Thursday, August 14, 2008

Leadership and Management in UK

Some of the educational bloggers I follow have been blogging about management and leadership this week - must be that back to school week. see John and Don Leddingham

Meanwhile I have just been at meetings with industry and standards setting bodies who blame decline on education mmm is this Six Degrees of Separation or more likely they are already looking at the changes that need to come in management and leadership across industry.

A good place to look are the national occupational standards NOS in UK for management and leadership these are developed by the Management Standards Centre. We use these standards as basis for awards in Scotland and rest of UK and we work closely with the Chartered Management Institute to make sure our HN awards lead to Chartered Manager Status.

I attended a rather entertaining launch of some new standards in London on Wednesday here are the main points from the morning. Making UK Management and Leadership Skills World Class by 2020: Pioneering Change

In reverse order from twitter (slightly edited with other notes from day)

It started out in quite a focused way and by end - well it's all the fault of teachers and television.

But some useful nuggets - I've not checked these "facts"

On serious note we have some recognised serious shortcomings across the Scottish public and private sectors and we are going to see what else can be done about this and that was why my journey was necessary.

Joe Wilson
Television finally getting blame for promoting bullying and poor values The Apprentice and Devils Den and the swearing chefs not good role models
Joe Wilson lesson from this morning give people around you continual opportunities to step up and take risks manage challenges
Joe Wilson where do children learn to be leaders in todays schools ? not enough challenge
Joe Wilson leadership and management failures in UK being piled at education's doors. Grumpy corporate rotters or is this insight ??
Joe Wilson despite credit crunch stilll queues for private schools in london and across UK in Sweden money follows learner this drives up standards
Joe Wilson or driven by a lack of values and attitudes to learning there is no simple answer
Joe Wilson current school system (england) "only" fails 54pc of young people this is higher than anywhere in the developed world. A scandal and driven by academic snobbery
Joe Wilson do you do intense leadership coaching with all staff and offer rewards on how on well they develop the next leaders
Joe Wilson have you got staff who are able to "not take " or opt out of responsibility for what they do from beginning to end if so redesign work
Joe Wilson don't do top down plans they don't work
Joe Wilson good example of mindmaps rather than using business reports massive added value in large corporation over night
Joe Wilson still problem at policy level in UK we are too arrogant to look at rest of world
Joe Wilson UK low esteem and a lack of pride in achievement and too many managers who don't have proper values , aspirations or goals in private and public sector - ouch
Joe Wilson leadership and risk has to be in our industries context but we should all take more risk
Joe Wilson chinese best qualified managers and good at identifying their weaknesses deep understanding of skillsets required UK USA too complacent
Joe Wilson if you are not growing next leaders in your company or in your industry - serious problems with your leadership and your industry
Joe Wilson leaders need constant challenge and validation and should never be too busy to think - reflection should be regular
Joe Wilson we learn leadership by doing it and being open to challenges not through courses or qualifications How do you move staff around no comfort zones if you want to grow managers and leaders??
Joe Wilson There are no low tech industries but there are too many low tech organisations in the UK

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Web2 in China

As we do more business in China we realise how much we still have to learn about it.

This is an eye opening slideshare
I culled from Read Write Web. We successfully export qualifications to China's top vocational Universities . The speed of change in China is unbelievable I hope some of the predictions made at January's Economist Conference don't come true.
One I didn't mention is that the Yen is devalued to combat rampant inflation following the Olympics.

Handbook of Online China

Hao ! In the spirit of drilling down the dynamics of the Internet in China , We have published a data filled , action packed slideshow “Handbook of Online China” on the eve of Beijing Olympics inauguration . The report focus on three key themes - China as an online leader , China Insider - the competitive landscape in Search, Web 2.0 & Business in Online China - that are essentially key indicators of the ongoing development of the dynamic Internet market in China.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dream Career Ahead For Former Roofer

Phew another results day and with the support of 11,000 Scottish teachers in the actual process all is well. Worth noting that in SQA most of our staff and all of our appointees come from Scottish schools and not from some other bureaucratic planet.

But story I liked best today was this one.

This is a great story and reflects what I see everyday in vocational learning. I still miss being in Colleges and working with learners. I am worried at moment that we have forgotten that education in is about helping folks earn a living and to help them find self fulfilment and these are not mutually exclusive.

Vocational applied things have been squeezed out of schools for too long. I guess barring a proper writing for media course many other vocational areas would involve too large health and safety risks and the challenges of having teaching staff who teach passed the theory of any area.
Schools will need to transform or work much more closely with Colleges if they are going to meet the aspirations of their customers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Just had an email to ask
What do you think about the above as a resource in enabling the games element of the Curriculum for Excellence ? eg Should we use this in our classrooms in Scotland.
Specifically game creator module.
I'm passing around a few folks inside SQA but happy if anyone spots this on Scotedublogs for comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

JISC Research on What Students do in UK HE

Headline links to some nice research on how ICT is being used in Higher Education
(count Colleges in this )

At a glance: key findings
80% of students use social networking sites regularly
73% use social networking sites to discuss coursework with other students
Of these, 75% think such sites are enhancing their learning
75% are able to use their own computer on all of their university's systems
87% feel university life is as, or better than, expected in terms of technology

Does our school system prepare learners for this environment ? - do they need preparation ?

