Computer Science at GCSE – assessment for success

Ofqual has been consulting on its conditions and guidance for GCSE Computer Science, and UKForCE has responded with its views. We welcomed the proposal that 20% of the qualification can be assessed in non-exam form, through practical work. However, we are not sure that the proposed 20 hour project is the best way to establish competence in computer science, and may not give young people the best chance to demonstrate their capabilities.

Although raising the participation age has resulted in many young people remaining in full-time education poat-16, some are still preferring to take a work-based route to a rewarding career. Entering a job with training or an apprenticeship at 16 is a welcome change for those young people who wish to earn a salary, and apply their learning in a practical environment. Therefore, we need GCSEs to do more than simply deliver and assess knowledge in a very academic manner, we need them to give young people a taste of the requirements of the workplace. GCSEs which do not allow students to demonstrate their ability to manage a project over time, to work to schedule, and to perform in a practical environment are not going to do this.

We suggest, instead of a project, a portfolio of different tasks undertaken by students such as in GCSE Art and Design. While this approach may not lend itself as readily to synoptic assessment, it would enable the demonstration of a wider range of programming languages and different applications of students’ computational thinking. Isn’t this what students and employers both want from a Computer Science GCSE?


Claire Donovan

Claire Donovan provides the secretariat to UKForCE