Ceredig Cattanach-Chell, OCR Computer Science Subject Advisor
J277 GCSE Computer Science offers you a chance to change your approach to programming delivery. In this blog I discuss the changes to the specification and make some suggestions on how you can deliver an exciting programming curriculum.
June 2022 will be the first examination series for J277 GCSE Computer Science. We are working hard behind the scenes to support you – both now and when schools return in September.
It’s important to say “Don't worry!”. We focused on stability for our updated specification. You wanted familiar content and delivery approaches and we delivered. We improved and refreshed where needed.
We still have CPD courses available in June 2021 to support you.
The largest adjustment to J277 is the removal of:
We moved some content out of Component 2 into Component 1, which gives more time for practical coding. It now has a real feel of 50/50 delivery of ‘theory’ vs. ‘programming’. You can check the content update in our Scheme of Work.
The programming focus is now on allowing students to ‘Design, Write, Test and Refine’ programs over their course of study. The requirements are in Section 2d of our specification.
A student’s practical experience maps directly to the questions in Component 2: Section B examination paper. This is a ‘new’ section in the Component 2 examination. The questions in Section B reflect classroom experience and will feel natural.
The flexibility of the specification allows for much more creativity. You may now do (almost) whatever you like! The only guidance to follow is:
For some students, this may mean lots of smaller programs and keeping cognitive load low. Lots of repetition will help reinforce techniques in smaller chunks.
Blending text-based languages with visual languages may help reinforce programming techniques. The majority of programming tasks are likely to be text-based. But some students may find visual language tasks helpful to reinforce concepts.
Other students may enjoy the challenge of larger and more complex programming tasks. Continuing to follow the J276 approach of a larger programming project may well suit them. The point is that you can now tailor your delivery to suit your students.
You can blend any of the ‘Design, Write, Test and Refine’ elements. They do not all have to be present within one programming task.
For example, you could give a student five small programs and ask them to ‘Test’ each program and spot errors. Once they have done this, you could ask them to ‘Refine’ them, to make them work. Or you could give them a flowchart design and ask them to create the program in a text-based language. This would only focus on the ‘Write’ element. This means you can teach each element discretely, or in union with others.
Please note that none of the below approaches are endorsed specifically by OCR.
Sticking with the current J276 approach may well still work for you and your students. There is no need to ‘rip up the rule book’. But, looking forward, have you thought of other ways to deliver programming?
No single approach is best. It depends on your students, your skill set and the time you have to plan! Using one, many or a blend of some of these approaches could work.
Our flexible approach in the specification encourages diversity and gives you opportunity to break those stereotypes.
Computer science should be fun and creative. Allow students to explore different things in Key Stage 3. Find their ‘hook’. Then look at how that may be developed in Key Stage 4. Our specification allows this to happen!
With the wide range of support within our community, led by the National Centre for Computing Education, and locally through Computing at School, support is always near. Team up with other local (or national) teachers and schools to share resources and ideas.
Be brave and push the envelope! Be creative and share ideas.
If you have a unique and cool way of delivering programming – send me an email! We can blog about your approach and the impact it has had on your students.
But above all – have fun and hook students into one of the best subjects they will ever have the chance to study. And looking forward, probably one of the most important.
Tell us about your experience teaching Level Entry Computer Science in the comments below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @OCR_ICT on Twitter. You can also sign up to our subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell – Subject Advisor – 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 the concept and delivery of teacher delivery packs, which have become one of the flagships for the new GCSE’s success with teachers. Prior to joining OCR, Ceredig had eight years of education 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 post grads from Liverpool Hope and Cambridge Universities. 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’.