Think there are still some doing academic research in some local authorities on why we should use this new fangled stuff with learners in schools - I guess the researchers will come from same universities where these changes are happening.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Originally uploaded by Josh Sommers
Still working through emails piled up, some from before I took my annual leave and enjoying making my own musical mixes from seeqpod as I plough through stacks of work.

As we move to society where I can click to my favorite track on Internet - access videos when I want through i-player or others - and as I build a list of web sites and gizmo's that I couldn't live without .. starting with wireless access - and of course share all this wonderful stuff..

Our shame is that there are still families in this world living on a dollar a day and this week I see staple food prices have climbed above this . Puts a lot of our posturing on educational issues a harsh light .. is education really about enlightenment and social justice ?

I was told this was going to happen at an economic conference in January

Hey I blogged about it ;-(
Do the starving blog ?

Thanks to Josh Summers for image

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Myers Briggs Indicators

Myers Briggs Indicators
Originally uploaded by joecar80
I have done this exercise twice as a College Manager , once as a manager with the Scottish Further Education Unit and I used to teach the stuff. Earlier this year we profiled all the Business Managers in SQA.

Here are MyersBriggs indicators of all SQA Business Managers - have a look at how we all tick . A google for Myers Briggs and ENTJ or other factors give you some interesting statements on how we ought to operate.

Next time star signs ;-)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I've Got A Jar of Dirt Remix Video

Hey Pirates - irritatingly clever and look at all the creative follow ups.

The Pirate's Dilemma

Punk inspired people to do and create everything themselves ..
Rip it up and start again..
Don't accept the old order..
The way information flows in public spaces is changing..
None of this is new .. but it's on youtube now

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Just back from an early summer holiday and back to a full on week just catching up with things - I was amused by this and references in last few weeks to edupunks on a few blogs. John Connell being closest to home. I thought most educators were really just sad (old) or wannabe hippies - the debate is relevant in that change cannot come fast enough - (Punk response in the 70's was simply to put superglue in the school's locks)
This version from Edtechie can be viewed with annotations on Youtube site -sums up the debate well and comes from the OU - open toed sandals clearly in the past and is neat demo of how annotation tool works within YouTube.

At least it's not Eduprog , Eduhip , Edugoth - imagine the 10hour spaceship filled psychedelic pointlessness - (is this educationalists blogging ??) -Anyway begs the question - who knows the best place for the superglue ? ;-)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ofcom Website | Conference coverage

We work closely with Ofcom.

Their excellent papers over last few years highlighting that our population needed to switch from being consumers to being more confident creators in the web2 world and their work around Internet safety have inspired some of our developments.

Interesting coverage of conference on International Media Literacy - useful for debate on curriculum for excellence

Ofcom Website | Conference coverage

Friday, May 30, 2008

National Progression Award and Adobe

They have got it in Islay and they are offering training in how you do it in Fife, at Adam Smith College.

You'd like a course that covers web design, is supported by learning and teaching materials , is platfom independent , could lead to Adobe Certification for some candidates , comes in three units and offers progression into National Certificate and other vocational awards in a College .

Web Design Fundamentals SCQF Level 5 is the one you should have a look at.

Now if only we could get centres between Islay and Kirkaldy to pick up this information.
It's great to see DIVA in action.

I am sure this information will be available from lots of sources but if you want some training
24 – 25th June 2008.
The Adam Smith College, as part of the DIVA initiative, is offering 2 days of training in Adobe products to help teaching staff prepare for delivering the NPA Web Design and associated units. The courses will focus on the relevant Adobe software tools and also provide an opportunity to discuss delivery and assessment with staff who have developed or delivered the units.
Open to college and school staff, cost is £50 per person per day and includes lunch. Venue is Adam Smith College, Stenton Campus, Glenrothes.
Please contact Colin Maxwell for bookings or further details. 01592 223719. colinmaxwell @ (please remove spaces from e-mail)
Tuesday 24th June
Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 – preparation for F181 11 Web Design Fundamentals, and F182 11 Web Design and Development.
Wednesday 25th June
Adobe Flash CS3 – preparation for F180 11 Interactive Multimedia for Website Development.
View on the web Transfer elsewhere Respond on the web

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beginning of end or end of the Beginning

Books on demand production costs - 5p per copy - Interesting story about the author with most books on Amazon

Philip Parker

Now if learners had access to these algorithms -
Then maybe we could focus on what you do with knowledge rather than the facts on their own.

I have no idea how readable these books are - but if it saves you time researching the market for wooden toilet seats in Japan .. worth a look, the beginning of a shift in how we manage and access information.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Yesterday I had a very early start for a JISC JORUM steering group . Those who work in College sector will know all about JISC and the services they provide . I just wanted to capture some of what is happening in one UK University.

The norm is for main lectures to be Videoed and are available as web streams. These can be accessed by students in satellite centres on other continents.

500 podcast lecture library is also available to learners.

They have a repository that contains lots of images and film footage digitised from a range of sources used for variety of purposes in lecture theatres or in the Virtual Learning Environment.

Through JISC they subscribe to many other collections , academic journals and other learning resources nationally and internationally.

They have problems with what to do with all the digital material they are building up - eg student concerts from the music department

They have some projects running in High Performance Computing area that are very bandwidth and storage hungry.

