Today, the Department for Education published guidance for schools on GCE AS/A Level subject content, setting out the knowledge, understanding and skills common to all AS and A level specifications for teaching from 2015. This was in response to the consultation on A Level reform that concluded in December 2013, with a series of changes in the coming years, notably linear A Levels and standalone AS qualifications in certain subjects, including computer science.
Having been involved in this process over the past year, it is great to see these changes to the A Level computer science specification; in particular, the following aspirational aims and objectives:
AS and A Level specifications in computer science must encourage students to develop:
- an understanding of, and the ability to apply, the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, decomposition, logic, algorithms and data representation;
- the ability to analyse problems in computational terms through practical experience of solving such problems, including writing programs to do so;
- the capacity for thinking creatively, innovatively, analytically, logically and critically;
- the capacity to see relationships between different aspects of computer science;
- mathematical skills;
- the ability to articulate the individual (moral), social (ethical), legal and cultural opportunities and risks of digital technology.
Note, it clearly expresses the importance of mathematics (“Computer science uses mathematics to express its computational laws and processes”): any accredited specification in computer science must contain a minimum of 10% mathematics. It will be interesting to see the offerings from the different awarding bodies as they appear in the autumn; check out the full computer science subject content specification.
Much of this new specification builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills
established at Key Stage 4 in the exciting new computing programme of study starting in England from September 2014 (purpose of study: “A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.”). It remains to be seen how this will stimulate reform in Wales after an underwhelming response from the Welsh Government to last September’s review of the ICT curriculum (blog post to follow shortly).