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

Friday 3 November 2006
Issue 11

Inspiring Art

PHOTO: Artist Laura Mairs with SQA Interim Chief Executive Tom Drake at the Inspirational Art Tour Bus Launch at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Using the very best work submitted by Scotland’s talented young artists for this year’s exams, we recently launched a special Art Tour, which will travel across Scotland for 7 weeks (until 24 November), visiting over 60 schools from Galashiels to Golspie. The tour was launched by Robert Brown MSP, the Deputy Minister for Education and Young People, as part of the Scottish Executive’s ‘Celebrating Success’ initiative.

The stunning collection is being housed in a travelling gallery on wheels - a specially-liveried and kitted-out skyliner bus. The aim of the tour is to inspire future art candidates and spotlight the work of this year’s candidates and their teachers.

IMAGE: Inspirational Art Tour 2006To find out when the tour is coming to a school near you, please call our Customer Contact Centre on 0845 279 1000 or e-mail the team at

View a selection of the art.

Modernising Scotland’s Higher National Provision

PHOTO: SQA staff at an event at Reid Kerr College, Paisley
One of the main access routes to employment and to advanced study in degree or other programmes in Scotland is through Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Diplomas (HNDs).

Funded by a £1.27 million European Social Fund (ESF) grant, the Modernising Scottish Higher National Provision (MSHNP) project has over the past two years revised over 1200 hundred HN Unit descriptors and created nearly 1000 assessment exemplars. In addition, the MSHNP project is presently developing a new online assessment system and high quality learning and teaching materials that will be provided without charge to our approved centres in Scotland.

This innovative project comprises two major strands of activity. Strand 1 includes creation of assessment exemplars and learning and teaching support materials across a wide range of subjects from Advertising and PR to Early Education and Child Care, Spa Therapies, Computing, and Engineering. These materials are available for download from our website.

Strand 2 focuses on computer-assisted assessment provision such as the Scottish Online Assessment Resources (SOLAR) project, and the development of subject-specific learner guides to be distributed via the Scottish Further Education Unit’s Information Gateway.

We manage MSHNP and the work is undertaken by a partnership comprising ourselves, specialists in colleges and other learning centres, the Scottish Further Education Unit, and College Open Learning Exchange Group (COLEG).

During August and September we held workshops at a number of Scottish colleges to raise awareness of the HN Resources produced through the project and they were very well received by college practioners across a range of subjects. Due to the positive response we will be visiting more colleges over the coming months. We will also be attending the Objective3 Best Practice event at the Thistle Hotel on 7 November, if you would like to speak to us in person and see some of the materials we have produced to complement new HN awards.

Alternatively, for further information about the project and its outputs please contact:

Liam Campbell, ESF Co-ordinator:

Find out more..

Launch of Microsoft's Digital Literacy Curriculum in Scotland

PHOTO: Interim Chief Executive, Tom Drake with Microsoft's Lutz Ziob

We are delighted to announce the signing of our partnership with Microsoft for the delivery of the Digital Literacy Curriculum in Scotland. Lutz Ziob, General Manager of Microsoft Learning, and Tom Drake, our Interim Chief Executive met in Edinburgh recently to sign a commemoration of the partnership. 

We will incorporate the Digital Literacy Curriculum with the Access level courses that provide the foundation ICT skills to Scotland’s adults. We also intend to provide other supplementary materials to centres who deliver the course.

Fellows of SQA

PHOTO: Judith Sischy, Director of the Scottish Council of Independent SchoolsPHOTO: James McVittie, former Head Teacher of St Ninian's High SchoolThe SQA Fellowship is awarded to individuals who have made a significant contribution to education and training in Scotland. We are delighted to announce that the 2006 Fellowships will be awarded to Judith Sischy, Director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools and James McVittie, former Head Teacher of St Ninian's High School.

These prestigious awards will be presented to Judith and James at our Annual Awards Ceremony on Monday 20 November in Edinburgh.

