New GCSE to boost computing skills

Extra support for schools to teach programming on OCR's new Computer Science GSCE

From September 2016, a new Computer Science GCSE proposed by exam board OCR, will be introduced into classrooms. OCR’s draft GSCE will be submitted to Ofqual for accreditation this week. 

One distinctive feature of OCR’s draft GCSE is the focus on cyber-security. GCSE students will learn about system security – phishing, malware, firewalls and people as the ‘weak point’ in secure systems, for the first time at GCSE Level, as well as ethical and legal concerns around computer science technologies. MI5 and GCHQ have both recently been more open about a recruitment drive for digitally skilled employees to join their intelligence teams.  

Since September 2014, computing has been a compulsory part of the curriculum, with a move away from using computer applications to learning how to create them. Central to the new GCSE is a greater emphasis on ‘computational thinking’, which represents 60% of the content. Computational thinking involves breaking a complex problem down into smaller parts, establishing a pattern, ignoring unnecessary information and designing a solution through programming.  

To support the greater emphasis on computational thinking through programming in the new GCSE, OCR has partnered with specialist education technology company, Codio, to provide schools with a cloud based programming and course content platform where students can learn the theory and apply it in real life situations, in any computing language. Access to Codio’s platform will help young people to learn programming and help support teachers to enhance their own computer science knowledge and skills at the same time.

Students will then put their new-found programming skills to work on an independent coding project, which is worth 20% of the GCSE, by solving a real-world problem of their choice – whether developing an algorithm for recommending films, an app to help their teacher or even a game.                   

Rob Leeman, Subject Specialist for Computer Science and ICT at OCR, said: “This specification builds on OCR’s pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations like Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that the content is relevant.”

For more information on OCR GCSE and A Level reform, see www.ocr.org.uk/gcsealevelreform