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Connecting With SQA - SQA's Monthly E-zine.

18 December 2007
Issue 22


Happy Christmas

On behalf of everyone at SQA can I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2008. I have enjoyed meeting many of you and listening to your views. It has been an exciting year and we have achieved much but important challenges still remain. I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with you in the coming year, in our common goal of improving the education and skills of learners throughout Scotland and contributing to making the Scottish economy more competitive and relevant in today's global marketplace.

Janet Brown
Chief Executive

Higher English Review

IMAGE: LanguageWe have been in discussions regarding Higher English together with the Headteachers' Association of Scotland (HAS) and the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS).

Higher English was introduced as part of Higher Still in 1999 and as a result of feedback, was reviewed and modified in both 2000 and 2003. We have been monitoring this qualification and have been working with the teaching profession to understand how it has been performing.

The most recent discussions with HAS and SCIS, and work already underway within SQA, have provided further intelligence that has pointed the way to areas which should be taken forward in the short and medium term.

There was mutual recognition that continued support for a better understanding of standards is critical to the success of all our qualifications, and we are committed to strengthening our support in this area.

We continue to enhance the quality assurance process geared towards reinforcing high standards of marking. This applies to all qualifications including English.

A Curriculum for Excellence will shortly be publishing the Outcomes and Experiences for English and Literacy and this will allow us to review the content of Higher English to ensure that there is good progression and fit between these two elements.

To prepare for a review of Higher English, we will be undertaking a short piece of work on the nature of the required content of the subject that will form the basis of a conversation with teachers, lecturers and other stakeholders. This will ensure that any new qualification would support the future requirements of Scotland.

Art Exhibition

PHOTO: Art Exhibition visitorsWith nearly a month still to run, the SQA Art Exhibition, currently showing at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, has received a ‘fantastic’ response from visitors.
The exhibition, which runs until 4 January 2008 and which is the first of its kind in Scotland, provides a showcase for the talents of some of Scotland’s brightest young artists and has received more than 9,000 visitors, including 200 school parties, so far.

Our Chief Executive Dr Janet Brown said, 'The response to the exhibition has been fantastic, and we’ve had very positive feedback from both school parties and the general public. It’s wonderful that, with the support of the National Gallery and our sponsors, we’ve been able to display the work of such talented young artists for so many people to see.'

PHOTO: Art Exhibition studentsThe 'A' exhibition shows off 130 spectacular and inspirational works of art, all of which received A grades and which were created by the cream of Scotland’s young artists.

The works of art on display were chosen from over 34,000 pieces submitted by young people who sat Art and Design national course examinations earlier this year. The vast majority of artists displayed range from 16 to 18 years of age.

'We’ve had school parties visit from all over Scotland, thanks to funding from our sponsors, and this can only inspire the next generation of talented young people,' continued Dr Brown. 'The art will be on display for another month and I would urge anyone with an interest in art to come along and see the exhibition for themselves.'

Alison Reid, a teacher at Banchory Academy in Kincardineshire, one of the many schools to have visited, said, 'All of my pupils really enjoyed the exhibition. Some had never considered going to an art gallery before but they were all extremely impressed. To see the work of students like themselves on display at Scotland’s top art gallery was really inspiring.'

The exhibition features works from this year’s Standard Grade, Intermediate 2 and Higher examinations. As well as paintings, exhibits also include sculpture, design, ceramics, fashion and jewellery.

PHOTO: Exhibition visitors admire the exhibits.Designed to highlight some of the best examples of work from aspiring artists, the exhibition has been organised with teachers, students of art in schools and colleges, as well as the general public, in mind. To support the exhibition and ensure that teachers and students get maximum benefit from their visit, a fully illustrated catalogue is available. A student catalogue is also available. Both are free of charge.

To find out more visit the dedicated section of our website.

National Qualification Group Awards Conference

PHOTO: NQGA Conference 2007We will host our second annual National Qualification Group Awards Conference  in Dunfermline on 25 January 2008. This year, the keynote speaker will be Jacqui Hepburn, Partnership Manager with the Sector Skills Development Agency. 

The conference will focus on the themes of skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling and how National Certificates and National Progression Awards (NPAs) can support the Scottish Government's Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy, working in partnership with colleges, schools, employers and training providers.

The aims of the conference include:

This event is aimed at Senior Managers in colleges and schools and those who are interested in vocational qualifications (SCQF levels 2-6), for example, employers, training providers, Sector Skills Councils, Local Authorities, Scottish Further Education Unit (SFEU), COLEG, Association of Scotland's Colleges (ASC) and Careers Scotland.

For further information please contact Hilary Rutherford or Ashley McGeoch 

Download your invite letter here.