Heroes for just one day

PHOTO: Hip-hop outfit Empafy, signed to the Urban label at Glasgow’s Stow CollegePHOTO: Singer/Songwriter Kat Healy Band from Edinburgh’s Jewel and Esk Valley College

Together with the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) and Scottish colleges, we have teamed up in a unique partnership that saw four bands from around the country perform at the prestigious Popkomm festival in Berlin. Popkomm is one of Europe’s premier music industry events - a conference, trade-fair and live showcase platform for new, up-and-coming bands.

Scotland has been at the forefront of pop and rock music education for over 20 years, according to Adam Armit, our co-ordinator for this project. Adam pioneered pop/rock music courses in Scotland and subsequently led a consortium of colleges creating Higher National Diploma qualifications in Music, Music Business and Sound Production.

Colleges around Scotland have just completed the first year of delivery of these new qualifications and this German showcase is in celebration of that. 'SQA and SAC pulled out all the stops to give these young artists the opportunity to reach a wide audience while at the same time showcase Scottish music education', said Qualifications Manager Paul Gallacher.

The bands attending Popkomm were: acoustic duo Afterglow from North Highland College; Hip-hop outfit Empafy, signed to the Urban label at Glasgow’s Stow College; Dirty Sally, a power pop four-piece from James Watt College in Greenock and the singer/songwriter Kat Healy Band from Edinburgh’s Jewel and Esk Valley College.

Given the platform created for these bands, Empafy have been asked by Radio Scotland to write and perform a Christmas song.  So watch this space for these bands ongoing success.....

Feeling Inspired? – Get Writing! Creative Writing Competition 2006, 2007

IMAGE: Monet's Haystacks: Snow Effect, 1891

We are pleased to announce that we are sponsoring in partnership with the English Speaking Union Scotland (ESUS), National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) a creative writing competition, using the art in the collections of the NGS as inspiration.  The competition has five entry categories and anyone can get involved.

  • Published adult writers
  • Unpublished adult writers
  • School pupils between 16 and 18 years
  • School pupils between 12 and 15 years
  • School pupils under 12 years

So, if you are feeling creative or have students who are creative, why not write or encourage others to write a short poem or piece of prose in not more than about 1,000 words inspired by a piece of art. Images of many of the works can be accessed through the NGS website in the section ‘Online Collections’.

Entries should be typed with double spacing and e-mailed to A copy should also be posted to English-Speaking Union Scotland, 23 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 8HQ by Friday 19 January 2007. The results will be announced by Friday 30 March 2007.

Full details of the competition entry categories, prizes, guidelines and rules can be found at, or or telephone 0131 624 6534 or 0131 229 1528

Tell us what you think of Data Management Services

Data Management is currently evaluating a number of its services provided to centres.  Completing the survey from the link below will assist us with this evaluation.

The closing date for submission of completed surveys is 8 November 2006 and we would greatly appreciate your spending a few minutes completing it, as your feedback is important to us and will form the basis of future development and improvement to these services.

If there are multiple users of these services at your centre, please forward the survey on as appropriate.

Many thanks for your time and contributions.

Complete the survey.

Bringing Core Skills Together for Schools

PHOTO: Core Skills Event

On Friday 6 October the Core Skills team hosted an event to showcase best practice in the delivery and assessment of Core Skills. 

The event highlighted the work that Ross High School have undertaken around the Core Skill of Working with Others for their S5 and S6 Pupils, illustrating the positive result that flexible assessment methods can have on the commitment of young people to education and on their confidence. The morning event, also provided delegates with the opportunity to take away the Ross High School S5 and S6 materials and also other exemplification of good practice in Core Skills delivery, which will allow them to shape their own programmes and continue this good work.

The event was over-subscribed and delegates came from all over Scotland, which highlights the need to explore this area more fully.  The final draft of the materials and the presentation from the morning event will be available on our website as a free download in mid-November. Hard copies in draft form are available by e-mailing Gill Macfarlane at

Find out more about Core Skills.

