I went along to Jordanhill School, Glasgow, this evening to attend a 'forum' hosted by John Sharkey, who is currently working for the SQA, developing the new Higher and Advanced Higher Physics courses.

John started with a quick summary of the current state of play regarding SQA Physics courses for post-16 students -

  • New Higher Course -¬†Publication of finalised arrangements document and support materials (including Teacher and Pupil materials and specimen paper)¬†on November 24th
  • New Advanced Higher Course - First Draft Arrangements produced, discussion forum meetings taking place to gauge opinions

He next gave a quick overview of the development that had taken place so far, and a run down of the proposed structure for the New Advanced Higher -

  • 3 units + investigation
  • 'Our Dynamic Universe'
    Kinematics, Angular Momentum, Rotational Dynamics, Gravity, SHM, Space & Time, Cosmology
  • 'Electricity & Electronics'
    Electric Fields, Electrical circuits (including capacitors), Electronics (including Op-Amps)
  • 'Particles & Waves'
    Quantum mechanics, Particles from Space, Waves, Interference, Polarisation

John was also able to show us a copy of the first draft arrangements and we discussed some of the following issues -

  • Having the same unit names as New Higher, whilst giving a sense of developing upon the content in that course, might also imply that the new AH course is 'more of the same' - there were concerns that this might lead to pressure on centres with smaller cohorts to have bi-level teaching of new Higher and new Advanced Higher classes.
  • Including new content, to follow on from that in the new Higher (e.g. special relativity, cosmoslogy etc) would necessitate a reduction in the current content. It was indicated that there might be a reduction in the number of formal proofs candidates would be required to to know and reproduce in assessments
  • Investigations would be retained, especially as the new Higher 'Researching Physics' unit gives good preparation for candidates continuing to the new Advanced Higher. It was felt that there should be some review of the format and requirements of the assessment for the Investigation unit
  • LO3 report requirements would be dropped in the new AH course, in line with the loss of LO3s in the new H course, though candidates should still be encouraged to undertake and write up practical work as part of their studies
  • For formal assessment of the new AH course there were mixed feelings about the proposed inclusion of multiple choice (objective) questions, and positive responses to the inclusion of open-ended questions

One of the most pressing issues, mentioned by all of those present, was that of the obvious need for high quality CPD, including exemplar materials and ongoing support to familiarise teachers with new content, and offer guidance in the development and delivery of the new course.

The SQA are intending to run a number of similar 'forum' meetings to continue to canvass opinions from teachers, whose responses will be used to inform the consultation documents for the new Advanced Higher course released in 2011. As for the new Higher, consultation will take place via the SQA Academy.