Qualifications for the Future: SQA Academy

LOGO: Qualifications for the FutureThe Qualifications for the Future virtual space at SQA Academy is a resource for colleagues from schools, colleges, training providers, the workplace and the community, as well as SQA staff. It provides information on developments and latest thinking about qualifications and assessment. The virtual space will provide DVD clips, on-line questionnaires, papers, think-pieces and letters, all of which will provide ideas about the future of qualifications and assessment.

Information-giving is, however, only one purpose of this virtual space, albeit an important one. It also encourages self-reflection and professional debate through an on-line forum which colleagues are encouraged to use to reflect on current practice and their hopes and wishes for future qualifications.

For further information on the SQA Academy please contact John Allan – 0845 213 5545.

Access the SQA Academy here.

Skills for Work - Retailing (Intermediate 2)

GRAPHIC: Skills for Work roadsign.Skills for Work Courses are mainly for pupils in third and fourth year of secondary school. These new qualifications encourage young people to become familiar with the world of work. They provide a variety of practical experiences that are linked to particular careers.

The Courses help young people to develop knowledge and skills that will be important for employment - and for life in general. Young people taking one of these new Skills for Work Courses will normally spend some of their time at a local college, or other training provider. This will mean learning in a different environment, meeting new people and facing new challenges.

Skills for Work Courses provide young people with good opportunities to develop their self-confidence. They also aim to provide a very positive learning experience. For many young people, an early chance to work on practical skills that relate directly to jobs will provide real benefits.

A new Skills for Work Course in Retailing (Intermediate 2) has been designed and is reaching its final stages of development towards a formal launch in March 2008. The Course has been designed to provide an introductory qualification in retail which reflects employability skills identified as being important by many employers, including those within the retail sector.

The Retailing (Intermediate 2) Course provides opportunities for candidates to develop general and practical skills as well as knowledge and understanding of the key aspects of retailing through providing a broad experiential introduction to the retail sector. Employability skills are key to the Course and there are opportunities to develop them through the activities and tasks built into the Course.

If you have any queries or would like further information about the Retailing (Intermediate 2) Course please contact Liam Priest. 

Access the Retailing (Intermediate 2) Course Summary here.

Qualifications Development/Revision Planner

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we have established a planning tool for the development/revision of all Group Awards. This brings together in a single Excel workbook our rolling plans for Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, Professional Development Awards, National Certificates, National Progression Awards and National Courses.

Gill Stewart, our Depute Director of Qualifications, says, 'This will be a valuable tool for everyone who is interested in seeing SQA’s forward plans for qualifications development. By selecting a subject area, all of our planned Group Award developments are displayed in SCQF level sequence, making it easy to find what you are looking for. Sector Skills Councils can also display those developments within their own area.'

The planning tool does not include SVQs – yet – nor does it include any award which is in its lapsing period or is being allowed to lapse.

We hope you find this useful. Any feedback on how this planning tool could be improved is welcome – please email your comments to Jim Vasey. 

Access the planner.

PC Passport Update

New Support Materials    

LOGO: PC PassportTo support schools, colleges and students who are undertaking the refreshed version of PC Passport a new suite of SQA PC passport materials have been produced in Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word format.

The eight titles cover all three levels, with each level clearly marked in the workbook. Exercises have been incorporated into the student workbook and the content has been updated to reflect changes in software.

The workbooks will be available to download from the PC Passport website along with the associated exercise files for each title.

All assessment support packs including those for the workplace are now available to download from our secure website. The workplace assessments contain an assessor guide and a candidate portfolio shell and are also available from the PC Passport website.

It is important that if you are delivering the refreshed version of PC Passport you only use the Assessment Support Packs.

If you are delivering the current version of PC Passport, please use only the National Assessment Banks.

Leckie & Leckie Support Materials

To support schools, colleges and students who are continuing with the current PC Passport qualification, the existing Leckie & Leckie books and CDs will remain available for 2008.

The refreshed version of PC Passport contains most of the same content as the original version, but does have some new and rearranged topics. Schools, colleges and students using Leckie & Leckie books will be able to continue to use these materials for most of their work.

Leckie & Leckie are providing bridging materials to fill in the gaps between the original and refreshed versions of PC Passport. These bridging materials can be downloaded here.

If you are an SQA centre who purchased the original Leckie & Leckie PC Passport materials, please download the bridging materials for the refreshed version of PC Passport. 

If you are not currently delivering the refreshed version of PC Passport, Leckie & Leckie will be publishing new books for PC Passport in Autumn 2008.

Visit the PC Passport website.

Dominant Funding Groups and Superclass

We have received a number of queries in recent months regarding the Superclass attached to individual Units, and the implications with regard to dominant funding groups. This article aims to explain the current process and possible future developments.

We allocate each Unit to the appropriate Superclass category by comparing the content of the Unit with the Superclass category descriptors. As we do not ‘own’ Superclass, we cannot make any changes to the category descriptors.

