Computing GCSE to focus on programming

A new GCSE in computer science will focus on programming, exam board AQA has said.

The new qualification comes in the wake of comments by Google chairman Eric Schmidt in a MacTaggart lecture last August. Mr Schmidt said that Britain was "throwing away its computer heritage," a reference to early British pioneers in the field such as Alan Turing.
"Eric Schmidt's comments were very much in line with our thinking," said Stuart Gilbertson, Subject Manager for AQA's new GCSE. "We'd been developing the new GCSE since the end of 2010."
Mr Gilbertson said that AQA had begun developing the new GCSE after receiving feedback from teachers, the British Computer Society and grassroots organisation Computing at School on the existing GCSE in ICT. The exam board also sought advice from Microsoft, which currently employs over 2,500 people in the UK.
The computer science GCSE will focus on large programming projects such as games and web apps, rather than the focus on using existing software in the present ICT qualification. "[The old GCSE in ICT] wasn't keeping pace with what's out there in society and wasn't setting up students with suitable skills," Mr Gilbertson said. "We wanted to make it more engaging and relevant to students."
A sample coursework assignment provided by AQA gave pupils 25 hours to produce a mobile phone application allowing bus passengers to pay for their tickets.
Pupils and their teachers are free to approach the problems in any way and to use the programming language of their choice, as long as the end result meets the criteria.
"The coursework is relatively open-ended compared to most other subjects," said AQA Qualifications Manager Charlotte Christie. "We wanted to make sure that the most able students in a group could really fly."
The first students will begin studying towards the qualification in September.


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