Computer Science & IT
The Computer Science and Information Technology department here at Bury Church of England High School – or the CS&IT department, as we like to be called – are passionate and dedicated specialists within this exciting area of the curriculum, with a deep subject knowledge developed through postgraduate-level education and industrial experience.
Following the disapplication of the National Curriculum for ICT in 2012, the ICT Department (as was) at Bury Church of England High School has been at the forefront of developing the new Computing curriculum, having been invited to feedback to the DfE on the draft curriculum and involved with leading its implementation within the Local Authority. We place a strong emphasis on coding and computer science disciplines, whilst still teaching the skills necessary for every-day IT use.
- To inspire learners in the wonders of technology through an engaging curriculum in Computer Science and Information Technology.
- To embrace changes in the curriculum and push forward with new developments in Computer Science courses, whilst also providing a balanced curriculum of both Computer Science and Information Technology aspects.
- To enable all learners to achieve the best they can, as evidenced through excellent results at GCSE level.
Key Stage 3:
In Year 7 and 8 pupils have 2 lessons each fortnight in which they study a course combining elements of Computer Science and Information Technology.
In Year 7 will cover a range of topics, building skills by largely working on combined projects that develop Computer Science and Information Technology skills alongside each other. Here is a flavour of some of the projects covered:
Picture Quiz: At the start of Year 7, students are introduced to spreadsheets, some basic principles of programming, and effective internet searching, by creating an interactive picture quiz in Excel. Whilst developing IT skills, such as their understanding of cell referencing and using advanced search tools, we also teach them how to use the IF function and conditional formatting, and hence introduce them to the concept of Selection – a key building block of any computer program.
Game Design in Scratch: Later, students will learn programming in more depth through the use of MIT’s Scratch – a programming language designed for children, which uses building blocks to manage coding without having to worry too much about syntax errors. Whilst this unit focuses more heavily on the Computer Science aspects of the course, a good game also has good graphics, and we spend some of the time on this unit looking at game graphics and how to create sprites and stages that help to bring our games to life.
Top Trumps Database: Perhaps the best unit that shows a synergy of CS and IT elements, the Top Trumps Database unit teaches the students key IT skills in Desk Top Publishing, whilst also teaching the principles of databases, including queries. The unit is finished by using Mail Merge to combine the student’s database with their design work and allows them to go home with their own set of Top Trumps cards to play with over the summer holidays.
In year 8 we start to separate out the units to develop student’s awareness of the separation of the disciplines when it comes time for them to make their course selections for Key Stage 4. Here’s a taste of what Year 8 has to offer:
Video Editing: In this IT unit, students are introduced to video editing skills (using Serif Movie Plus) and given a chance to explore our international links as they are asked to make a video comparing school life at Bury Church with one of our partner schools.
Computational Thinking: This CS unit explores the logical thinking required to become a computer programmer through exploring problem solving and algorithms, and prepares them for the following unit where the start to learn “proper” computer programming.
Python Programming: In this unit students are introduced to the professional programming language, Python, and learn how to write simple programs, culminating in writing a “Play Your Cards Right” game.
Product Launch: Students further develop their skills in Desk Top Publishing and Digital Design, learning how to use specialist, professional IT software such as Adobe Photoshop, to create a range of digital publications to help advertise a brand new product they have conceptualised.
The guiding principle behind our assessments at Key Stage 3 is that the students should be given the opportunity to show that they can use the CS&IT skills they have learnt independently. As such, each unit ends with a structured practical test where the students have to use the skills they have developed over the previous lessons to solve a problem.
In the most part these tests are “open book” allowing the students to reference their previous work, notes they have made in lesson, and additional support they can find on the internet to solve the problems they have been given. We find that the real challenge of these tests is in understanding where and how to apply the skills that they have learnt, rather than the remembering how to perform a particular given task, and these tests allow us to see the extent to which the students have developed the ability to use these skills for themselves.
Homework in CS&IT is handled in a similar manner to the curriculum itself. Students are asked during one term to complete an extended homework project task. Such tasks are expected to take the students ten weeks to complete, and require the student to spend at least half an hour a week working on developing the outcomes of their project. They allow the students further opportunity to show off their independent use of IT.
Key Stage 4:
In Years 9 – 11 pupils can opt for further study by taking a GCSE in Computer Science and/or Information Technology. Pupils studying these courses will get 4 lessons a fortnight in Years 9 and 10, and 5 lessons a fortnight in Year 11.
