N5 Assignment Concerns

  • mcgivernj

    Dear all
    I raised concerns with N5 assignments to my Renfrewshire colleagues a couple of weeks ago and have decided to share concerns with the wider group here. The rant is attached (actually posted below).
    My key concerns are that the assignment constitutes 40% of an overall course award and that the assignments we have will be used year on year. Therefore, they must all be reliable, strong, fit for purpose resources.
    I have some issues with all of the tasks and feel that some tweaking, at least, is necessary to provide assignments that I can have trust in delivering to students.
    Check out the attached rant and comment, please. As ever, it could be just me and some reassuring words may help to ease my worried brow.




    Original rant file does not appear attached to post above so I’ll post it here. Again, comments please.

    N5 Computing Science Assignments
    I’m looking here at the 4 assignments now available for National 5. The assignments that will contribute 40% towards a pupil’s final grade in CS.
    All 4 assignments give me cause for concern and that’s without going into the programming in any great detail apart from the original assignment (Music Fans). Glancing through the tasks, the programming aspect seems reasonable, though.
    I’ll pick out some of the issues that I see, and invite your comments. From there, it would probably be sensible to filter concerns back to SQA (although I may be talking rubbish – henceforth comments much appreciated, even, “You’re talking rubbish”).

    Music Fans
    Specification so convoluted and unclear. The task involves a database and then a program – this is not explicitly stated. It seems that someone (SQA) is loath to use the word ‘database’ and only the word ‘structure’ is used. Many teachers I have spoken to regarding this task think that the whole thing can be done using only a computer program – which may seem sensible until you look at the specification which provides marks for the ‘structure’ and the program. Once you get your head around the task, the program is not so difficult and perhaps neither is the database (identifying the loyal fans is not a trivial exercise).
    The database is also flat-file. Should there not be a relational database at N5?
    Presenting this to pupils and expecting them to complete it without a massive amount of clarification is in my book an absolute no-no. I would never countenance using this assignment.

    Games Review
    Specification is clearer – completely obvious that a web site must be created as well as a computer program.
    Website has to be created in HTML – challenging but perfectly doable. How though is the visitor counter to be implemented in this HTML site? Pass.
    Program looks easy enough, but somewhat disconnected from web site perhaps? I.e. web page may show 0 hits but for the purpose of testing an input of 48 might well be used.
    I’m unlikely to do this – principally because of the hit counter issue and a slight issue of lack of clarity in what is required of program.

    Ticket Agency
    Similar to Music Fans but there is no messing about – create a database and then a computer program.
    However, the database (and really the scenario)is a real mess. Two tables would be created – Venue and Customer, say. What would the key for the venue table be? You don’t design a database completely around the limited records available at the outset – how will the database evolve in future? Making venue the key means this company could never host another concert in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle or Edinburgh – and these are the only cities they work in!
    This scenario been built around the fact that there are 4 concerts (and will never be more than concerts), one in each city. It’s totally unrealistic and could therefore have a primary key in the venue table of venue or band or ticket cost or tickets sold.
    The query is straightforward enough and the program appears fine, based on the query but I could not use this task based on the major flaw in the original data.

    Language Tutors
    Very similar to Ticket Agency – However, it has returned to ‘structure’ instead of ‘database’ in specification – why?
    Scenario for database is much more realistic than Ticket Agency but still has issues:
    Company offer 5 languages for study (restricted choice in database – perfectly acceptable). What is the 5th language? Or simple reword to say they offer 4 languages?
    Assumptions are required to be made by pupils, which should not be the case. Specification should state that students can only study one language (otherwise the key in the student table will not be the single attribute email. Compound keys are(?) beyond the scope of N5. It should also be stated that tutor names are unique – although it would be better to provide an obvious unique identifier (tutor ID) to negate the need for this assumption.
    Program again seems fine, using query from database (with a bit of work to distinguish those entitled to 1 hr or 2 hrs free lessons – suitably challenging).
    It looks like this will be my assignment of choice. Yay!