Developments in Personal and Social Education

The appointment of a Qualifications Development Manager in August has allowed the review in this area to take on a renewed intensity of activity and we are now considering how this important area of development can articulate with 'A Curriculum for Excellence' work being undertaken in other areas.  This renewed level of activity has focussed on increasing the flexibility of Units and Courses which are being developed and at the same time ensuring that there is a renewed emphasis on progression routes between Social and Vocational Skills Standard Grade and the National Qualifications in this area.

Units will be built around social and vocational activities, will be context free and will create opportunities for students to concentrate on their own personal development as well as developing skills of information handling and communication.

Units and Courses will be offered at all levels from Access 3 through to Higher and we are committed to examining the potential for the new Units to be offered in an appropriate way at Access 2 level.  The Course at Access 3 will consist of three Units and at all others levels above this will have four Units.  These Courses will be ungraded at all levels.

Implementation dates for the new Courses will be confirmed to centres shortly.

Additional work has already been undertaken in connection with a wide range of freestanding Units within the Personal and Social area and a strategy for reviewing, refreshing and rationalisation of this suite of Units is currently being considered.

Find out more about Personal and Social Education.

Partners in Learning

LOGO: Partners in Learning logo

‘Partners in Learning’ is a world wide initiative aimed at giving teachers opportunities to network with their peers, find help using technology to transform teaching and learning, and to be recognised for innovations in the classroom.

In Scotland, ‘Partners in Learning’ is the joint initiative in education between Microsoft and ourselves.

The main activities that ‘Partners in Learning’ are delivering this year are:

  • a small grants programme where any school in Scotland can apply for funding between £100 - £2000, to continue their innovative use of ICT in the classroom
  • a CD for stakeholders containing free resources for use in the classroom – including courses on ‘School Leadership’, ‘Basic Networks’ and ‘ICT Pedagogies’ as well as resources produced by individual teachers, in Scotland and nationally
  • a new, exciting computer game where students can experience managing a sports store and make the decisions that they would in the real world.  The game has been devised to link in with many aspects of the curriculum, and high quality teacher and student resources are available for participating centres
  • an Innovative Teacher programme aimed at producing quality re-useable classroom resources that exemplify effective and innovative use of ICT in teaching and learning in early years, primary and secondary school

Last month saw a busy week of events for the Innovative Teacher programme, but also highlighted the success that can be achieved in working jointly with the other educational organisations in Scotland.

PHOTO: Delegates at a recent Innovative Teacher programme event

‘Partners in Learning’ invited the world expert on ‘Communities of Practice’ to deliver seminars to various audiences in Scotland.  ‘Communities of Practice’ are the new tool that many businesses use to capture the wealth of knowledge and expertise that exists informally at all levels in organisations.

Etienne Wenger came all the way from California to share his expertise with:

  • Senior Managers involved in education from SQA, HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe), Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED), Scottish Further Education Unit (SFEU) amongst many others
  • Local authority staff and teachers who are involved in the Microsoft ‘Innovative Teachers programme’
  • SFEU staff and guests who have working knowledge of Communities of Practice.

These events were a huge success with everyone involved starting to think of more effective ways for us all to work together to better meet the needs of our customers.

Find out more about this work.

Licensing of the Security Sector in Scotland

From November 2007 many individuals working in the security industry will require a licence to practice. We are currently working with the Security Industry Authority (SIA), who manage the licensing of the private security sector, to develop a suite of qualifications which will allow candidates to seek a licence.

We will develop three National Progression Awards which will cover:

  • Door Stewarding
  • Security Guarding
  • CCTV (PSS) Operations

These qualifications will have a specific focus on Scottish Law but will allow successful candidates to work throughout the UK. In addition to achieving an SIA recognised qualification, applicants for a licence will require an identity and criminality check which will be carried out by the SIA.

In addition to the above qualifications, we are also developing a Training for the Trainers Unit in the area of conflict management.