CORE KS4 COMPUTING PROVISION
In addition to option courses, all Key Stage 4 pupils are given a core curriculum in Computing through the Drop Down Day program. Students will have one day on each of the following topics:
- Computer Science: On the computer science day students will develop their programming, computational thinking and problem solving skills through a range of activities, and involving specialists from other departments – for example, they will learn about binary numbers from a maths teacher, solve a translation problem with a French teacher and learn about some of the key people and developments in the history of computing from a History teacher.
- Information Technology: On the Information Technology day students will opt to complete an IT project of their choice where they will get the chance to explore a range of new software tools and learn skills that will support them in their further education or employment.
Esafety Day: The Esafety day is delivered in conjunction with the PSHCE department and covers a range of computer-related PSHCE topics, including cyberbullying, protecting your devices from viruses and malware, online harassment and social media for careers.
At Key Stage 4 students can opt for one of two courses offered by the CS&IT department as part of their Course Selection. The courses offered are as follows:
GCSE Computing/Computer Science: Pupils who opt for further study in Computer Science have historically be entered for OCR’s GCSE in Computing, but with the new (9-1 grade) GCSES, we are offering AQA’s GCSE Computer Science (Mr Redmond was involved with the development of this course, so we’ve had a head start on preparing our students for it!). The pupils will explore a range of topics, including computer hardware and software, data representation and binary arithmetic, programming (mainly using Python) and planning algorithms using pseudocode, and computer networks and the internet.
The old GCSE (for students who will take their exams up to June 2017) is assessed through two controlled assessment projects, worth 30% each, and one written exam worth 40%. One controlled assessment is a three-part programming project where the students are asked to write computer programs to solve three related, but increasingly complicated, problems. The other is a practical investigation into part of the theory content of the course. In previous years we have used Raspberry Pi computers to allow the students to investigate the Linux operating system.
The New GCSE (for students who will take their exams from June 2018 and beyond) is assessed through one Non-Examined Assessment (NEA), worth 20% of the final grade, with two written exams, each worth 40%. Much of the assessment is structured in a similar way to the old course: the NEA is a project similar to the programming project on the old course, and one of the exam papers is similar to the previous course’s theory exam. However, the new element is the second paper, which is a “computational thinking” paper, made up of logic and algorithm-based questions that test a student’s understanding of programming principles and their problem-solving skills.
GCSE ICT/Vocational IT: Pupils who opt for further study in Information Technology have been entered for Edexcel’s GCSE in ICT. However, the government has recently taken the decision not to renew ICT as a GCSE course in the current round of changes. However, there are a number of vocational courses available that carry equivalence to a GCSE and we expect to be able to deliver one of these courses to students who opt for further study in IT.
On whichever course they are entered for, the pupils will learn a number of practical skills, including spreadsheets, querying a database, internet research, desk-top publishing, user interface design and audio and video editing. Further, students still studying the ICT GCSE will also be asked to look critically at their own work and that of others in their class and develop an ability to review and improve their work. On the GCSE, these skills are assessed through a single extended controlled assessment project that will test their skills in all of these areas, whereas the vocational courses tend to be made up of smaller units that specialise in a given set of skills, such as video editing. The theory content of these courses explore the different digital devices that we use in our day-to-day lives and gives them a critical understanding of the different features, properties and uses of these devices, alongside an in-depth understanding of the safety concerns and full range of social impacts of the technology we use.
Extra Curricular Activities
The CS&IT Department run regular lunchtime homework clubs, where pupils can make use of the computer facilities to enhance their homework or put in some extra time on their coursework.
There are also a number of after school and lunchtime programming clubs for different age groups where pupils who enjoy programming can come and create computer games, websites or other fun programming-based projects.
This year we had students develop games for entry to BAFTA’s Young Games Designer’s Award, and have a club for year 7 students to explore how to get the most out of their new BBC microbits.
Members of the department are also heavily involved with other extracurricular activities, as Mr Redmond runs the Tabletop Gaming Club, and Mr Daniel-Sam runs school council and Careers Club.
In the CS&T Department we are constantly looking to keep abreast of changes in this rapidly moving subject area and have played our role in developing the new curriculum and the GCSE courses, having been involved in feedback and focus groups to help determine the content of these courses. New units of work are introduced each year to explore new areas of interest or new technological advances. We are always on the lookout for new equipment, qualifications or courses, topics or experiences that will enhance our pupils’ learning experience, for example we have recently received delivery of a set of BBC microbits for every Year 7 student – we have already started up an after-school club for these, and will be looking for ways in which we can use these in our curriculum next year.