Hints and tips - 5 minute read
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell, OCR Computer Science Subject Advisor
The purpose of my latest post is to explain how using our Entry Level Computer Science qualification can help to engage students with computer science and feed naturally into our GCSE course.
Diving into GCSE Computer Science can often feel quite daunting - for both teacher and student. When the 2016 reform first took place, many viewed the change from ICT to computer science as a direct swap. Some centres found challenges when doing this, and it was great to be able to point them towards our Entry Level in Computer Science to help support them.
More recently, with the support of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) and the wide range of resources and training support they offer, I have seen teachers feeling more confident in delivering computer science.
Nationally, entries for computer science have grown both at A Level and GCSE. This is a testament to the hard work of teachers, schools and organisations to cement and grow this highly important subject.
But moving from no formal computer science education in KS3 to GCSE has its pitfalls. One thing I’ve always championed is the concept of the "journey". When running our teacher networks, I was often asked how best to prepare for GCSE Computer Science. And the answer was 'elem-Entry'.
We’re the only exam board to offer an Entry Level qualification in computer science designed for students who are not yet at GCSE level. It offers a reduced depth and breadth curriculum and naturally sits within a KS3 curriculum.
The qualification follows the GCSE course in format and content, and it’s split over the same two-paper approach. The components mirror the same content as GCSE, at a suitable level for Entry Level.
The exams for Entry Level may be taken at any time, and students sit these exams under teacher supervision within the classroom. Students also get to experience programming in either a visual or a text-based language.
Due to the similarities with our GCSE course and content, it doesn’t need much planning and resourcing to deliver. You can use the same resources, and simply remove the content that’s not required.
Using our Entry Level in KS3 helps to streamline a programme of study which feeds directly into our GCSE. This allows more effective preparation for GCSE – in the same way that other KS3 programmes of study build into their respective GCSEs.
After the new GCSE was launched in 2016, it was good to hear positive stories coming from teachers. As they started to build their KS3 around computer science, they discussed how student confidence and engagement had grown. They said that students starting GCSE felt more motivated and engaged, and progress was better.
You can use Entry Level in several ways. Here are three of the most popular methods we’ve seen:
Materials for our Entry Level qualification are all freely available on the website. The tests are held securely within Interchange. If you choose to make entries, the entry fee is currently £26.25 per candidate.
Because it’s not a L1/L2 course, you should note that the Entry Level qualification doesn’t attract performance points. But it’s a useful qualification to have as a formal statement for students as part of their record of achievement.
I recommend all teachers look at Entry Level Computer Science as a valuable resource to support computer science teaching. I believe that including this qualification in a KS3 curriculum will have a range of benefits - and may also help to improve KS4 performance.
Perhaps it also reinforces the importance of computer science within the curriculum. After all, our students today will be designing the robots, artificial intelligence and programs of tomorrow!
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’.