Faced with the digital deluge they are researching a data storage strategy.

Being Academics they are very concerned with Archiving but are never sure where to stop.

They use an Eprints repository and have a publications reporting strategy that automates their RAE returns ( captures and publishes research publications from all the academics on campus) .

The academic community make increasing use of local and national repositories mainly for research but increasingly for teaching and learning.

They have a search tool that allows searches across their Virtual Learning Environment, EPrints, the library catalogue and their learning object respository.

They may move sophistication of this out to i-google or some other external tool to open their meta data to others and improve local searches further.

They have been building intelligent classrooms that can utilise these resources with learners .

Soon they may do an MIT and release freely a lot of their learning and teaching materials.

The feeling is that as the momentum has grown so Research , learning and teaching have moved closer together.

They have a lot of student, learner generated content and are not sure how to manage this.

They have a "dead professor problem" - identity management issues across the institution some staff have multiple idents and Shibboleth authentication has not sorted this out yet.

They have now come to expect most students will arrive with a wireless laptop and expect access to all of the Universities services on campus and off campus 24/7

It's not the same everywhere and will vary a lot institution to institution and department to department even in a single university - but I thought this was a neat summary of a University that has got it and what learners get when they arrive at a University near you.

Colleges are couple of steps behind but sometimes stronger on Virtual Learning Environment implementation. Eight years working with JISC and the changes have been phenomenal . UKERNA delivers the backbone for GLOW.

Rattled this off on the train home last night sorry if it looks horrible

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Little Britain Carol Sketch

Interesting and yet depressing debate over what schools in Scotland's 32 local authorities can and cannot access. Reflected in these postings

Ewan McIntosh and here

Andrew Brown

Jim Henderson

I should not have said schools I should have said learners and teachers. Those who wish to access the system for learning don't have the controls.

This issue is as old as the hills or at least as old as folks became aware that this could all be controlled. IBM counted keystrokes at one time as a measure of productivity maybe this could be used as a benchmark for educational computing ;-) t00.

It is so very "Little Britain" - "computer says no" and sets a fantastic example to teachers and learners on the flexibility of access to IT and probably does nothing to educate anyone about the dangers that do lurk on the unmoderated and unfiltered internet that we can all access in normal life. There is an institutional cowardice around this on a national scale at moment. But at least it means everyone in "education" has a clear conscience.

The filtering also hampers communication and prevents teachers becoming involved in national developments - some local authorities cannot access the SQA computing blog or other user groups - another reason that Glow cannot come fast enough. When computers say yes more often in schools we will finally get the majority of learners and teachers engaging with this medium around the serious ;-) business of learning. I hope this will at last provide fairly uniform access to the net ( with the exception of certain bits which will ofcourse strictly observe the Sabbath ;-) )

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

PMOG, Creepy treehouses and Mobile Phones

I have been having fun with PMOG ( passively multiplayer on-line game) over the last two years or so. It is not quite a game more a fun take on what I spend my time looking at on the web - it is more fun than i-Google history.

There is quite an interesting debate on the public/private face of web2 developing on John Connell's blog. Creepy treehouse could be a goth band ( probably is). It is really all about being appropriate in your conduct and communications. As a learner I would find it creepy if the school wanted my mobile phone number - I'd need a pretty good explanation and maybe even some bribe before I'd let this space be invaded by learning or worse .. teachers.. The mobile learning brigade would not endorse this.- though nobody has ever explained to me who pays for the texts or web phones ?

Though I have to say both as a pupil and a teacher I witnessed some "creepy treehouse" conduct long before the advent of the web. There is some really sensible ethics emerging in this debate around both engaging learners and the yawning digital divide which is still there.

Worth a look before you add your entire address list to that new web2 application that you really like or invite lots of folk to manipulate some on-line system that they don't understand.
Every one has rights and the Creepy TreeHouse isn't just in learner space.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I have followed Elliot Masie since the mid 1990's - periodically reading his weekly postings.
I have just joined this on-line community and was instantly pleased to see a lot of kindred spirits .
It may be a bit techie for some - but this looks like an interesting experiment in those who are interested in on-line learning , social web , web 2 and can see that it spans school , college and the workplace - the life long learning thing.

It looks as though Learning Town has already built some critical mass. Worth a look if you are interested in all of the above . Gordon McLeod of Learndirect has already started a Scottish Connection Community.

Scotland Glowing

A great article in today's Herald on Glow. My wish is that we move faster at getting SQA inegrated into the system. We have a lot of goodies that could only be improved by sharing with school community ( especially internet safety and social software stuff) and for a Curriculum for Execellence it offers the perfect platform for designing the individualised programmes and assessments with teachers and I hope pupils . Hope we can report progress here soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Next Generation of Qualifications

We finally get underway with the consultation on new shape of assessment at SCQF 3- 5 in schools - the next bit of a Curriculum for Excellence.

The maelstrom has just started . The comments on this report in Scotsman shows that it will be as hard as ever to reach a consensus on what replaces standard grade . This is the fourth time I have worked through this bit of the system being reformed .

If we answer criticisms in recent OECD study we will deliver for Scottish Learners. Laurie summarises issues well here

It is a shame that study did not take a look at vocational education out with schools in FE Colleges - I think the answer still lies there for many of our young folks 16-18 who simply outgrow school and need new challenges - I hope whatever fills the gap re-engages these learners.

