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Thursday, 26 February 2015

PC Passport FAQ

As you may know, we are currently reviewing PC Passport. The development is making good progress. We create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for new or revised awards. Here is the FAQ for PC Passport.


It can be viewed here. The FAQ will be updated from time to time so that it contains the latest information about the development.

Contact Helen for more information about PC Passport.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

New Units in Big Data and Data Science

As you will have read in a previous blog posting, we have been busy developing two new HN units in the area of Big Data at SCQF Level 7 and Data Science at SCQF Level 8.

Both units are now complete and available for download via the SQA website.

I am currently liaising with the Qualification Support Team (QST) to establish which frameworks the units should be part of and once this has been decided, they will be added as optional units.  If you are interested in delivering the Units and would like them as part of a particular group award, please get in touch with me directly and I can feed this into the QST for discussion.

Each unit will have an Assessment Support Pack (ASP) - both ASPs are under development and will be available to centres by May 2015.

You can view the published units by clicking on the links below:

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



NPA Cyber Security development

The Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the NPA in Cyber Security met for the first time yesterday afternoon in the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.


There has been a lot of interest in this development since it was first announced and there was an excellent turn-out at the meeting, with representatives of schools, colleges, universities and employers in attendance.

After I explained the qualification development process, and the role of the QDT, we got down to business. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the title, nature, levels and contents of the awards. We made some important decisions. The awards will be called "Cyber Security"; they will be developed at three levels (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6); the introductory level will be fairly generic and the advanced level will be more specialised. We hope that the awards will attract a lot of learners, particularly young women, and we aim to make them as interesting and engaging as we can.

The next stage is to define the precise structures of the award (at each of the three levels). We made some progress on this but we need to finalise the frameworks.

We hope to have the new qualification available to centres from August. In the meantime, keep your eye on the qualification FAQ, which will be maintained throughout the qualification process.

Please contact Helen for more information about this development.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Digital skills report

The UK government published a report yesterday on the need to improve digital skills. The House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills published a report entitled Make or Break: The UK's Digital Future. A BBC article summarises the main findings and recommendations, which include:

  • the need to ensure everyone leaves school with basic digital literacy
  • the need to attract more women into computing
  • the need to improve intermediate and high-end digital skills
  • more emphasis on digital skills within Modern Apprenticeships.

The report claims that the UK is at a "tipping point" with digital skills. One that will determine the shape of the future UK economy. I was particularly interested in the comment about the importance of medium and high level digital skills since this is often an area that is overlooked.

The Computing portfolio of qualifications already has a lot of awards in digital literacy but I will look at it again once I have read the report in full. I hope that schools and colleges take the opportunity to check that their programmes address the issues raised in the report.

The full report can be downloaded here [PDF]. Contact Helen for more information about digital literacy qualifications.

Monday, 16 February 2015

NPA Digital Literacy FAQ

I previously mentioned that the QDT for this award met for the first time last week. I have now created a FAQ for the revised award. You can read (and download) it here or simply scroll the embedded version below.


It's early days in this development but this FAQ will be updated as our thoughts solidify so please keep an eye on it in the coming weeks and months. By the end of the development, it will contain all the essential information that you need.

Contact Helen if there is anything you want to ask that's not answered in the FAQ.

Friday, 13 February 2015

NPA Digital Literacy

I mentioned previously that we were about to review the NPA in Digital Literacy, which was first introduced in 2007. The first meeting of the Qualification Development Team (QDT) met yesterday.

It was a good meeting. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the current award, the likely demographics of the revised award, and the knowledge and skills needed within the new qualification.

The QDT decided to retain the current title on the basis that there is a strong focus in digital literacy in schools and colleges. I was told that there is also a dearth of qualifications at this level (SCQF Level 3). But the current award's focus on numeracy and communications needs to be changed to make it focus more on computer skills.

The revised award would focus on computer skills, digital skills and software skills. It would be a simple, broad-based introduction to computing, which would permit learners to acquire basic knowledge and skills, and progress to further qualifications in the area. A suggested structure was:

  1. Computer Basics
  2. Digital Skills (new)
  3. Using Applications (new)

The current award has low uptake but the QDT felt that there was a real need for a qualification in this area at this level and that the revised award could prove to be popular.

Please contact Helen if you want to know more about this development.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Cyber Security awards are in the news

Following the announcement by the Deputy First Minister last week about the new qualifications in Cyber Security, Holyrood Magazine ran an article on the project yesterday.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Cyber Security qualifications

The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, announced the development of a new suite of qualifications in cyber security at yesterday's Cyber Security 2015 event, held in Edinburgh. SQA will be developing a number of National Progression Awards in this area at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6.

It's an exciting development. It will be the first qualification of its kind (aimed at school pupils) in Europe. The hope is that it will engender an interest in computer science among young people that will lead to more of them choosing this as a career. There is a particular skills gap in information security with many unfilled posts and this problem will get much worse in the coming years. We hope that the qualification will attract both boys and girls. It will be suitable for anyone, even those without a background in computing.

We have already formed a Qualification Development Team, comprised of representatives of schools, colleges, universities, industry and professional bodies. We aim to have the qualification available to schools and colleges for August (this year). Please contact Helen for more information.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Heads of Computing event

The Heads of Computing event took place on Friday at the Stirling Highland Hotel. This annual event has taken place for over 20 years now and is an important date in the team's calendar.

It went well. The agenda this year, I thought, was a particularly good mix of stuff-you-need-to-know and interesting presentations about such things as the future of assessment and cyber security.


My own presentation provided an update on qualifications (a standing item on the agenda) plus a short presentation on the new NPA in Digital Passport.


The one disappointing thing about the day was the attendance. The event normally attracts 50-70 people and we got just over half of that on Friday. I think that there were many reasons for that, the main one being the new regionalised college structures means that there are far fewer Heads of Computing.

I took the opportunity to promote the new Lead Person Network for Computing, which I hope will become a useful communication channel in the coming year.

Please contact Caroline if you want to know more about Firday's event or get a copy of the presentations.