Not Just a Teacher

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Not Just a Teacher

The Computing trickle down

October 5th, 2011 · 6 Comments · General

As blogged about in quite extensive detail:, we now have A/S Computing launched and running in our school with 20 students having commenced the course in September. Given the popularity of this course, the calibre of a large number of our cohort, the success in Maths and more importantly the desire of the department to offer Computing at GCSE, it was inevitable that it would appear as an option at some point for our students entering Key Stage 4. Having sounded out my plans with SLT in school, GCSE Computing can go ahead from September 2012, with other options of a general ICT course of our choosing and Imedia as a third option. In other words, we are offering two specialists routes and a ‘general’ route form the department, a good spread yet balanced offering I have strived for since coming to the school.

So, the question remained until yesterday, which course? Well, given the fact that only one actual GCSE Computing course exists at the moment, I could only look at this: So, I attended a seminar on it yesterday in Manchester. I went with an open mind knowing that it is highly likely there will be other Computing courses launched by the end of the year and some courses currently exist which have strong Computing elements e.g., hence, this is not the only option.

Yet, after yesterday I am not looking anywhere else. I was sold. No, it does not seem like an amazing course, in fact the first unit is very staid in my opinion, but given the shackles of QCDA are now off I think this will improve and even if it does not then the other two units will more than compensate for this. Further, it is surprising how much ‘traditional’ ICT makes up a Computing course. Elements such as network topologies, hardware, software and database all feature. Is that any different from a GCSE in ICT? Not really.

The real attraction of Computing, to me, comes largely in the two controlled assessment units that give students the chance to research, problem solve, think and be creative with technology for a given scenario. Many of those in attendance had been through the pilot. Hardly any of them had anything negative to say. There was a consensus that the course was equally suited to low ability as to high and engagement in classrooms was high.

But what really sold the OCR GCSE in Computing to me was the fact that the Chief examiner running the event would not give any model answers. Despite repeated requests and some attempts at persuasion, he would not be moved. His line was that there are many approaches to the controlled assessments set, not only in the way the evidence can be presented but also in the solutions themselves, that he does not wish to influence the possible work that can be produced. As a a teacher you may ask, is this dangerous? How can I be sure as a teacher that I am ‘doing it right’/’marking it right’? Well, he had an answer for that, as only a couple of centres marked last year were altered and as he pointed out, the marking scheme is relatively straightforward. At long last it was refreshing to hear that we as teachers are also being led towards the same problem solving and creativity expectations that many of us crave for our students. In addition, and arguably the biggest attraction- we are going to be trusted to judge the work to a certain standard and this will be upheld. Long may these trends continue.

GCSE Computing will be arriving at my school, September 2012………..


6 Comments so far ↓

  • Dr Tom Crick

    Hi Nick, great post — it’s hugely positive to see the OCR GCSE in Computing starting to make an impact. I hope that the other examination boards see this and start to develop rigorous GCSEs in Computing, focusing on developing these crucial computational thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills.

    Are you a member of Computing at School (CAS):


    Dr Tom Crick
    Leader in Wales, Computing at School
    Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, UWIC

    • largerama

      Thanks Tom.

      Not a member but have good contacts in CAS. They just havent been local enough for us yet although heard that they are soon to be born in Leeds.

      • Mark Clarkson

        In response to your response to Tom’s response – there is no ‘they’, there is only ‘us’ 🙂

        CAS is the people in CAS. Whether local to you or not, I think there is a lot that CAS for do for you and a lot that you can do for CAS (or rather, what you’re doing can help CAS).

        Sales pitch aside – it’s great isn’t it? Although I’m finding that results in CA are bimodal (no-one seems to be getting a C), the idea that we can approach things however we see fit is, indeed, refreshing.

        Best of luck with it!

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