ICT GCSE & A level will not be redeveloped, ministers decide. Expert reaction

The government has announced the latest changes to GCSE and A level exams. The consultations  are part of the continuing ‘drive to raise standards and ensure all young people reach their potential.’

In September 2014, a new computing curriculum was introduced. This was drafted by teachers and experts from the British Computer Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, including Google, Microsoft Research and universities.

In May 2015, Ofqual completed their review of subjects for which proposals had been submitted and would be available for teaching from 2017 onwards. They decided that both the GCSE and A level Information and Communications Technology exams should go forward to the next stage of content development. However, these exams will now no longer be redeveloped. 

According to a statement issued by the Department for Education,  “These rigorous new Computer Science qualifications, backed by industry experts, will give pupils the skills they need to progress to further study and a range of top jobs.”

“We want to encourage more pupils to study this new high-quality course. The inclusion of Computer Science in the EBacc reflects its rigorous academic standards and entries have more than doubled in the last year alone, demonstrating the increasing popularity of the subject. It is no longer necessary to redevelop further qualifications in the same space and pupils will no longer be able to start IT GCSE or IT A level from September 2017.”

Several experts who have researched the teaching of ICT have given their reaction:

Don Passey, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning, Co-Director, Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University:

“It seems that ICT is being phased out in favour of Computer Science. The argument for the introduction of Computer Science is strong, but the impact this will have on future outcomes and generations of employment is clearly not yet known.

While there is strong argument for the introduction of Computer Science, the argument for the continuation of ICT is just as strong. (I considered both these arguments within a keynote paper I gave in Vilnius, Lithuania in July (see below).

A key factor likely to influence success will be the capability of teachers to deliver this new curriculum subject, in ways that will support engagement, continued interest, and links to future employment.

I suggest that these are factors that need to be studied, and reflected on by the education community to support the most effective outcomes for learners.”

Expert reaction from Miles Berry, principal lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton and part of the drafting panel for computing in the National Curriculum:

“A reformed IT GCSE and A Level would have been an excellent compliment to the academically ambitious computer science qualifications, ensuring that those who had an interest in the applications of digital technology to real world problems had a qualification pathway with parity of esteem to that in programming and the theoretical foundations of computer science.

The national curriculum for computing requires that at KS4 students ‘must have the opportunity to study aspects of information technology and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career’, and it’s no longer not clear how schools should best provide this opportunity to those who aren’t interested in studying computer science.”







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