OCR recently responded to Ofqual’s consultation on revised assessment arrangements for GCSE computer science.
This consultation proposed options for changes to the non-exam assessment for GCSE computer science following evidence seen by Ofqual that rules for non-exam assessment were not being followed. Ofqual also had wider concerns about the burden being placed on teachers by the non-exam assessment.
We consulted widely with the computer science community whilst formulating our response, receiving over 50 detailed comments from concerned teachers. Our response to Ofqual specifically highlighted the feedback we received in relation to those students who had already completed the non-exam assessment tasks, so that they would not be disadvantaged over students who have not, should decisions be made to make changes to the assessment for summer 2018.
OCR’s response agreed that there were shortcomings with the non-exam assessment for GCSE computer science.
Our response emphasised the need to agree and resolve the detailed implications of the proposed changes very quickly, in order to give schools and colleges ample notice of any further changes, and to give exam boards time to develop alternative approaches. We advised against year on year changes because of the potential instability that could ensue.
We recommended that the requirements for GCSE computer science should align with the approach taken for GCSE Science - specifying the types of experience that must be gained during the course. Such arrangements would give teachers the opportunity to ensure that students have the opportunity to engage in a genuinely authentic programming experience.
In the longer term, a fundamental review is needed of how programming activities are assessed within computer science. Our response suggested that the most likely way forward was a model which included questions in the exam designed to reward candidates who have significant experience of programming in a practical context (a model used in some other GCSE subjects, including Science, with practical components).