I have watched schools in Glasgow where I worked in FE cast off hordes of very able youngsters who were simply bored and disengaged by their schooling. That was of course in the last century.
I wonder if anyone has told Primary Six yet ;-) 2012/13 is their time

Social Bookmarking Arrives on SQA Website

Find something you like on SQA website - the finding still may be a challenge (there's a lot of stuff) - and now you can share it through , digg , facebook , reddit

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Internet Safety and Future of Computing

An excellent article and an excellent leader in last week's TES on the Internet Safety Award . Some schools and Colleges have already adopted it as a course delivered to all of their learners , Strathclyde and other Scottish Police Forces have adopted it and we are attracting centres from other parts of the world too.

Well done to Bobby Elliott and the HN/SVQ Computing Team

I hope many of the other challenges that computing is facing in the school sector are addressed through the new technologies draft outcomes . There is a general panic in industry around the lower numbers taking computing in the University system . We have been monitoring this closely see earlier posting numbers have been holding up on the vocational side of things but always room for improvement and through our Qualification Support Teams we continually update our offerings working with Industry.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What Price National Assessment ?

We are in the middle of reviewing one part of our National Assessment system through a
Curriculum for Excellence . The new system will be based on what is best for learners . There is
an interesting debate in the following pieces from the BBC , the Guardian and The Times and
covered elsewhere in press on the escalating costs of the exam system south of the border.

It is worth looking south to see what the system becomes when there are multiple commercial companies selling exam services in the schools and vocational education space. Shouldn't this
mean that prices should be going down ? There will be a economist out there who can explain
this I am sure.

There is some irony that the regulator QCA had to do a study of this kind to get this data. We are
similarly in dark on prices for NVQs and VRQs that are being charged in the vocational sector -hope they do a study on prices in that sector next.

As a public servant involved in delivering this service I should probably be quaking in my boots
in the face of private money delivering the exam system south of the border. I'm not. There is
room for improvement but we don't have challenges on this scale. Privatisation does mean you
can make big profits on delivering services like this Mmmm? The Times . However, it is more
complex than Private Greed versus Public Good - food for thought.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland Skills Development Scotland is formally launched today (Tuesday 1 April). The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop MSP, announced in September 2007 that Careers Scotland, Scottish University for Industry, and key skills elements in Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise would be brought together to form a new single skills body to take forward and deliver on the vision set out in the Scottish Government's skills strategy 'Skills for Scotland'

This is big news for us and for the many learners and training providers in workbased learning.We have always managed to maintain a sensible approach to life long learning in Scotland . To date we have managed to avoid the chaos that is happening south of the border -remarkable given the very open market in Scotland . We have managed to develop a uniform unitised system with clear progression routes in most vocational areas.

Reflected well in these pieces from the Guardian "Government to axe City and Guild courses " , " Hundreds of qualifications for teenagers likely to go in vocational diploma reforms "

The official announcement is here

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where has March gone ?

A criticism that can often justifiably be made of any non-departmental public body is that we are too preoccupied with our own bureaucracy and answering up the way and that we lose touch with realities on the ground , in our case the centres and learners that we are there to serve.

March is always the month when we tend to be most inward looking as we do all the chasing and finalising of projects and budgets - a flurry of invoicing and making sure we have squeezed every penny from the budget to get best value for the public purse. There has been much of that this month and a lot going on in the policy sphere.

Internally we finally commissioned and e-assessment platform that will be used across the SQA.
We devoted a lot of time to planning SQA's new structure which like the e-assessment platform will be unveiled over next few months. We did a lot of work with staff around new modes of assessment , unit and the design of arrangements in preparation for work around Curriculum for Excellence and the ongoing development of the national qualifications portfolio. We have had input from Dylan Williams and range of gurus from Scotland , UK and abroad.

Externally in policy terms we finally had the green light to move ahead with the consultation on what may be new courses at SCQF 4 and 5. We have also been asked to look at potential of some baccalaureates and Literacy and Numeracy Tests. The parliamentary debate is here.
We watched the formation of the new agency Skills Development Scotland - which starts operation in April and I attended the last meeting of the Sector Skills Development Agency in Scotland to update on the last sector skills agreements.

I did manage to get out to present the inaugural Youth Worker of the Year Awards at Murrayfield , present at an excellent event at Cardonald College for School , College and ETP Microsoft Centres and present at a Parliamentary Reception for the centres that are working with the Industry Alliance for Jobs.

Away from day job I fufilled some commitments as a Board Member at Anniesland College (new build is going to be a credit to the City of Glasgow). Managed an escape with Anne to sunny Rome for the Scotland Italy Rugby Match and had a great easter weekend with the family.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When will education start working

From Today's Herald - I fully acknowledge it is not all about qualifications and worry about a system that makes so much of statistics and does not see the people behind these - published today I acknowledge too that there is much good news - most young people do move on to Education , Employment and Training and there are not big skills gaps being reported in Scotland .

However, today's Herald Article makes grim reading - are these young people getting access to the right kind of stimulation in schools ?

