There is currently a review of what should happen in relation to the GCSE Computer Science Programming Project - Please contribute your views:
Ofqual’s ‘Future assessment arrangements for GCSE Computer Science’ consultation 2018
If you want your school to make more effective use of technology then here are some tips:
GCSE and A Level ICT are now in their death throes. The conservative government, mainly in the guise of Michael Gove have killed them off. It was at the beginning of 2012 that Gove said that the existing curriculum in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) had left children "bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers". Having been an ICT teacher at the time, all I can say is that I don’t recognise his criticism as being a true reflection of what was happening in the classroom. Yes, we were teaching students to use applications such as Word and Excel, as these were essential tools not just for students, but also for the majority of working adults.
It is a caricature of the reality that was seen in schools, where students were learning about control, programming (usually using graphical programming languages, such as Scratch), video and audio editing, scripting languages (such as html) and creating relational databases. It was a small cohort of so called “experts” who advised Mr Gove into bringing their vision to reality. This misguided group threw out the baby with the bath water.
Wind forward nearly six years from this change and there is already ample evidence that this decision, by groups with a vested interest, was at best a misguided decision and at worse a retrograde step.
Early this year, it was ironically the British Computing Society (BCS), one of the groups who advised Mr Gove, that were showing concern that the number of students taking up a qualification in computing would likely halve by 2020. You could have asked any ICT teacher back in 2012 and they would have been able to predict this outcome. Not that the computing/ computer science curriculum is of no value, it definitely has its place as a valuable qualification, but only alongside ICT/IT qualifications.
We now have students arriving at secondary schools from many primary schools with little knowledge of ICT. Many of them have used a tablet, but never a desktop computer or laptop. Secondary school teachers need to teach the students basic ICT skills before they move on to teaching computing, that’s if they have the time.
GCSE ICT was always a popular choice for girls and despite money being spent on encouraging girls to choose GCSE computer science, there is little evidence that this is having any impact. So not only are fewer students choosing a “computing” qualification, even fewer of these are girls.
It really is time to bring back GCSE ICT and A Level ICT before even more damage is done.
Computer Science teachers and their students are currently getting to grips with the new form of assessment that has been included as part of the move to the 9-1 GCSEs. The non-exam assessment (NEA) has been introduced amid growing anxiety and unease among teachers, who have to read a growing list of detailed and complex instructions about the procedures required. It's no wonder that there is a general feeling of unease. The exam boards have tried to be helpful but this has not allayed the fears of computer science teachers.
There is a lack of certainty about what they can share with their students, particularly in relation to the NEA Resource Bank. In addition, as this is a new course there is a dearth of materials to support teachers and provide students with examples of what other students have produced in previous years. Hopefully the NEA Support Pack goes some way towards supporting teachers.
At the end of the day teachers will need to priorities exam preparation over the NEA, as the exams will contribute 80% of their students final grade.
It seems like only yesterday that there was a big buzz around schools. Every school was going to have one, the government insisted. This was the future of education, you could have a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), an MLE (Managed Learning Environment), or even a Learning Platform. The distinction has blurred over time and we now seem to be all buzzed out. There has been no revolution, no seismic shift of an educational paradigm and I, along with every optimistic educator, feel let down. I really wanted my virtual school to grow as big as the real school and I spent years developing it, trying to convince every teacher that the answer to everything, was not 42, but a beautiful, all encompassing MLE.
Looking back I was definitely optimistic, but should that have been frowned upon? I passionately believed in my MLE and struggled to understand why very few teachers seemed to share my passion.
It wasn't yesterday, it was 10 years ago and now my passion has waned. VLEs MLEs, learning platforms, whatever you want to call them, never actually died, they just need to find their time and place. One day, probably not tomorrow, the virtual school will come into its own. I hope I'm around to see it.