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In my last blog I summarised the perceived challenges being faced by implementing computer science across schools now that ICT is being discontinued. I also talked about creating firm foundations for computer science linking network infrastructure and the common challenges faced by many school's networks.
The next instalment now looks at the challenges faced by implementing GCSE Computer Science without a robust KS3 computer science curriculum.
Linking back to “building on rocks”, many schools appear to be implementing GCSE Computer Science without development and embedding of a KS3 Scheme of Work for learners, allowing them to experience exactly what computer science is. Learners currently pick the majority of their GCSE choices in Year 9 (or Year 8) having had some experience or Scheme of Work delivered to them through Year 7 and 8 to introduce them to the topics of a subject and provide a fundamental understanding that subject area. GCSE then builds on that platform. Why is this not the same computer science?
With a drive to embed computer science into KS2, it is likely that, within a couple of years (or sooner!), that learners will arrive at KS3 with some basic knowledge of programming and ability in computational thinking. This is a huge positive and a good chance to hook all learners into the world of computer science. However, it will push the challenge of what to deliver at KS3 even higher. The question then, of ‘What should I teach at KS3?’ is a good one.
At OCR, we have our Entry Level Certificate in Computer Science. Whilst this is designed to be a KS4 course for lower ability learners, there is nothing to stop the content being devolved/embedded, either entirely or partially, to form the framework of a KS3 Scheme of Work. The time allocated to computer science often varies wildly across schools – but using Entry Level as a guide should allow centres to develop a robust and challenging KS3 learning programme based around maybe one hour a week. There are benefits to this approach:
Without any experience of computer science at Key Stage 3, the feedback from schools seems to be very similar. A very discrete set of students – the ‘can’ and cant’s’ – A*/A or D/E, etc. This current polarisation of students into these two categories does nothing to remove the premise that computer science is only for the most able. However, computer science is accessible to all, and I discuss this in the final article of the series. But, without supporting student development in KS3, we are removing the ability for students to develop their potential early in their school life, and then make and educated decision over whether computer science really is ‘for them’. We also then load them with a need to develop the basic understanding that they may otherwise have developed in KS3, to KS4. This loading makes KS4 a very high-paced two years, and adds to the perception that computer science’s demand.
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell - Subject Specialist - Computer science
Ceredig joined OCR in September 2015 incorporating his breadth of experience from education to support the reform and development of the new GCSE 9-1 Computer Science and Entry Level R354. A keen advocate of the challenges faced within the classroom, Ceredig led on concept and delivery of the delivery of the new teacher delivery packs, which have become one of the flagships for the new GCSE’s success with teachers.
Prior to joining OCR, Ceredig has had eight years of educational and teaching experience across a wide range of schools, including primary, secondary, academies and SEN sectors. Ceredig has a degree in computer science from Liverpool University and a PGCE from Liverpool Hope. Outside of work, Ceredig is a keen modeller/painter, gamer and all around geek. From wildlife to war games, his varied hobbies ensure that he is never just ‘sitting down watching the box’.