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OCR’s new draft Computer Science GCSE aims to equip learners with computing skills that could see them joining MI5’s elite rank of cyber-spooks, creating the next Facebook or developing a blockbuster computer game.
One distinctive feature of the new GCSE is a focus on cyber security, including phishing, malware, firewalls and people as the ‘weak point’ in secure system, which learners will study for the first time at this level, as well as the ethical and legal concerns around computer science technologies.
Since last September, computing has been a compulsory part of the curriculum, with a move away from using computer applications to learning how to create them. Central to the new GCSE is a greater emphasis on ‘computational thinking’, which represents 60% of the content. Computational thinking involves breaking a complex problem down into smaller parts, establishing a pattern, ignoring unnecessary information and designing a solution through programming.
To support the new GCSE’s greater emphasis on computational thinking through programming, OCR has partnered with a specialist education technology company, Codio, to provide schools with a cloud based programming and course content platform where students can learn the theory and apply it in real life situations, in any computing language. With a recent CAS/Microsoft report showing that 80% of computing teachers are calling for more training and support, access to Codio’s platform will enable young people to learn programming and help support teachers to enhance their own computer science knowledge and skills at the same time.
Learners will then put their new-found programming skills to work on an independent coding project, which is worth 20% of the GCSE, by solving a real-world problem of their choice – whether developing an algorithm for recommending films, an app to help their teacher or even a game.
Rob Leeman, Subject Specialist for Computer Science and ICT at OCR, said: “This specification builds on OCR’s pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations like Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that the content is relevant.
He continued, “There is growing demand for digital skills worldwide. Whether students fancy themselves as the next cyber-spook, Mark Zuckerberg or Linus Torvalds, our new qualification will be the first exciting step towards any career that requires competence in computing.”
OCR’s draft GCSE Computer Science specification, for teaching from September 2016, has now been submitted to Ofqual. Have a look at the specification and let us know what you think by getting in touch on Twitter: @ocr_ict