We are following the OCR specification at the moment as it follows directly from the GCSE course we have been teaching.
You will study a broad range of topics which broadly split into Computing Principles and Computer Systems, and Algorithms, Programming and Problem Solving. You will have to complete a project as well as two examinations.
Computing Principles and Computer Systems includes operating systems, introduction to programming, data types, data representation, and data structures, algorithms, exchanging data and web technologies, using Boolean algebra, legal, moral and ethical issues, software and its development, types of programming languages,
Algorithms and Problem Solving requires you to demonstrate how computational thinking, programming techniques, pattern recognition, abstraction and decomposition, software development methodologies, and algorithm design and efficiency can be used to solve problems.
Teaching is based on lectures, practical programming tasks, discussions and exercises to consolidate your knowledge. Students will be using a mix of online and paper based resources and it is essential that access to a computer is available at home. The computer does not need to have a high specification.
The full A level qualification has 3 units of work which consist of 2 exams and a project. The examination structure is like this:
In the second exam, you will be writing code, by hand, on the exam paper. For this you will be required to produce a program in either Python, VB.Net or Java as well as answering some short answer questions and possibly debugging a program provided by the exam board. The school currently teaches Python, but if you are self-taught in VB or Java you will, obviously, be able to use that language in the exam if you are more proficient in it.
(There are exam boards which offer on-screen coding exams. These sound very much better than the paper based versions but are often very stressful for students and require extra time preparing to an exam board task. This can be distracting in a period of generalised exam preparation.)
Standard entry requirements.
You should be aware that you are unlikely to succeed at this course if you have less than a 4 in English and Maths, and those candidates who have completed the GCSE in Computing/Computer Science and attained at least a grade 5 will be at a significant advantage. If you have anything less than a grade 4 in Computing/Computer Science at GCSE we recommend that you find another A level course.
For students who have not had the opportunity to study GCSE Computing/Computer Science it is important that they bring a portfolio of work showing their outside interest and developing skills in the arena of Computer Science so that we can benchmark both ability and suitability.
OCR is used because it builds on the GCSE foundations we have established, and has a content based on the needs of both academia and apprenticeship requirements. Many students who are keen on Computer Science are finding that an apprenticeship route is the most financially advantageous.
We have no fixed cycle of trips. There are some trips which are possible in the future but we have not run any yet. Suggestions are always welcome.
We have developed links with industry and continue to do so. We have had ex-students come to speak to our current students from University and will be continuing our links with those who are completing apprenticeships. We look at the day and residential courses which Gloucester University offers. In the past these have been very successful, especially those related to Cyber Security day. Our students have enjoyed the experience and come back enthused having benefitted from the independence that time at university offers.
You are expected to have a computer, but it does not have to be an expensive one. You are expected to be able to connect to the internet with broadband. After that, there are no costs at this stage. We aim to keep costs to a minimum, but we recommend suitable text books and revision guides which you can choose to purchase, but do not have to. All the software we require you to have is either free or provided via the school portal.
Students who have enjoyed the challenge of GCSE Computing have demanded this course. We also know that there are often students who are studying the Physics/Maths combinations who search for another A level. By offering this course at A level we hope to provide for the needs of these students. Students who like problem solving and those students who are aiming for some of those courses/careers mentioned below will find this course useful.
If you want to be working in an area that you think has no link to computers e.g. medicine, you will find the ability to program, or extend the facilities of your computer(s) really helpful, but the diverse range of fields which computer science addresses is enormous and expanding.
The text book “OCR AS and A level Computer Science” (released in 2016, ISBN 978-1-910523-05-6) and “OCR A Level Computer Science” (released in April 2015, ISBN 978-1471839764) are both suitable for the course. You may wish to purchase either of them, but you do not need to. We aim to be fully resourced within the school without the need for text books so we have paid for subscriptions to www.Teach-ICT.com and CraigNDave.org.
The exam board has produced some sample curriculum guides and co-teaching guides. We continue to develop one that is based on these documents but is a closer fit for our timetable and the needs of our students. At the beginning of each academic year the full lesson outline for each year is made available to students.
Very few A Level past papers exist, so there isn’t much available at the moment.Previous specification exams are available on the exam board website with the mark schemes and the examiners’ reports, all of which are essential background reading for the student who wants to succeed.
Useful Links (internal and external)
Looking ahead, do you want to study Computer Science at university? If so, check this:
You may want to study Computer Science at University (UWE Birmingham Cambridge), or you may want to work and know that the ability to understand a little more about Computers and Programming would be useful. If you are looking for the apprenticeship route read this first and look at companies such as IBM and capgemini as well as some more local ones.
Computer Science changes all the time; and the ability to think creatively in the abstract, solve problems, use algorithms and mathematical reasoning and appreciate the value of logic is a useful stepping stone for careers across many scientific and engineering disciplines.
This course is a useful building block for courses and businesses where skills of logic and problem solving are required and an understanding of computer programming is an advantage. Specific courses could include degrees in Engineering, Mathematics, Physics or any other numerate logical degree and, of course, the ever changing and ever expanding world of Computing in its many forms.