Computer Science is taught in dedicated computing labs which are all equipped with one computer per student and interactive projectors. The department makes extensive use of Google Apps for education; all lessons are available digitally via Google Classroom, both from in school and at home.
We have a great tradition of coding in school and have a group of very dedicated students who assist in the running of our extra-curricular club, the computing Society which teaches students how to create their own games and programmes, as well as exploring various computing related topics such as cyber security, bitcoin and AI.
The department’s curriculum is intended to prepare students for the world of tomorrow, equipping them with both the computing knowledge and skills that they will need as they progress through our increasingly digitalised world. In general, the computer science curriculum is focused on developing two key areas; computational thinking, problem solving skills and theatrical subject knowledge. Our program of study has been carefully planned to allow students to progress from lesson to lesson, building on previous learning content, to provide a timely insight into future curriculum topics and to equip students with the knowledge and skills that they will need appropriate to their stage of study.
Aside from our focus on delivering a top class education in Computer Science, the department is very aware of our wider responsibility with regards to eSafety and keeping all of our students safe. At the start of every academic year (with the expectation of Year 11 and Sixth Form Students), every year group begins their program of study with a series of eSafety lessons. Each year group with have an age appropriate discussion of the key issues within the topic and will be analysing and learning lessons from an eSafety story. The unit is designed to raise aware of eSafety concerns, with the aim of stopping our boys becoming future eSafety related crime victims.
Key Stage 3
The Year 7 program of study is designed to accommodate a wide range of students that have transitioned from a diverse set of primary schools; each with individual levels of computing knowledge and competencies. The initial program of study is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge that they will need in-order to access and appropriately use the school’s digital educational tools such as Google Classroom, email and cloud storage which will underpin their other subject studies. Students have one computing lesson per week in their form groups. Topics that are covered throughout the year include:
- Topic 1 - Introduction to the school network, Google Apps for Education, Computing literacy & eSafety: Student’s first introduction to computer science is designed to provide them with the basic knowledge, understanding and skills to use the school’s digital educational tools in an appropriate, professional manner. The outcome of the unit is that all students will understand and be able to effectively use the school’s digital tools such as Google Classroom, Drive and their school email accounts. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to explore and discuss aspect of eSafety; to help raise aware of the topic and prevent our boys becoming future victims of the issues.
- Topic 2 - Computing Hardware, Networking and Web Development: Within this unit, students will be learning web development, HTML coding skills. The students will be introduce to computing hardware and networking components, and begin to understand their purpose. The unit culminates in a website project, where students have to design, develop and review their own website with a given audience and purpose. The outcome of the unit is that students will have developed basic web development skills and formed foundational subject knowledge in computing hardware and networking.
- Topic 3 - Programming & The BBC micro:bit: Students are introduced to the concept of algorithms and their purpose in providing direction to digital devices. Student will be developing Python Programming skills using Micro:Python to control various aspects of the micro:bit. Students will be learning the basic program structures of sequence, select and iteration. The aim of the unit is to expose students to and allow them to develop basic competency in Python programming.
- Topic 4 - Podcasting; Computing & Society: This collaborative digital literacy unit has been formulated so that students have to plan, research, develop and then evaluate a digital artefact, in the form of a podcast for a given audience and purpose. Along the way, students will be researching and considering the wider impacts of technology on society with a specific focus on the music industry. The desired outcome of the unit is that students will have an awareness of how to design digital products for a given audience and purpose. Student should be able to critically review information from secondary source, evaluating its factuality and suitability for use with an intended purpose and audience.
The Year 8 program of study has been designed to allow students to further extend their computing skills and knowledge based on the outcomes of the Year 7 curriculum. Students will be revisiting and then building on key subject concepts such as computational thinking and programming skills, as well as being exposed to new theory concepts such as digital data storage. Students have one computing lesson per week in their form groups. Topics that are covered throughout the year include:
- Topic 1 - Python Programming & Gamebooks: Students are introduced to the concept of Game Books, based on the Fighting Fantasy series by Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson alongside Python Programming skills. The unit culminates in a game book project where students have to plan, develop, test, self & peer review and then evaluate their own Python game book. The outcome of the unit is designed to help students to progress their computational thinking and python programming skills with a strong cross curriculum literacy context.
