National 4 – Detailed Content Statements in Value Added Unit

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  • chalove

    The value added unit for National 4 has some detailed content in it. This is the first detailed content published for the new national courses and it is very important that you have a look at it.

    My feeling is that we must ensure that every part of our new Computing qualifications has real merit and will take a learner forward in a modern computing setting. Personally I’m very disappointed by the National 4 content statements. I want to look at the content and understand WHY a learner needs that skill or knowledge and for many of the items on the content list I am struggling! To me it’s the same old same old! It could have been copied and pasted from existing courses (which are dying!).

    We need content which will excite learners and focus on what they really need to know for the skills of tomorrow. Have a look and post our comments here AND on the SQA Have your say page.

    Charlie Love

    P.S. I was very encouraged to see that Computing has at least 87 comments posted – the most of any subject (for example English has only 30, as do the sciences and Maths).


    Although I am disappointed that a number of items ‘make the list’, it will be worse if they *have* to know this huge list of facts that might then be examined. The reason I worry, primarily, is because I fear that at Nat 5 and Higher the list will just as long and arbitrary as it is today. And then where have we got to in all of this?

    Specifying things like mainframes and PDAs suggests to me that the authors have not really considered the current state of the industry and, or greater concern, are not allowing for the inevitable changes that we cannot really predict!

    There is much that I like about the new focuses in CfE; but a large number of dry content statements, and some yet to be disclosed final assessment model, could end up meaning that we have not changed anything! That would be a great shame.



    I was at a meeting yesterday for the Qualification Design Team and we were presented with a similar list for National 5, rooted in old technology and uninspiring. I’m disappointed with what the unit writers have presented – does a modern Computing Science qualification need to teach Fetch/Execute cycle? How relevant are contemporary developments in UIs? What depth of knowledge will we require of candidates? Do these things make learners more likely to pursue the qualifications and develop as effective computing professionals?

    There is a commitment from the Qualification Consultants to make significant changes to the nature of the exam questions we ask and the nature of assessment generally but we need feedback on these lists and on the course content and structure. What is published at National 4 is the start. At later levels it changes into a list “what I need for the exam”. If we let things rest at National 4 because there is no exam then they will still be there at the levels above AND part of national assessment!

    SQA are tasked with a significantly demanding task with creating these new qualifications. They need to be specific enough so that practitioners are secure on the required content but flexible enough to be future proof. It’s a big ask and the more contribution that can be made from the profession the more help that will be to those involved. This really is our chance to influence the nature and substance of our new qualifications.

    Sciences are now rewriting their outcomes based on the feedback received. If we need changes they they can and will, I have been assured, be made. We may never reach a consensus about the content of a modern Computing course but we can give the team involved in creating the qualifications ideas and suggestions to make them better.



    This might be a stupid question, but why is the detail mentioned in the spec for the assignment, but not in the actual unit specifications themselves?

    Ian Simpson

    I’d agree – the current courses that we teach do not reflect current (or lets be honest even 10 year old) industry standards. I’m also concerned that lumping Computing Science and Information Science together we’re in danger of skimming content and building too big a list of facts for pupils to simply remember, rather than deeply understand.

    Jeremy Scott

    I take it the Course Support Notes mentioned in the unit spec aren’t available yet? It’s just that on page 1, it states “The Unit Specification should be read in conjunction with the Course Support Notes” and on page 2, it states “Some possible exemplar topics for the assignment are suggested in the Course Support Notes“.


    Yes, these are draft documents for comment, and being released stage by stage as they are developed. So far, for N4 and N5, SQA has published the Course Spec and Unit Specs. The Course Assessment Spec and Support Notes will follow in due course.

    By the way, the detailed content will be in the Course Assessment Spec (at N5, H and AH), because it defines what can be asked in the question paper. At N4, there isn’t a question paper (Government policy decision), but the content has to be listed somewhere, and the AV Unit is the place!

    All this draft information is there for comment – please use the “Have Your Say” facility on the SQA web site to let us know what you think.


    The schedule that the SQA has done a good job of sticking to thus far says that course notes for 4/5 will be available by the end of January ’12, with Higher the following month.

    See the dates for yourself:


    @Charlie – Thanks for the heads up about Higher.

    I am not particularly surprised by what you say, and will certainly be providing my feedback about that and the current documents at each opportunity. I will post my comments here, and encourage others to do the same. The more open this process is the better for everyone I would wager.


    As I understand it the detailed content will be in the Course Assessment Spec (at N5, H and AH), because it defines what can be asked in the question paper OR assessed in the assignment so it isn’t necessarily a list of “stuff” to learn. However, the subject MUST be made attractive to pupils without losing its academic rigour so it’s very important that SQA get this right. As Charlie says it is vital that everyone “has their say” otherwise we will end up with a revamp of the current courses.

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