Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Leckie & Leckie - PC Passport Publications (New)

At the Scottish Learning Festival event taking place at the SECC both today and tomorrow, Leckie and Leckie will be officially launching their new PC Passport publication for Beginner Level (ISBN: 9781843725916).

PC Passport - Intermediate Level (ISBN: 9781843725923) is due to be published mid October.

To place an order, please click on the URL below:

Friday, 19 September 2008

Changes to the Computing team

I've alluded to imminent changes to the Computing team in a number of recent posts and today I met with my team to discuss the changes that are going to take place.

SQA has been planning an internal restructure for a long time and the plans for these changes have now been finalised and will be implemented from 1 October.

The changes do not greatly effect the Computing team, in the sense that the team will continue with its current portfolio of qualifications. But its composition is changing. In particular, I'm losing Angela who is going to a new team dealing with "essential skills". It's a great opportunity for Angela and a great loss to Computing, since Angela (in one capacity or another) has been supporting Computing qualifications for the last four years. She will be sorely missed.

But I'm gaining someone who many of you will know very well. Shirley Sampson is returning the fold! Shirley has been doing a number of jobs within SQA during the last few years but she is now coming back as QO from 1 October. I'm delighted to have her knowledge, experience and wisdom back on the team. And there's a new face. Jacqueline Cambpell is going to join the team. Jacqui was previously involved in the Sport for Life project.

Although I'm losing one person (Angela) and gaining two (Shirley and Jacqueline), in fact the size of the team is falling since Angela was full-time and both Shirley and Jacqui are part-time. So, it will be a challenge to maintain the level of service. The continued presence of Caroline (QO) provides some continuity.

The Computing team will be part of a new qualification area called "Business & Industry", led by Gordon Rodgers. I'm looking forward to working for Gordon who has been very helpful and supportive to me.

I'm sure that the changes will be good for the subject area once the dust settles and everyone knows what they are doing. I'll post an updated organisation chart, showing precisely who is doing what, as soon as I have put one together.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Computing performance problems

I attended a meeting at SFEU this afternoon to discuss problems with HNC/D Computing at college. There were representatives of HMIE, the Funding Council and SQA (myself) there.

For some time now, the uptake of HNC/D Computing has been declining. The decline has been less than the fall in university applications for Computing subjects but it still has been marked. And the performance indicators (such as student retention and student achievement figures) are not good.

There has been an on-going debate about these problems for some time but yesterday's meeting provided an opportunity for a detailed discussion about the issues, together with some possible solutions.

The problems appears to be caused by a number of factors including the quality of teaching, staff development and training, and the curriculum itself. I have a special responsibility for the curriculum and was particularly interested in this aspect of the discussions. The pass rates in a few specific units are particularly low and I promised to look into this and see if there is anything that can be done to improve the pass rate (without compromising standards).

I offered to create a survey to get some hard facts and figures about the issues and I will do this in the next week or two.

There are issues surrounding Computing in every sector (school, college and university) but it's good to see some positive action taking place to address the problems.

Moderning assessment

My paper about modernising assessment has got me invitations to speak at lots of events. This morning's event was one of the smaller but more enjoyable talks - to a small group of Head Teachers from Inverclyde.

They were a lively group... and surprisingly supportive of modernising assessment. This has been a recurring theme whenever I've presented my paper - that nearly every teacher (whether from school, college or university) agrees with the need to update assessment. My presentation usually stimulates debate and yesterday was no different. I really enjoyed listening to the views of secondary HTs.

Computing e-Learning Materials

Please note that the Computing e-Learning materials are now fully hosted at the following URL:

The temporary hosting site at has now been cancelled as all materials are through the main SQA website.

Friday, 12 September 2008

More on Digital Culture

When I got back from London last night, I had a meeting with the person (Ted Hastings) who is developing the suits of new units relating to Digital Culture. Ted lives in Spain but, thanks to Skype, it's no problem to meet with him.

Ted has now produced a draft specification for each of the proposed units at SCQF Levels 6, 7 and 8. They make interesting reading. Not only from a content perspective, although they cover lots of interesting Web 2.0 stuff relating to online collaboration, but also from an assessment perspective. Ted has taken Assessment 2.0 to heart. He's proposing an element of teacher, peer and self-assessment in each of the units.

There's still a lot of work to be done on the units. I'll share the drafts via this blog when they are in a fit state. But they make very interesting reading even at this stage.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Awarding Body Forum

I spent today in London, attending an Awarding Body Forum, which is hosted by E-Skills UK. The purpose of these meetings is to provide a communication channel between the Sector Skills Council for IT (E-Skills) and the awarding bodies that provide IT qualifications across the UK.

Although much of the agenda inevitably relates to England, they are always interesting meetings and it's a good way for me to keep up to date with UK-wide developments. Today's agenda included developments at E-Skills, news about a revised GCSE in IT, Modern Apprenticeships, and an update on progress with the revised National Occupational Standards.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Interactive Teaching and Learning Materials

Over the past few months, we have developed additional interactive teaching and learning packs that cover a selection of HN Units that are included in HN Computing, Information Technology, Interactive Media and Computer Networking awards.

These have now been uploaded to the SQA website and can be accessed by clicking on

Friday, 5 September 2008

HND Computer Games QDT and lead developer

This morning I put out a request for volunteers for the Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the new HND Computer Games Development qualification. As previously noted, we had an open meeting of all interested parties last month and, as a result, decided to progress with this work.

The first stage in any new development is to form a QDT, and appoint a person to lead the work (a "lead developer"). So, I posted an appeal on the online group (there is a dedicated one for this project) and I'm hoping that I get a good response. I'm looking for one person to serve as lead developer, and around six people to serve on the QDT.

If you missed the open meeting and want to know more about this development, contact Caroline.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Online groups

The Computing team has been using online groups (Smartgroups (RIP), Yahoogroups and, more recently, Jiglu) for a long time. In the days of Smartgroups they were very active indeed. They are less active now.

At the Computing team meeting on Tuesday, we discussed the use of these groups. There are a lot of groups still in existence, although many of these are hardly used. So, we decided to review the groups and rationalise them by combining the low usage ones. A final decision has not been made about what groups we will continue to support and what ones will be killed off but I'll post something in the near future.

The review of the online groups coincides with internal changes in SQA that I'll write more about shortly.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Professional Development Workshops

For the last few years SQA has been organising PDWs to help teachers to understand standards in NQ Courses.  You may already have heard that this year a PDW is being organised for Higher Information Systems.  The workshop will use examples of candidates’ work from the 2008 examination diet to develop delegates’ understanding of national standards.

More details can be found here.

PC Passport and UCAS points

We've been trying to get PC Passport recognised for UCAS credit for some time. This is important for schools that want to help students progress to university.

I spent some of this morning checking a proposal to allocate "40 to 50" UCAS points to PC Passport at Higher level. While this is not official yet, it is very promising and I'm hoping that a definitive value will be assigned soon. Watch this space...