- Topic 2 - Encryption & Codebreaking: Students are initiated into the world of cybersecurity and code breaking albeit in an accessible, age appropriate form. Students will learn a range of basic encryption techniques and then have to apply their skills to encrypt and then decrypt a number of ciphers. Students are also expose to digital data storage including ASCII encoding; they will develop knowledge of binary and hexadecimal number systems, which they will then have to convert between. The purpose of the unit is to provide students with an insight into basic encryption techniques and then expose them to some GCSE Computer Science skills with regards to converting between binary, hexadecimal and denary number systems,
- Topic 3 - GreenTube; video editing & the environment: The “grand finale” of key stage three computer science is the collaborative GreenTube video editing unit. Students will be critically researching the different viewpoints with regards to climate change. They will be conducting primary research through designing a digital data capture form. Students will then analyse their responses using spreadsheet tools to help draw conclusions, before working in small groups to apply their insight to help plan and then develop a YouTube style video, whose purpose is to educate fellow school age children about climate change. The unit is designed to allow students to use a range of digital literacy tools, to be able to locate via advanced internet search techniques and then critically review climate change information. Students will then present their findings in an educational style video, using video and sound editing tools and green screen technology.
Key Stage 4
Students start their GCSE options at the beginning of Year 9; students can elect to study AQA GCSE Computer Science. GCSE Computer Science helps students to think about how technology is created. It allows them to understand how people work together with computers to develop world-changing programmes like Facebook, Spotify and eBay. Students will also develop the skills that colleges, universities and employers are looking for – and they’ll prove valuable for the rest of the student’s life. GCSE Computer Science goes well with lots of other subjects, especially the sciences, fashion, textiles, music, maths and art and design.
The course can be generalised into two distinct areas of study; Computational Thinking and Problem Solving skills including Python Programming and computing theory. Students have two GCSE Computer Science lessons per week in dedicated computing labs. The course is delivered digitally through Google Classroom. Each lesson, student will record their subject progress in their Progress Tracker and then review their understanding of each lesson’s learning objective through the lesson’s formative assessment tool, the Knowledge Checker.
GCSE Computer Science
Exam Board and Specification: AQA 8525
This GCSE course consists of 2 assessed units
Paper 1: Computational thinking and problem solving – (2 hours, 50% of GCSE) written exam taken in the summer of Year 11. Questions include a mix of multiple choice, short answer and longer answer questions assessing programming, practical problem-solving and computational thinking skills.
The syllabus for this exam is computational thinking, problem solving, code tracing, applied computing and the following theoretical units; Fundamentals of algorithms, Programming, Fundamentals of data representation and Computer systems.
Paper 2: Computing Systems – (1 hr 45 min, 50% of GCSE) written exam taken in the summer of Year 11. Questions include a mix of multiple choice, short answer, longer answer and extended response assessing SQL programming skills and theoretical knowledge.
The syllabus for this exam is; Fundamentals of data representation, Computer systems, Fundamentals of computer networks, Fundamentals of cyber security, SQL and Ethical, legal and environmental impacts of digital technology on wider society, including issues of privacy.
To access the qualification’s syllabus, click here
Students program of study is outlines below:
- Fundamentals of Programming: The GCSE course starts with a focus on Python Programming; students will cover the basic programming concepts which they will need to grasp in-order to progress with the course and eventually use to tackle the Programming Project element of the qualification. The outcome of the unit is that student should be well grounded in the fundamentals of Python programming such as sequencing, selection and iteration. Their learning within this unit will underpin much of their future course activity.
- Computational Thinking: The focus of this unit is problem solving using computational thinking skills such as decomposition, abstractions, pattern recognition and algorithmic formulation. Students will further focus on writing algorithms using flowcharts and/or pseudocode; they will develop tracing skills to be able to identify the purpose of given algorithms using a trace table, understanding its functions. The unit concludes with a look at a number of standard sorting and searching algorithms; critically comparing each one to identify the merits and limitation of their use.
- Advanced Programming: Building on and then extending students’ Python Programming skills from unit 1. The unit will expose students to more challenging programming techniques such as data structures, subroutines, the use of external files and library routine, before developing validation and authentication algorithms. The outcome of this unit is that students will have studied all of the core programming concepts required at GCSE level (based on the AQA 8525 Syllabus), and will have sufficient programming competency to tackle the course’s programming project.
- Circle of Life (system development) & mini Programming Project: The final unit of Year 9 looks to pull together students prior learning; the unit starts with a look at software development by focusing on the system life cycle development model. Students then have to undertake a mini programming project which will require them to use their previously covered programming skills, to develop a solution for a given problem.