You may challenge the Superclass allocated by emailing the appropriate Qualifications Manager (this can be obtained from our web site subject pages, or by contacting our Customer Contact Centre). The email should suggest to which Superclass category the Unit should be re-allocated, together with a rationale for the change. This rationale should be based on a match of the content of the Unit and the Superclass category, and not on the basis of issues related to funding or weighting.

Upon receipt of this email, the Qualifications Manager will take advice from a subject expert, eg the External Verifier, Validation Panel Chair or Chair of the Qualifications Support Team. If it is agreed that the Superclass should be re-allocated, we will make the appropriate changes and notify you. (Please note, however, that while the HN Unit Excel spreadsheet and the e-based Unit descriptor can be changed immediately, changes to other media such as NQ CD-ROMs and NQ Catalogues can only be made at the time of their re-publication.)

If the decision is that the Superclass should not be changed, you will be advised accordingly.

Research and Information Services Update

LOGO: Research logo

New statistics are now available on the Research and Information Services (RIS) web pages.

There are two new Research Bulletins available on the RIS pages.

The 2007 Monitoring Standards reports are also available on the RIS pages.

Prepare your students to make the leap

PHOTO: Keith Wright, Qualifications Manager, sets the scene for the day.Over 200 delegates prepared for their students to make the leap with the new Personal Development (PD) National Qualification by registering for the launches. The launches were held during November in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. 

Angela Baird, PD Development Manager, delivered presentations and outlined the new Course and Unit structures and explained the differentiation between the levels. Following these presentations the delegates went into workshops to familiarise themselves with the Units and associated National Assessment Bank materials.

The delegates also listened to presentations from Esther Cairney and Sandy Riddell. Esther Cairney, Development Officer for Assessment, Achievement and NQs from Learning and Teaching Scotland, gave a comprehensive tour of their website and where to find support materials. Sandy Riddell, our NQ Product Development Project Manager, explained the progress of the development work for PD Access 2.

The new PD Course and its individual Units seek to develop students’ self confidence and self esteem by increasing their knowledge of their own qualities, interpersonal and task management skills as they undertake a range of personal projects. It also provided opportunities for them to receive credit for the skills they show when gathering and handling information as well as making a product or providing a service.

This will complement and enhance their learning in other subjects or circumstances giving them the potential to achieve success in new and challenging situations. The open ended and flexible approach to the delivery of these Courses and Units gives centres the chance to deliver them in contexts which suit the specific needs and circumstances of their students.

The launches were very successful and the delegates left with a clearer understanding of the Course. Below are a few of the feedback comments from the delegates:

For further information about this Course or Units contact Ken Wright.

Media Academy Network - a world first

PHOTO: Creative Loop being awarded Skillset Media Academy status at launch event in LondonLOGO: Skillset Media Academy
The world's first Media Academy Network was launched in the UK last week by Culture Minister James Purnell and Skills Minister David Lammy. The network, devised by Skillset, the UK Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, enhances the role of colleges and universities who work with industry in developing a new wave of talent to create the media content and tools of the future. The network is made up of 17 Academies, drawing together creative education partnerships from 43 colleges and universities across the UK.

This is the first attempt anywhere in the world to bring together collaborative partnerships between the media industries and academia into the fabric of national education infrastructure.

SQA is a partner in Creative Loop, a partnership of six Scottish colleges (Aberdeen, Adam Smith, Cardonald, Dundee, Perth and Reid Kerr) and key national partners, Scottish Screen and Skillset Scotland, who work alongside the creative audio visual industries in Scotland to improve the quality of training within colleges and the quality of graduates entering the industry.
Creative Loop was awarded Skillset Media Academy status at the launch event.  As a Skillset Media Academy, Creative Loop will be involved in a network of UK-wide academies that have been identified by Skillset on behalf of the UK television and interactive industries as Centres of Excellence in creative media training and education across the United Kingdom. This is a significant achievement for us all.

Project Manager of Creative Loop, Helliate Rushwaya comments, 'The Skillset Media Academy status is a significant achievement for all the partners in Creative Loop and in particular the six colleges.  Creative Loop Skillset Media Academy is one of only 17 academies approved to date across the UK and the first approved in Scotland.  We are also the first Skillset Media Academy that is wholly comprised of partners from the college sector.
Achieving Skillset Media Academy status is a natural progression for Creative Loop and complements the objectives of the three year SFC Strategic Change Fund project to improve the quality of training within colleges and the quality of graduates entering the industry.'

Our Development Manager involved in Creative Loop, John Lewis comments, 'SQA are delighted with the news of Creative Loop's award of Skillset Media Academy status - its a great result for everyone involved and will help media students in Scotland to realise their full potential. It also underscores the excellent work done by these colleges and rightly identifies them collectively as a national centre of excellence.

Find out more.

