. I've been reading the annual reports for my groups recently. My main verification groups are: 288 Information Technology, 357 Computer Science and 358 Information Technology.

The reports made good reading. They were very positive, with lots of improvements compared to previous years. Long standing issues, such as the lack of "red ink" on candidates' written work, have been (largely) addressed in centres. David also noted a big increase in the use of e-assessment in centres, and improved internal verification procedures. His reports also covered Graded Units and improvements were noted here too.

I normally write down action points after reading the reports but this year I had none, which is indicative of the improvements that have taken place. David will be presenting his findings at the forthcoming Heads of Computing event. Coming on top of the recent Aspect report on Computing, it would appear that there has been real improvements in teaching and assessment in colleges.

One of the things discussed at the recent EV annual update meeting was that centres weren't sure what units were in each of the Verification Groups. SQA has been working on a solution to this, but in the meantime you might find this spreadsheet helpful since it lists all of the units in each group.


You can download the complete spreadsheet here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Lead Person Network

I've mentioned previously that we had almost established the lead person network (LPN) for colleges, well I'm pleased to say that the network is now complete. We now have a Computing contact person for each college.

The SQA Computing team has been using online mailing lists and online groups for a long time, but the recent re-organisation of colleges in Scotland meant that these groups were out of date, so we have been working on getting a lead person for each of the new regional colleges. That task is now complete.

Here is a FAQ about the lead person network.


Please contact Liz if you want more information or find out who the lead person is for your college.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Computing at School

I attended the annual Computing at School Scotland event on Saturday, held at Napier University. Computing at School is a UK-wide organisation that aims to promote the teaching of Computing in schools. It is supported by BCS, Microsoft and Google.

Saturday's event was the usual interesting mix of talks and workshops. The keynote was given by Elizabeth Montgomery (HMIe) about the importance of computer science to the UK economy. A couple of the workshops related directly to SQA, including one on verification, presented by Ray Simpson, who is the Implementation Manager for CfE Computing Science.


Computing is one of the vocational subjects that is popular in schools. Qualifications such as Internet Safety, PC Passport and Computer Games Development have large uptakes in the school sector. Digital Passport is also proving to be of interest to many schools.

The recent Education Working for All report emphasised the importance of vocational qualifications in schools (up to and including HNCs) and I hope to take this forward in the coming months.

Contact Liz for more information about vocational qualifications for schools.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Heads of Computing Annual Event 2015

In the recent HN Update letter to centres, you were informed that we were in the process of discussing plans for the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Computing.

The annual event will take place on Friday 30th January 2015 at 1000 hours (Registration from 0930 hours) in the Stirling Highland Hotel, Spittal Street, Stirling FK8 1DU.

The event will cover current and future curricular developments as well as a number of spotlight items of interest to the field.

Places are limited and will be based on a first come first served basis with each delegate allocated a maximum of 2 places which is built into the online registration.
If you are interested in coming along to this event then please register online by clicking HERE.
We look forward to seeing you on the 30th January 2015.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

HNC/D Computer Games Development review has commenced

SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to offer qualifications in computer games when we introduced the HNC/D Computer Games Development in 2005. We revised that award in 2009, and it is now due to be reviewed again.

I met with Gill Flockart, of Dundee & Angus College, this afternoon to discuss the possible changes required to the existing award. Gill is going to scope the likely changes. She will consult widely during the scoping process to discover what's good and what's not so good about the current award.

Gill will complete the scoping exercise by March 2015, after which we will get down to making the necessary changes to the qualification. The revised qualification will be available to centres from session 2016/17.

Contact Caroline for more information about this project.

PC Passport and NPA Digital Literacy reviews

Both PC Passport and NPA Digital Literacy are being reviewed during the current year. In fact, PC Passport was meant to be reviewed last year but, instead, we forked the development to create Digital Passport. We now want to turn our attention back to PC Passport.