- Computer Speak (digital data storage): The Year 10 program of study starts off by focusing on the GCSE’s paper 2 computing theory content. Within the Computer Speak topic, students recap binary and hexadecimal number systems; they will become confident in converting between denary, binary and hexadecimal numbers (up to 255). The unit then focuses on how different types of data are stored digitally from characters (ASCII & Unicode), through to images, videos and sound. Students will also learn about compression techniques.
- What’s Inside?! (Computer Hardware): What’s inside?! Is all about the components that go in to producing working computing systems including software. Students should understand how a number of the main computing hardware components work together, under the instruction of software to create a working computing system.
- Networking: The networking unit is focused on communication infrastructure and digital standards (protocols) that underpin our digitally connected world. Students will also consider some of the security implications of interconnected digital devices and be able to derive safeguards to help keep digital information safe.
- Legislation & Ethics: Taking a break from the more technical aspects of the course, students will study the acts and laws that govern the use of technology within the UK. They will then start to consider the ethical implications of the use of technology within our world, identifying the winners, losers, disruptions and challenges that the use of computing generates.
- SQLing: The SQLing unit is a return to program via the declarative language of SQL; students will be introduce to database concepts and will learn how SQL can be used to manipulate and interrogate data within a database.
- Practise Programming Project: The final unit of Year 10 is a trial run for the course’s programming skills project element; students will also be drawing upon their programming skills covered within the Year 9 program of study. By the end of the unit students will understanding the programming project, the requirements and the report element of the task.
- Programming Skills (The Programming Project): From the September of Year 11 students will be completing the programming skills project element of the qualification. Students will be given a number of programming exercises, each with a set of user requirements; students will have to design, develop, test, review and refine their solutions to help ensure that it meets the given requirements. All this is a formal, core part of the GCSE course. The component does not contribute to the students’ final GCSE grade but all students must engage with the project, demonstrating that they have achieved the required programming standard of the GCSE course.
- Programming on Paper: The last new topic of the GCSE Computer Science course is designed specifically to prepare students for paper based python programming syntax. The unit is focused on the variety of programming type questions that the students might be subjected to in their final assessment papers. The unit will draw upon students’ prior programming knowledge with a view to help them master the art of coding on paper outside of a programming development environment.
- Revision: The final element of the GCSE course is a comprehensive, interweaved revision unit. Each lesson students will be reviewing specific areas of the AQA GCSE syllabus in-order for them to consolidate their knowledge and to prepare for the course’s final assessments.
Key Stage 5
A Level Computer Science:
Exam Board and Specification: OCR H446 (from 2015)
Note: Students will not sit an AS exam. They will be assessed at the end of year 12 by an internal exam.
The course consists of 2 written exam papers and one coursework project:
Component 01 - COMPUTER SYSTEMS (40% of final A Level Grade):
This component is a traditionally marked and structured question paper with a mix of question types. The course covers:
- The characteristics of contemporary processors, input, output and storage devices
- Software and software development
- Exchanging data
- Data types, data structures and algorithms
- Legal, moral, cultural and ethical issues.
Component 02 - ALGORITHMS AND PROGRAMMING (40% of final A Level Grade):
Traditional questions concerning computational thinking:
- Elements of computational thinking
- Programming and problem solving
- Pattern recognition, abstraction and decomposition
- Algorithm design and efficiency
- Standard algorithms
There will be a scenario/task contained in the paper, which could be an algorithm or a text page-based task, which will involve problem solving.
Component 03 - PROGRAMMING PROJECT (20% of final A Level Grade):
Students select their own user-driven problem of an appropriate size and complexity to solve. Students analyse the problem, design a solution, implement the solution and give a thorough evaluation.
To access the qualification’s syllabus, click here
Exams & Assessment
GCSE Computer Science
Exam Board and Specification: AQA 8525
A Level Computer Science:
Exam Board and Specification: OCR H446
Enrichment & Extra-curricular
Weekly lunchtime Computing Society (ComSoc), is run by sixth form students and provides programming workshops and subject discussions.
Weekly lunchtime Computing Catch-up and Support club, is run by the computing department teachers, providing an ad-hoc drop in opportunity, to all computing students for them to seek additional support and advice with regards to their subject studies.
Resources & Reading Lists
Title: GCSE AQA Computer Science 8525
Publisher: PG Online
Title: AQA GCSE Computer Science, Second Edition
Publisher: Hodder Education
Title: AQA GCSE Computer Science 8525 - Clear Revise
Publisher: PG Online
Title: OCR AS and A Level Computer Science
Publisher: PG Online Limited (12 Sept. 2016)