    However, surely all our assignment choices should be based on 4 solid assessment tasks aimed at the appropriate level with suitable challenge rather than saying “well this one is less glitchy than the others, it will have to do”. Again, 40% of a pupil’s overall grade will come from this part of the assessment. The material has to be robust. Especially considering that these assignments will be in situ year upon year.
    What a rant! Please – your comments, including the issues that I have missed.

    Robert Young

    Some of these issues were raised with the SQA at the nominee day in August (one at Murrayfield) and the Principal verifier seemed to agree that work neded to be done on these assignments. In particular we looked at the Music Fans one and it was discussed around the table. Main points to come out were the fact that pupils would need alot of guidance to understand the problem. One person mentioned giving it out as two separate tasks so it was clearer to the pupils.

    Not sure that any of this helps you but there are plenty of teachers around who understand the problems with the SQA stuff so you aren’t alone.

    Darren Brown

    We have started cross marking unit assessment work – there are already a lot of talking points and massive grey areas just in these alone.

    I’m going with Language Tutors even though I am more Website Dev inclined. I find it strange that the 40% Coursework database is a lot easier than the Snowboard Runs unit assessment, I’m going to do the Kiosk Info Systems unit task instead.

    At least pupils can start N5 Language Tutors in January, build the database and if February prelim doesn’t go well they can just simplify the database to continue with N4 Language Tutors assignment. They are not bi-level courseworks but this majorly helps my timings. My N4s in January will be doing Games Review Added Value Unit – 3 different projects on the go.

    My bigger issue is… what should be my cut off percentage from the prelim to drop them to N4? 40% coursework is a lot and I am supposed to give pupils as much chance as possible for N5. Of course too much of a N5 gamble and some will fail, not even achieving N4 as they won’t have done the N4 AV unit. Why does a N5 satisfactory coursework assessment not cover N4 AV unit?


    Having a look at this at the moment and inclined to go with Language Tutors. I may be missing something here but it’s asking a program to be created to (among other things) decide who gets 2 free cinema tickets. Does this mean you need to enter in all the people from the database into the program and then let it spit out who gets free lessons and who gets the cinema tickets? Surely not! If then, as I assume, you enter an individuals details and it tells you just about this individual is it just randomly going to work out if they’ll get the cinema tickets? Is there more than 1 set of cinema tickets?

    Peter Thoresen

    From the database task you will have identified those eligible for the free cinema tickets draw (stage 2A) – only these names, and hours booked, need to be entered into the program (stage 2B).

    From these names, randomly pick one person to win both tickets. Then print a voucher for each of the eligible people telling them how many free hours they have the total numbers lessons they now have, and whether they have or have not won the cinema tickets.


    We have decided to go with Language Tutors too, and for the same reasons that you mentioned in your rant. All the other tasks have something wrong with them and I would want to make changes to the task before I hand it out to avoid the deluge of questions I would receive from my students, but, I know (I think!) that we would not be allowed to do this

    We also wondered about how to assign a primary key for the tutors (seeing as we are always telling them that names are not unique!) and thought we would ask SQA if it would be acceptable to have pupils introduce a unique ID key to get round the problem?


    Thanks for that info Peter, much appreciated.

    Robert Young

    I have working solutions for Ticket Agency, Language Tutors and Music Fans at N4/5 if anyone wants them. The programming language I have used is VB6 and databases are done in Access.

    Just message me your email address if you want them.

    Robert Young

    I have sent an email out to everyone who sent me message requesting my solutions tonight (Monday), if you didn’t get it then just drop me a line and I’ll get onto it.


    Hi Robert

    Could you send me copies please.




    Hi Robert

    Not sure if emails are getting through ok – my mailbox was full but I have emptied it now!

    Could I also have copies of your solutions please.


    Many thanks



    Hi, Robert

    Could we also get your files? That would be most helpful.

    My email is: iiaogstone@inverurie.aberdeenshire.sch.uk

    With many thanks!



    Hi Robert

    I would also appreciate a copy of your solutions:


    Many thanks



    Can I have a copy of your solutions please?




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