SQA Sponsors...Scotlandís Colleges Annual Awards 2007

PHOTO: Winner - Angue CollegeScotland’s Colleges Annual Conference and Awards took place on Tuesday 27 November at Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel.

We sponsored the 2007 Award for Professional Learning and Enhancement which was awarded to Angus College, with Glasgow Metropolitan College Highly Commended and Anniesland College Commended in the same category.

The other award winners on the night were:

The ceremony followed Scotland’s Colleges very successful Eighth Annual Conference, 'Working with Scotland’s Colleges’ where speakers from Australia, the USA and England gave insightful presentations into education in their country.

The standard of entries for the awards was extremely high this year with an astounding 60 submissions from 27 colleges recorded.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

PHOTO: Highly Commended - Glasgow Metropolitan CollegePHOTO: Commended - Anniesland College

View more pictures from the awards here.

SQA Sponsors...National Training Awards 2007

PHOTO: National Training Awards WinnersIndividuals, businesses and organisations from across Scotland who have made an outstanding commitment to skills development were recognised for their achievements at the 2007 National Training Awards on November 22, sponsored by SQA.

Broadcaster Fred Macaulay and Minister for Schools and Skills Maureen Watt announced the 12 winners of the National Training Awards at an event in the Glasgow Hilton attended by 350 guests.

The Kincardine-based Scottish Police College and Ayrshire’s Westin Turnberry Resort were named UK Winners. Others honoured as Scottish winners included Choose Life, the Scottish Government’s national strategy and action plan to prevent suicide in Scotland; Glasgow Science Centre; Standard Life Bank; and three further finalists were Highly Commended.

The awards, which are managed in Scotland by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, recognise people and organisations who have achieved excellence through training.

Linda McDowall, Acting Senior Director of Skills and Learning at Scottish Enterprise, said: 'Identifying the need for skills development and sourcing an appropriate solution can help to boost businesses and have a truly positive effect on the Scottish economy. It can also provide an invaluable service for the community, offering people the skills necessary to help others.'

The awards recognise the impact effective training can have in enabling people to achieve their potential, organisations to achieve their objectives, and Scotland’s workforce to compete in the global market.

All 12 winners were honoured for a commitment to exceptional training, which has had real benefits for businesses, individuals and the community. 

FInd out more about the awards.

In memory of Farquhar Macintosh

PHOTO: Farquhar MacintoshWe would like to pay tribute to SQA Fellow Farquhar Macintosh who has died at the age of 84. A former rector of three schools – Portree High, Oban High and latterly the Royal High School of Edinburgh, where he was Rector from 1972 to 1989 – his career in education spanned more than 50 years.

Many public appointments in education followed, including the position of Chairman of the Scottish Examination Board (SEB) in 1977. Farquhar skillfully chaired the Board through the creation of the Standard Grade and dealt with the threat to national exams during the 1984–86 teachers' dispute.

When he retired from the Royal High School in 1989 and as Chairman of the Scottish Examination Board in 1990, he was probably one of the best known educationalists in Scotland.

Farquhar’s interest in the whole area of higher education and his lifelong pride in his Gaelic heritage came together when he was made Chair of the Board of Trustees of Sàbhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College in Skye.

In addition to his SQA Fellowship, Farquhar’s public service was recognised by the award of a CBE in 1982, honorary doctorates from Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities and fellowships from the Educational Institute of Scotland and the UHIMI.

His service included Chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal Blind School, member of the Board of Governors of St Margaret's School in Edinburgh, Chair of the Scottish European Movement and the Highlands and Islands Educational Trust.

In memory of Gerry Ritchie

James Gerard Ritchie (always Gerry), language teacher and Francophile, has died aged 79. Born to a French mother and Scottish father, Gerry’s great love of France and the French language marked both his life and his teaching career.

After graduating from Glasgow University with honours in French and German in 1951 and completing his National Service, Gerry joined the teaching profession. This was a time of great educational changes in Scotland. The first comprehensive schools were introduced in Glasgow and Gerry was appointed to St Augustine’s Secondary in Milton.

In the early 1960s, he was appointed principal teacher of modern languages and a founder member of the staff of St Margaret Mary’s Secondary School in Glasgow. During this period he was invited to serve on the Scottish Examination Board in Edinburgh, where his insight and experience were greatly valued for many years. Also at this time he served on various language committees within the Glasgow education department, and helped with the development of television and classroom programmes for the introduction of French in primary schools.

In the 1970s he was appointed Assistant Headteacher of St Roch’s Secondary and later he took up the post of Depute Head of St Leonard’s Secondary in Easterhouse. His final posting was as Depute Head of Holyrood Secondary, the largest comprehensive secondary school in Scotland, with more than 2,000 pupils. He was a dedicated teacher and his lifelong interest in others young and not so young enriched the lives of many in the world of education.