AQA teams with Microsoft to create new computer science GCSE

By Sooraj Shah
16 Mar 2012 View Comments
Student using a laptop in a lecture

Examining body AQA has teamed with Microsoft to create a new computer science GCSE to address demands from the IT industry to develop more candidates with the necessary IT skills.

The qualification has taken 18 months to develop and will be taught from September.

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According to AQA's head of product management and accreditation, Mary-Jane Newman, the new GCSE curriculum will have a different focus to previous GCSE ICT courses.

"Previous GCSE ICT courses have been largely concerned with teaching the understanding, skills and knowledge required by end users and concentrated on office applications, graphics and simple webpage creation.

"The new computer science GCSE is more concerned with developing a technical understanding of the skills and knowledge required to develop computer applications," she said.

Newman said that the new topics in the curriculum are focused on developing computer applications, such as mobile and web apps and gaming.

In addition, the course covers algorithms and software development cycles as well as looking at the way hardware works.

"Students will learn how to design, create and develop their own mobile apps to solve real-world problems and run these on mobile devices such as Apple iPhones and Android devices.

"Learning about web-based apps will not be about creating attractive web pages, which it would be in GCSE ICT, but will involve writing the code behind web pages that gives the added functionality.

"For example, this could be code behind a log-in page that allows the access level to be checked or code to allow customers to be added to a database through a website.

"Students won't be expected to write games similar to those that are commercially available but they will be taught the concepts of how to write apps that would be used in this sector. They will develop these skills through the creation of simple games," she said.

Newman said that the need for this kind of course was demonstrated by last year's NextGen report and the Royal Society's Shut down or restart? report, which was published in January.

Both reports criticised the way that IT education is taught and called for reform of ICT education and more support for teachers.

"We appreciate that teaching this content will be new to some teachers and this is an important focus for us to address. We are working with Microsoft to provide support and continuing professional development for teachers," Newman said.

The decision by the government to scrap the current ICT curriculum and from September focus on a curriculum based on computer science and programming will open the door for further development, according to Newman.

"I believe that there will be a great deal of innovation in this area of the curriculum in the near future. Our GCSE in Computer Science was close to completion when education secretary Michael Gove spoke at BETT in January and gave his full support for computer science in the curriculum and this opens the door for more opportunities in this area," she said.

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