One in 10 Scottish school-leavers went straight on to the dole last year
raising fresh fears over the education of some of the country's most vulnerable
children. Scottish Government figures show that of the 51,000 young people who
left school in 2006-07, more than 5000 were registered as unemployed. Statistics
also showed the proportion of pupils leaving school with no Standard Grades has
remained static in the past three years at around 4% of the total. By the age of
21, a young man from the Neet group - now referred to by the Scottish Government
as More Choice More Chances - is three times more likely than average to have
mental health issues, five times more likely to have a criminal record and six
times less likely to have any qualifications. Nearly half of this group also go
on to long-term unemployment.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


John Johnstone , Robert Jones and Peter Liddle have been updating the platform that Scotedublogs sits on .They are stars and I was glad that SQA could provide some support for this . Think my comment says it all.

Well done guys – sponsorship is just small recognition for all of your hard work . I hope SQA and LT Scotland can do more to support work like this in the future.
Let me know if there is anything else we can do.

I and colleagues at SQA make regular use of the RSS Feed on Scotedublogs. It is a fantastic barometer of activity across Scotland – The new Times Ed ;-)
There is a lot more we could do to promote Scotedublogs as a means to link up bloggers in Schools to those in Further Education and Workbased Learning.

Remember if If you are a Scots Educational blogger you can do your bit to support ScotEduBlogs too:
  • Make sure your blog is listed.
  • Make sure the tags on your listing describe your blog.
  • Link from your blog to ScotEduBlogs (there are some images and help on the wiki).
  • You might want to help out by designing a new graphic or in other ways, see the wiki again.
If you check out my sidebar and you can see ScotEduBlog Logo

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Curriculum for Excellence

We are getting close to looking at the what will, and how it will be assessed bit of a Curriculum for Excellence. This is worth a look and glad to see it is sitting on a Moodle Platform( a great example of disruptive change in the VLE market)

Some debate on Ewan's blog on what makes communities work . I have lived and worked through at least five major changes in this bit of Schools Curriculum and at least six in vocational area in a much shorter time span. Critical for learners and delivery that we get this right and that we get a model that allows rapid and continuous change once implemented.

Contentious and contended ground this but essential that a consensus is reached. I am sure this will make the GLOW groups glow with debate at some point. I wonder how good our community will be at forming a community of practice around this ? .

The Qualifications for the Future virtual space at SQA Academy is a resource for colleagues from schools, colleges, ETPs, the workplace and in the community seeking information on developments and latest thinking about qualifications and assessment. The virtual space includes DVD clips, on-line questionnaires, papers, think-pieces and letters, all of which provide ideas about the future of qualifications and assessment.

Information-giving is, however, only one purpose of this virtual space, albeit an important one. A further purpose is to encourage 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.
You want informed takes on where we can take assessment then there is some pretty good stuff here to get debate off and running. I'd make everyone look at Ewan McIntosh in full flow in New Zealand and see where we can use Web 2.0 to give the landscape here back to the learners a bit.

Thanks to Kate O' Hara for graphic

Monday, February 25, 2008

Literacy Outcomes and the Networked Teacher

Interesting and pleasing to see that literacy outcomes include new media. Ewan captures these well here. I hope most teachers will embrace these quickly. At this end we can still see a skills deficit. A lot of the appointees from across the sectors we work with cannot cope with new technology and if in doubt try to fall back on the exam and test route to measuring attainment rather than making use of methods that reflect the skills and knowledge they want their candidates to develop. Which is how we do it in the vocational space.

There are not enough practitioners like the one in the diagram below. ( maybe it's the threat from the two ended spears pointing at the teacher ) It would be useful to see some more advanced outcomes like these embraced through teacher training , chartered teacher, TQFE , Assessor and Verifier Awards and other mechanisms that could grow the number of staff who positively embrace the new in their delivery. There is some serious staff development needed if we are going to make the most of these new Literacy Outcomes in ways that are meaningful to learners. There is also more we could do to allow learners to choose how they present their evidence of learning - which may be radical but would speed up change.

Interesting and challenging to see the Guardian readerships reaction to these developments too . I read blogs and interpret and filter information from a wide range of sources all the time - I still read books too. The spears are certainly out in some of the comments here.

Reflections on Blogging

I have been keeping a blog again for almost a year. I am mainly doing this to keep my own staff in touch with my movements and musings. I was surprised at the weekend to hear that some of my friends from the non educational world have been looking in on this too. I think that can only be good - too many have an opinion but no knowledge of what actually goes on inside the education system. I think this is education's loss -  it's not really rocket science but we do bury our aims and objectives in so much jargon that real world people - even parents - are instantly switched off. Guess the problem is that we can't agree what education is really all about ;-)

I was touched too  in last week or so to be listed here in such illustrious company. It looks like those on the inside appreciate some of this babble too.

I was sorry not to be able to make Teachmeet in Perth but good to see that it was such a
success and some great sessions you can pick up on the Wiki.

If you google Teachmeet Northern Edition you will find some great stuff.

Good to see too that Scotedublogs is growing its appeal. The fact that this community is growing and growing can only be good for education and for the forging of links beyond the school gates – which is what I think  learning is all about.

I have to make a special mention of this posting on Don Ledingham's Blog it is  great to see a new Director of Education with such a clear and innovative vision prepared to make it public.

I hope in all these ways we are widening and deepening the education debate in a way that changes things where it matters,  for the learners.

