GCSE Reform: A New Dawn of Computer Science

CREST releases report that examines the impact of the revised Computer Science GCSE and the scrapping of ICT on cyber security education.

CREST has released a report that looks at the revised Computer Science GCSE and the recent abolition of the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) GCSE and A Level.  The report welcomes the addition of cyber security content in the reformed Computer Science GCSE and the pathway it provides for those who want a career in IT.  However, it expresses concern over the end of ICT, not using edtech to deliver the subject, and the short supply of subject specialists teaching computer science.

The report was based on a cyber security industry and education workshop and interviews with a number of teachers, exam boards, industry groups and the representatives from the security industry.

Despite the increase in popularity of the new Computer Science GCSE, in 2016 ICT had three times more people taking it and it is unlikely that these numbers will migrate to Computer Science.  They are fundamentally different subjects with computer science looking at how a computer works and programming, while ICT focused on how to use technology for business needs.

“The new Computer Science curriculum is certainly more challenging,” said Ian Glover, President of CREST.  “We need computer literate people in the workplace, but not all young people need to understand how computers work or want a career in IT, and industry desperately needs these basic skills.  The new Computer Science GCSE does help to provide a pathway for a career in IT.  The ICT GCSE went some way to providing a computer literate future workforce.  Both are needed.”

The report finds that although ICT clearly needed some re-thinking and a move away from its focus on Microsoft, Computer Science simply isn’t for everyone and doesn’t replace it.

When revising the Computer Science GCSE, the Department for Education invited industry to contribute and advise on the curriculum, however the report says some of this feedback was not taken into account.  It also suggests that the industry board may have been too far removed from the practicalities of teaching and should have been a mix of industry and education.  Despite this, the reformed GCSE has been widely commended for the quality of content, the addition of cyber security and the addition of an element of non-examination based assessment.

“One of the issues raised by industry was that by delivering and examining a 21st century subject using 19th century techniques it limits the number and type of people who will have access to the teaching material and examinations in the UK, comments Glover.   “The inability for the education and examination system to use technology to deliver the subject should be urgently reviewed.”

With the increased complexity of the Computer Science GCSE and the increase in numbers taking it there are also concerns over the supply of teachers.  “Concern over the level of competence of non-specialist teachers to be able to teach the subject was expressed by everyone who took part in the research and this must be addressed.  Some schools are already choosing not to offer the subject as an option because they cannot recruit specialist teachers,” said Glover.

You can download a copy of the full report here 

Read more by Ian Glover, here


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