The redevelopment of Computing to Computer Science has been beset with challenges ranging from ICT no longer being a GCSE/A Level subject to a significant number of non-specialists being asked to deliver a very technical subject; not to mention all the concerns around malpractice. It has been a long and trying process which has resulted in a specification ready for the modern Computer Scientist and one we are proud of.
Changes and challenges
The landscape is shifted dramatically. Computer Science cannibalising ICT and the knock on of its removal from General Qualifications has led to a shift in being forced into undertaking Computer Science. The subject content has changed for the better but this is stretching non-specialists (who account for ~80% of Computer Science teachers at GCSE) who are not only trying to adapt to a new subject, but also one that has become more demanding! Becoming the fourth Science and the pressure of being an EBacc subject has also lead to pressures on delivery. The increased emphasis on computational thinking requires a pedagogical shift with a significant focus now on teaching how to think computationally. This is still a new arena at GCSE, and one where OCR is crafting lots of resources along with organisations like CAS (and its members) whose passions and diligence is unmatched in providing support and direction in Computer Science education. CAS’s Project Quantum is certainly interesting and will provide a bank of auto marked Computer Science questions for candidates to learn and revise from.
The previous Computing specification was undoubtedly successful but it highlighted malpractice as a real concern with delivery of controlled assessment. Due to the significant volume of malpractice raised, the regulator imposed new controls such as:
The new specification’s NEA tasks and guidance are designed to try to counteract the issues identified and with the reduced amount of NEA (20% as opposed to 60% currently) we hope to see a significant reduction in the malpractice raised within the new specification. A happy side effect from the tasks having to be released in the terminal year is that it requires teachers to teach the theory (and hopefully the programming techniques) in the first year and so they can apply them in the second year more effectively, rather than rushing through the coursework in the first year to 'bank' marks. The change in structure requires the subject to be taught in a more traditional fashion with much more reliance on exam preparation, but hopefully with the resources we are producing such as the teacher delivery packs and end of unit quizzes, specialists and non-specialists alike will be able to teach the subject effectively. In order to help new and non-specialist teachers we are also providing free 'best practice' CPD to help guide teachers through the changes and to help them get the most out of their students and also understand the rules around the NEA. The new specification is certainly exciting but does involve many challenges and will certainly keep us all busy for the next few years.
Rob Leeman - Subject Specialist - Computer Science
Following on from his work on the Computing A Level, Rob is now assigned to lead the development for GCSE Computer Science qualification. His experience began in IT support before embarking on a career in teaching and assessment having taught and managed A Level IT, and prior to joining OCR in 2013 Rob held the post of Head of ICT and Computer Science at a secondary school in Cambridgeshire. In his spare time Rob loves to exercise his dogs and indulge in CrossFit, airsoft, diving, clay pigeon shooting and is a keen proponent of Open Source.