I intend to organise two "pre-QDT" meetings to discuss how to take each of these developments forward. These meetings would be wide-ranging discussions on what, if any, changes need to be made to these awards. They are "pre-QDT" because, if the recommended changes are small (such as simply updating the support materials rather than changing the contents of the qualifications), there would be no need for a QDT.

I'm hoping to conduct these meetings before Christmas. I've used the new lead person network to ask for college representatives but I am aware that these awards are also offered in schools and training centres. So please contact Liz if you want to be involved in these meetings.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Lead person network now established

We've just about got a lead person for each new college. We have lead contacts for 17 of the 19 Scottish colleges, and we hope to have a "complete set" in the near future. I've created a private group for the lead people so that we can easily communicate and share information.

This lead person network will not replace the usual channels of communications, such as this blog and my annual update letters, but it does provide me with a quick and easy way of communicating with the new colleges.

I have encouraged the lead contacts to cascade information to their colleagues, which should simply be a case of them forwarding the various e-mails that they will receive via the online group.

Please contact Liz if you want to know more about the lead contact network or find out who your lead contact is.

Friday, 14 November 2014

NPA Digital Literacy

As you may know, this award is due to be reviewed this year. The current award was introduced in 2007.

I plan to convene a meeting of centres, with an interest in this award, in the coming weeks to decide the best way to progress this development. There are a number of options including leaving it as it is (but updating its contents) and bringing it into the Digital Passport family of awards.

Please contact Liz if you are interested in being part of this development.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Christmas lectures on cyber security

There are a series of Christmas lectures on cyber security coming up in various places around Scotland. I attended last year's event in Glasgow, which was great fun, so I can highly recommend it. Tickets are available now. The events are organised by Martin Beaton of SICSA.

SQA is currently considering the development of a number of qualifications in this area. Contact Liz for more information about our plans.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Heads of Computing event

The annual Heads of Computing event will take place on Friday, 30 January in either Stirling or Edinburgh. I haven't worked out a detailed agenda yet, and we're not sure about the venue at this time, but please add that date to your diary. These events have been running for around 20 years now, and they are always well received.

The event will follow the usual format, beginning with a keynote speaker and including updates about what's been developed, what we're currently developing, and what we plan to develop in the future. As an ex-Head myself, I try to make sure that the event is a good use of your time.

Look out for more information in the near future. Don't forget to add the date to your diary.

Lead person

I've mentioned previously that I am trying to identify a lead person from each college to act as the main point of contact between my team and each college. This person will be a subject specialist. Around half the colleges have now responded. I've asked Liz to contact the other colleges to get a name. So, if your college hasn't responded yet, except a call from Liz.

Once I have a designated person for each college, they will be invited to join a (private) online group, which will be used for communications and information sharing.

The lead person network will not replace the usual means of communication between SQA and colleges (which includes this blog) but this small group of college contacts will provide me with a simple way to liaise the colleges. I will be sure to emphasise to the lead contacts that they should cascade information within their college.

Contact Liz for more information.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Digital Passport

I recently updated the FAQ for this new qualification.


We are pilotting this award during the current session. A number of schools, colleges, training providers and third sector organisations have joined the pilot. It's not too late to participate. The pilot runs from August 2014 to June 2015, and you can join (or leave) at any time.

The component units are available (to all centres) now but only designated centres can offer the group award. You can find out more by reading the FAQ.

Contact Liz if you want to know more.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Updated portfolio

I updated my qualification portfolio diagram this morning. There are one or two minor changes (corrections) but no additions.


It's worth noting the qualifications in bold (these are new and you may not be aware of them) and the qualifications in italics (these are currently being revised). Here are the awards that we are presently revising:
  • NPA Digital Literacy (SCQF Level 3)
  • PC Passport (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6)
  • HNC/D Interative Media
  • HNC/D Information Technology
  • HNC/D Computer Games Development.
That's a a large development workload in any year but this year has been particularly difficult due to staff changes. The NPA Digital Literacy and HNC/D IT developments haven't commenced yet when, in a normal year, they would have.