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Law, Social Care , McDonalds and Brussels

Usual running around but three big things in last two weeks which are the result of some pretty hard graft over the last year or so.

We launched the regulatory qualifications for Paralegals with the Scottish Paralegal Association and The Law Society for Scotland. This is a really significant development for Paralegals across Scotland and will lead to more formal recognition from the Law Society. Some coverage in Legal Press and the press.

We launched the Practice Learning Qualification for Social Workers and those working in Social Care with Andy Kerr Minister for Health .

Both these developments involve SQA qualifications forming part of the licence to practice as is the case in many other vocational areas.

On Friday I did a whistle stop visit to Brussels to speak to the Belgian equivalent of our job centres. In Belgium they are responsible for the training of job seekers as well as matching them to job opportunities. They are interested in the model we have adopted around the Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum materials . We have wrapped them in three SQA units at SCQF 3 to boost IT , Literacy and Numeracy Skills.

I am delighted to say this has been a big success. We were first country in world to get access to these materials mainly thanks to the fact the the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum was held in Edinburgh at the same time as this curriculum was being launched.

It was interesting to hear what the Belgians thought about the recent UK announcements about giving recognition to McDonalds' training and qualifications. It reinforced to me how far our thinking is advanced in Scotland around the SCQF and vocational competencies.

The press coverage of this and the level of ignorance exposed by the press is almost unbelievable. There was a lot of pap in the UK press but some closer to home too

It used to be the case that to own a McDonalds Franchise you had to go to the McDonald’s University and complete the equivalent of an MBA. There was much talk ten years or so ago about the rise of the corporate universities as Motorola and many others customised their own masters programmes. Mike Haggerty's comments in these articles are spot on we have been doing work like this giving recognition for high level vocational training in Scotland for many years.

The prejudice is palpable though. – I wonder if learners in schools will learn that there is a paralegal route to law, that there are numerous routes other than the degree route into Social Work , Accountancy and many other professions and vocations or when they’ll find the Digital Literacy materials or tell pupils heaven forefend that they’ll learn a lot about teamwork and a range of other skills by working in McDonalds or taking equivalent employment. A lot of this ties into some postings on John Connel's Blog on the purpose and relevance of schools.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What I do

I was a guest at the Colquhan Dinner in Glasgow's Trade House on Friday night. It was a great night and twice I was challenged on what do you actually do as Business Manager at SQA. In a way that only those at the sharp bit of the private sector ever do.

Here is a snapshot
  • I lead a team of Qualification Managers and Officers and collectively we are responsible for the maintenance of half of Scotland's vocational portfolio of qualifications.
  • In product terms this means we look after (maintain and create) Higher National Qualifications, Scottish Vocational Qualifications, Professional Development Awards, National Certificate Awards , National Progression Awards (SCQF 3-6)
  • In customer terms we work with Schools , Colleges, Training Providers , Employers, Sector Skills Councils, Higher Education, Professional Bodies and other relevant partners in the public and private sectors.
  • Some of the sectors we look after include - Computing , Finance, Accounting, Business Administration, Learning and Teaching, Assessment and Verification, Training , Customer Service, Call Centres, Telecoms, Social Sciences, Journalism, Languages, Social Care , Health Care , Law, Legal Studies, Enterprise, British Sign Language, English for Speakers of Other Languages ( this is a sample)
  • Guiding principles - that awards are fit for purpose, to ensure that there are no barriers for learning and that there is appropriate recognition and progression routes available in all vocational sectors.
  • In some specific sectors our qualifications effectively form the licence to practice.

It is a fantastic job with some pretty specific demands in all the sectors we work in and with. As we do all of the above we are always on look out for ways we can modernise our processes through roll on roll off online assessment, the introduction of e-portfolios, or creative ways we can use technology to widen the critical consultation processes that are involved in qualifications design. We also do a fair bit of work to source support materials from a range of partners to support our centres and their learners.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That was a week that was.

Only third week into new year and I got to spend it all in Scotland.

On Monday I met with the Scottish Funding Council and reviewed their new statistical reporting tool for Colleges and looked at how it could support our development teams within SQA. Anniesland College’s Board of Management would get a lot from it too. With this information SQA will be able to target QA processes much more cost effectively and exactingly across the College sector. The Board at Anniesland will be able to benchmark the Colleges performance in number of areas.

Then went on to Edinburgh to meet the Scottish Chartered Institute of Bankers who we work closely with on a number of fronts I hope soon we will be working with schools in the same way we work in the vocational and college spaces.

Tuesday was meeting with the Scottish Training Federation ( STF Members who are employers and training providers deliver 80% of all SVQs in Scotland) . We work closely with them and we were bracing ourselves for Gordon Brown’s announcement this week. The Herald almost got it right. We have done all this and more in Scotland for a lot of years. McDonalds Degrees are not new things I know a few leading entrepreneurs who have them. They needed them to run the early franchises as they arrived in Scotland. We need to fix this gulf in understanding between academic and vocational systems. The misplaced arrogance on the academic side could do long term economic damage to our economy.

Wednesday a meeting with Scottish Government on the National Certificate and National Progression Awards and then on to an evening meeting related to what comes next in vocational computing with some well informed overseas visitors. Always a hot topic.