For further information on these qualifications please contact Anne Boyd, Qualifications Manager on 0845 213 5430 or David Grant, Qualifications Officer on 0845 213 5432, alternatively e-mail or

Launch of Assessment Arrangements Electronic Requests

We recently launched an electronic method of submission of requests for candidates requiring alternative assessment arrangements in their external National Qualification examinations.  Centres are now able to access the system, which links directly with their live entry data, via our secure website.

Launch events for Co-ordinators, Learning Support and Centre Admin staff were held throughout Scotland in September and login details were e-mailed to Co-ordinators on Monday 23rd October.  User guides have also been issued to centres (and are available on our secure website).

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of requests for candidates requiring arrangements (requests have more than doubled since 1999). Our vision has always been to create a fully integrated 'one stop shop' which provides:

  • a direct link to live entry data
  • reduced manual input required and time required to submit and process
  • reduced risk of error
  • ability to request standard and non-standard requests
  • automatic validation against a standard suite of arrangements
  • ability to update and amend existing requests
  • ability to produce detailed reports and processing updates

The new electronic request system does all of this and, perhaps most importantly, will also provide the Assessment Arrangements team with more time to deal with complex and sensitive cases and allow them to continue to provide dedicated expert advice and support to centres in this highly emotive area.

More details are available in our leaflet  Assessment Arrangement Request Submission (publication code AD3321) or if you would like more information on this exciting development, please contact the Assessment Arrangments Team on 0131 561 6890.

Core Skills - The Initial Screening Tool is Here!

Initial Screening Tools have been developed for:

  • Communication and Numeracy (on-screen interactive CD, pre Access 2 to Intermediate 2 level) 
  • ICT (paper based assessment at Access 2 level)

A Diagnostic Tool has been developed for:

  • ICT (on-screen interactive CD, Access 3 to Intermediate 2 level)

A pack containing the materials, plus tutor guidance and learner information sheets has been sent to Co-ordinators in colleges, the Scottish Prison Service and Community Partnerships.

The materials were written for adult learners and may be of interest to those offering Modern Apprenticeships, those returning to study, and S5 and S6 pupils.

Disability Equality

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 comes into force in December of this year and it places a new duty upon the public sector to promote disability equality.  This legislation alone has significant impact upon us, but most importantly, the new duty creates an opportunity for us to drive an Equalities Strategy that covers all strands of equality.

We have set up a project team to drive the strategy forward and work is well under way.  We are meeting with disabled people to help us develop our scheme, putting in place a comprehensive training programme to raise awareness and assist in mainstreaming equalities throughout SQA and making preparations to undertake equality impact assessments next year.  We will keep you updated on our developments.

For further information please contact Jocelyn Martin (telephone 0131 271 6719; e-mail

NQ Group Award Key Partners' Newsletter

We are delighted to introduce the first edition of the National Qualifications Group Award Newsletter, which we produce on behalf of the NQ Group Awards Key Partners' Group.

The remit of this group includes:

  • providing advice on design principles for NQ Group Awards and guidance on how these should be implemented
  • helping to ensure that NQ Group Awards meet the needs of candidates, deliverers and users, identifying key issues for each of these groups
  • advising on the support required by deliverers, including support to help centres understand standards, and assess and quality assure qualifications effectively
  • advising on key messages to be communicated to stakeholders and providing advice on the most appropriate methods of communicating these

The newsletter is accessible online in the NQ section of our website. It will be published on our website after each meeting of the Key Partners' Group, which meets four times a year. It will provide an overview of discussions from the meetings, decisions taken and ongoing developments.

Please pass this onto relevant people within your organisation.

Read the newsletter today.

Taking SQA south - raising awareness of our qualifications for entry purposes with English Higher Education Institutes

As a follow-up to our presence at the UCAS Admissions Conference in April of this year, we are about to embark on a series of visits to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) south of the border. Between now and Christmas, we will be meeting  admissions staff and academic selectors from the universities of Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Oxford and Cambridge to discuss entry requirements for Scottish applicants and highlight similarities as well as key differences between the Scottish and English education and qualifications systems.

For further information, please contact Sarah Breslin, Project Manager, External Development at