Please contact me if you want to be involved in any of these developments.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Big Data

As you know, we've been developing a couple of Higher National Units in the area of big data for a few months. They are:

  • Big Data (SCQF Level 7)
  • Data Science (SCQF Level 8).

They're almost complete now. The Big Data unit is complete, and is currently going through vetting, so I would be interested in your comments on it.


Both units will be available to centres from January. The Level 7 unit will be added to HNC Computing, and the Level 8 unit will be added to some HND awards (to be decided). It's likely that awards in other sectors will use the Level 7 unit too.

Big data has been described as the "new oil" and it looks like there will be lots of jobs in this area in the coming years.


Contact Caroline for more information about these new units or check out the E-Skills website for more information about jobs in this field.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Annual meeting of External Verifiers

The External Verifiers (EVs) for my subject area met on Saturday for their annual update meeting. The Senior EV (David Drennan) leads the event. The meeting took place in the SQA offices in Glasgow.


There have been a few changes to the team. For one thing, there are now more women on the team than men, which is a first for the Computing EV team. When I was an EV in the 1990's, if I remember correctly, there wasn't a single woman on the team.

There is a standing item on the agenda for a qualification update, which me and my team deliver. That provides an opportunity to tell the EVs what's changed, what's changing, and what will change in the future. There was nothing in the update that hasn't already been posted on this blog.

The EV job is interesting and fantastic CPD for lecturers. Not only do you get the observe the standards in centres across Scotland but there are opportunities to visit some of our international centres. A few member of the team are going to China shortly. Contact Appointment Management if you want to know more about the role or to apply to become an EV.

Monday, 27 October 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media

The QDT for HNC/D Interactive Media met on Saturday to make some key decisions about the revised award. The development is being led by Fiona Murnin.


The first decision we made was the title. The revised awards will be called:
  1. HNC Digital Design & Web Development
  2. HND Web Development
  3. HND Digital Development.
The HNC will be common to both HNDs. One of the HNDs will focus on web development; the other will be more general and focus on digital platforms.

We also discussed employment opportunities, progression paths, professional recognition and vendor accreditation. It was a productive meeting that gave a lot of ideas to Fiona.

You can see the evolving Group Award Specification below.


Contact Fiona if you want more information about this development.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Welcome to Liz

I recently wrote about Helen, who is replacing Hilary, but I want to introduce Liz Sinclair.

Helen can't join my team until the end of November so I needed help during the period between now and then, given that Hilary has moved onto her new post. So Liz will, temporarily, provide cover until Helen can join me.

I won't update my team diagram until Helen joins us.


Liz has taken over Hilary's portfolio so, essentially, e-mail Liz in place of Hilary for any of the subjects in the above diagram. Liz is an experienced QO who has been with SQA since 2005 and I'm sure that she will be able to help.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review of HNC/D Computer Games Development

As part of SQA's regular review process, the HNC/D Computer Games Development is due to be reviewed this year. SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to introduce qualifications in this area. The awards have proven to be popular, with over 1000 pupils in Scottish schools doing the NPA award.

When we're pretty sure that a qualification needs an update, we immediately commence a full review. When we're not so sure, we begin by "scoping" the changes needed. Given the pretty positive feedback I've had about this award, we're going to scope it this year.

We're looking for someone to carry out the scoping. This involves the completion of a pro forma that explores the strengths and weaknesses of the current award, and outlines the likely changes needed. The person would consult with centres that currently offer the award, as well as employer and professional representatives.

Please contact Caroline if you are interested in carrying out this work or want to find out more. Ideally, you will have experience of delivering the qualification. I hope to commence the scoping in November and the person would be required for around one day per week.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Respect Me

I don't normally promote third parties, or third party events, on this blog since you come here for qualification news, but I'll make an exception for this event.

RespectMe's annual conference takes place on 18 November and it sounds very worthwhile, with workshops on bullying, cyberbullying, and homophobia. More information here.