Thursday I hooked up with the Scottish Further Education Unit to review some joint work and then completed some of our internal Performance Management Review meetings. It is that time of year and everyone’s hit all our targets and more.

Friday was a wet drive to Dunfermline to first conference on roll out of new National Certificates. Very heartening presence of a large number of local authorities at this I think we may find that these are taken up in Schools and Colleges. These developments will drive on vocational education in Colleges but are very accessible for schools and then back through the rain to meet Learn Direct Scotland to review some joint programmes.

Fitting for 25th of January and Burns Night

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley”

I then came down with a Fungus the Bogey Man sized cold. If you catch it you’ll know. I have been a human slug for four days. I even had to forego my haggis and have a curry with my dram but I hope to see my desk tomorrow .

Thanks to Paulus Maximus for Red Rabbie

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The National Education Network

I took a photo of this graphic when I was down in London at BETT and meant to have a look at some of the resources behind the different front doors. I have linked it to snazzy flash map on the home page of the NEN I shared a platform in November 2006 with Jimmy Stewart the Chief Executive of C2K at the Microsoft Global Schools for the Future Summit and was particularly impressed by progress in Northern Ireland .

It's worth looking at the services on offer in different parts of UK . It is four years since I arrived at SQA and stopped following the developments across what was then the National Grid for Learning - some of the regions still have names that echo this - but the services seem to have moved on in many of these regions. At least from evidence on the front doors. Some could be all fur coats and nae .. as we say in the West , but you can see why a few of the regions are interested in the Internet Safety Award.. Internet Safety and resources for this feature on almost all of these portals

clipped from

The NEN is the UK collaborative network for education, providing schools with a safe, secure and reliable learning environment and direct access to a growing range of online services and content. More...


blog it

Sunday, January 20, 2008

SQA DIVA , World Economic Forum , UNESCO and DAVOS

While I was on my travels this arrived

The World Economic Forum and UNESCO have created the Partnerships for Education Initiative, which is designed to share understandings of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Education, and to advocate for their wider implementation to help deliver the Education for All goals.

One of the outputs of Partnerships for Education is an interactive database of existing Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships for Education (MSPEs). This is intended to be a platform where knowledge about such initiatives can be shared, and where those interested in implementing future partnerships can glean relevant information about how best to deliver them.

This database will be launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in January 2008, and we are currently populating it with examples of some of the most important existing MSPEs. Your DIVA Scotland initiative has been selected for inclusion within the database.

Great news for team and all our partners.

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace
Originally uploaded by joecar80
On domestic front not the best way to start the new season with being away from home two nights last week and three nights this .In total I spent 36 Hours in United Arab Emirates and 20 in the air. It rained continuously for 30 of those I spent on the ground . I arrived with the first heavy rain they have had in the last two years. Made for a late arrival, my flight was initially diverted to Muscat - where I see thanks to John Connell, the weather was good - and then had a terrifying journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. I understand the norm is to drive at 80 miles an hour tail gateing the car in front, my driver refused to vary from this in the deeply inclement conditions ( wetter than a wet day in Argyll) - we passed four pile ups in our direction of travel and spotted at least two on other carriageway. Made for white knuckle ride.

Delay also meant I went straight from the Airport to conference

We have a number of centres in this region doing Oil and Gas related awards but my visit was as a guest at an Economist Conference on World Challenges in 2008 I stayed awake partly due to the splendid surroundings. The Emirates Palace is one of only two seven star hotels in the world but mainly due the the quality and relevance of the presentations.

I can only bullet these - but the main worry is the well documented ongoing world credit crisis, combined with threats of global inflation Oil was clearly highlighted but prices of staple goods in China and developing parts of world have risen by 40-70% in last year. Oil price also gives local economy challenge in way that would be envied around rest of world - oil as moved from $12 to $100 per barrel in short space of time. They are faced with what was described as an an investment challenge.
  • On other fronts worries that Chinese economy is covering some economic challenges until post Olympics
  • That next Google maybe in Bio Sciences
  • That Sovereign Wealth Funds and other investors with surpluses are facing political protectionist challenges around the world ( globalisation needs global markets)
  • One example - 3 years ago most commercial property in Germany was bought by Germans last year 80% was bought by international buyers. This model is replicated in many markets
  • Global Shortage of business Leaders who understand business
  • NATO presentation on danger of new conflicts over global resources at time where we particularly in west are wasting enormous amounts of energy and other inputs that still go into landfill.
At the end of day I slunk back to my more usual budget accommodation and managed a quick sweep around town on following morning before I started my return trip. Dubai and particularly Abu Dhabi are what can only be described as boom towns with all the lures and downsides of this process. I met many from around the world on the make and many fantastic Arabs who are the humblest of peoples.

We work hard to keep our vocational portfolio aligned with both UK and Global Demands. Would that more folks in Scottish Education were aware of the dramatic changes in Beijing and places like this . If you want to drive the world's tallest crane, hone your hospitality skills to the highest standards, develop businesses in very short time frames or memorably in Beijing give every street trader a basic on-line food hygiene programme in advance of Olympics you will learn these skills in the developing world not in our own backyards anymore. Education and Training is a global marketplace and I am glad we're out there.

