GCSE computer science has changed quite significantly in the past few years. Since its roll out, the new computing GCSE which replaced the ICT course has received mixed feedback. Some sing its praises claiming it is the perfect way to set young people up for their future, while others think it is overcomplicated and irrelevant. An ideal start or and overcomplicated waste of time, it does not matter. The main issue is that results are dragging in this vital subject and something needs to be done to improve them.
What are people saying?
The GCSE and results that followed have been condemned by many newspapers since 2016, many of whom hold a view that although the older ICT GCSE was not perfect, it was more relevant and less complicated than the computing counterpart.
The BCS (British Computer Society) uphold the view that the new computer science GCSE is a must. It is relevant to today’s world and it is the ideal route into the digital future towards which we are headed.
Students, parents and teachers hold mixed views too, with some excited about the change and others frustrated and disillusioned with the different take on computing.
The main take home point is that something needs to change. Students need to feel more engaged and excited about computing, parents should have more faith in the new GCSE and teachers need to try new tactics if they want to get their students through.
The British Computing Society
In 2017 The BCS released a report stating that the Computing GCSE was just as important in terms of skills as literacy and numeracy. In the future, more and more jobs are going to require computer literate workers and the market will only get tougher.
Interestingly, the report stated that schools that were supported by the CAS Network of Excellence (Computing at Schools) performed better overall in computer science with more top pass grades than schools who did not receive this teaching support. Furthermore, there were more students studying computer science in these schools also.
Why is this important?
The CAS Network of Excellence refers to training given to computer science teachers on how to teach the new curriculum. Naturally, teachers who are trained in the new curriculum can deliver a higher level of teaching on it and transfer more excitement about it. Together, good teaching and excitement about a subject can go a long way in student engagement and results.
So often, students and parents are left with the task of improving results. There is a heavy reliance on telling students that if they revise and ask the right questions they will succeed. Whilst this is true, sometimes it is not enough and it is then that schools must employ other methods to get their students excited and prepared for their exams.
What can be done to improve results?
Stereotypes can be hard to shake and unfortunately, the notion of computer science being a ‘boring boy subject’ stands strong. Ideas can change though, and students can become more receptive with just the smallest of tweaks.
It is a tricky one but schools must do more to ensure that their GCSE computer science teachers are completely up to date with the curriculum and armed with a multitude of methods to teach it. The action plan for this is school and location dependent, however, there are some things that all schools can do.
Equipping students and parents with news and relevant knowledge of why computer science is important is paramount. Providing them with information about where the world is going and how to be a part of that can spark huge interest. Moreover, information on the GCSE and careers should be provided to parents at options evenings and parents evenings so that they too can learn about what their children will be doing so as they can be a line of support through the journey that is GCSEs.
Sitting behind a desk for an hour at a time with things going wrong whilst trying to learn programming is no ones idea of a biweekly treat. Yet that is what most GCSE computer science lessons tend to consist of.
No one can blame the lack of attention and retention on students when they’re often left feeling deflated and frustrated with complicated algorithms that they aren’t used to. Sometimes, stripping things back to basics and taking an out of the box approach to teaching computing is an invaluable commodity.
How can we expect students to understand programming if they’ve never seen how a computer works? Fill students with awe. Show them how a computer runs from the inside or show them the history of computers. Not only does this provide a break from traditional teaching, it also gives students a chance to see where the technology they use comes from while it inspires them to dream of where it can go.
First hand experience tells us that our in school, and school holiday workshops can go miles in enriching students knowledge and understanding of computer science.
Out workshops take students out of the classroom and allow them to have fun in an informal but educational setting. Our workshops utilise the most up to date technology and this combined with enthusiastic tutors ignites an interest in students that they can take back to their lessons with them.
By allowing students to take their time and experience new technology first hand, our workshops bring the theory they learn in the classroom to life. It is the bringing to life of the theories that can lead to the lightbulb moments where everything suddenly makes sense, and once everything makes sense, there is no looking back.
Computer science has always been cast aside as a bore and a lesson where students can slack off but that does not have to be the case. Enthusiasm, creativity and embracing new concepts and teaching methods all help to push students to be the best they can be in computing.
If you would like to embrace the new and know more about our workshops and clubs then please get in touch!