BETT 2008 The UK Educational Technology Fair

I attended this with Bobby Elliott Qualifications Manager for Computing . We use this event as an opportunity to meet many of the senior US based managers of our vendor partners. We had some really useful meetings with Adobe and Microsoft and some others including some other awarding bodies and Financial Institutions as I was in the hood. A search for BETT 2008 Blog will turn up multiple reviews of this event.

While we spent most of our time in meetings here are some observations on the event. The audience for this event is schools and ICT advisors from English local authorities with a growing international presence - overseas teachers and ICT advisors. It is a larger version of Scottish SETT now the Scottish Learning Festival. Great to see Martin Jack ex LTScotland organising chunk of this as he successfully does for Scottish Learning Festival.

The Ministerial key note was message that schools in England are to give parents access to electronic reports both on progress and attendance. There were number of organisations present trying to sell systems like this to local authorities on the back of this announcement. Moving around stands many of them were devoted to School or local authority admin systems rather than teaching and learning. There were some organisations offering totally externally hosted admin and learning and teaching platforms - some very clever stuff. The Pupils have equivalent of very large data stick flash drive with their own files on this and it connects in school and at home to the remotely hosted services and software. This was probably main innovation I saw but I didn't see the price tag.

MIAP was being heavily promoted - through presentations and on stands. The new 14-18 Diplomas were too - The Scottish Candidate Number and Skills for Work are ahead of these projects in Scotland. But would be taken as whinging Jock to state this anywhere south of border.

Only thing I would have liked to play with was probably the Asus EePC / RM Minibook which is well reviewed well here by John Connell and Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Met with many colleagues and friends from over the years - but have to say there was not as much innovative stuff about as say five years ago. Mostly more of the same - real message may be in how offerings are joining up or being bought up.

On many fronts there was strong evidence of partnership working across suppliers of qualifications, electronic learning materials and more traditional text books and everywhere the slickest of marketing - interactive presentations , live demonstrations of web- based resources, on-line tests and much more. I know we do things differently in Scotland but we would do well to make more links with private and public sector partners around qualifications. It was good to meet Colleagues from LTScotland and Learndirect Scotland at event.

Sorry that we missed Teachmeet on Friday Night - looks like it was a great success. But not the best night even for this hardened traveller with two kids under five an extra Friday night in London just takes too many brownie points. You can catch it here on flash meeting if you have a look around at

And we didn't win Bett Award for the Sports Store Game - but being shortlisted was some achievement real achievement is fantastic reception the game has had across Scotland and beyond,

I took some photographs of event. Incidentally camera was giveaway from the Pearson stand - given away as I sat through a presentation on their School Admin Software. Came in handy and I uploaded them on way back up road Would be good to have central Scottish repository for some of this stuff.

New Year Message

I have had a busy couple of weeks - either out of the office or back to back meetings with usual follow ups.

I have been watching a few postings with interest over the festive period. New Year seems either the time to cast an eye backwards to all things that have happened over the year or to look forward and make some predictions. There seem few Scots predicting the future mainly gazing back the way. Some notable blogs doing this though. Ewan McIntosh gives an excellent backward glance on his meteoric year on a personal and professional front.

In the mid 1990’s I predicted every Scottish Teacher would by 2000 have their own web page, their teaching materials would be swiftly transferred from their floppy disks (remember the big ones ) and they would be using these with learners who would be able to use this resource in a host of ways. Learners would start creating their own learning resources too and sharing these…

I started blogging in 2000 with a small group of enthusiasts. I thought too that this would sweep through education by 2001. I stopped blogging in 2003 and only started again in late 2006. This time I feel more part of a community thanks to Scotedublogs and there is a bit more of a critical mass, but the changes that I think are inevitable still seem further off than I would like in Scotland.

So given my terrible track record - here's how I see the vocational on-line learning world in Scotland.

I’d say the vocational sector have got it to some degree, Colleges are a bit behind but moving in right direction, Universities have got it in places but their faculties pull them in twenty directions at once and schools lag further behind in changing how we fundamentally do things . This could be metaphor for all things vocational but it seems in such sharp focus when you look at the adoption rate of technology to empower learners. I hope with GLOW this really changes this year. Would be good to see schools have standard access to Blogger and some other very relevant tools and I hope this happens this year too.

Predictions I like best are from an old friend Seb Schmoller -
  1. Effective use of RSS by learners, teachers, and learning providers will become more normal. Meanwhile the off-line capabilities of browser-based applications like Google Reader will grow, making a big difference for users with only intermittent Internet access.
  2. The hype surrounding social networking will abate, with a greater understanding developing about when social networking supports learning, and when it is a distraction.
  3. Many more people will break free from Windows or OSX based systems, and begin to rely instead on cheaper, lighter, disk-free devices, with their "stuff" stored somewhere on the Internet rather than locally.
My personal prediction is that learning will just get better and better for those learners and teachers who are part of the connected world in Colleges, Training Providers, Schools , Libraries , Learning Centres and for those at home too.

Those who aren't connected will still feel there is some conspiracy going on. I couldn't live without bloglines and other tools to stay well informed. My blogroll is on side of this blog.

The Times Educational Supplement is still critical but increasingly a smaller part of my environmental scanning . And I worry that grumpy middle age is upon me as I have less and less time for those who aren't up to speed and getting in the way of change. I hope I am less grumpy next year ;-) and more people across Scottish Education have access to these tools. Happy New Year to all.