A level Computer Science course

A level Computer Science is an intensely creative and exciting subject that equips students with the skills and language to create innovative software programs with potentially far-reaching applications in the real world. Ashbourne students will develop a broad technical understanding of Computer Science and will be able to write their own programs using Visual Basic.Net and Python Programming Language – one of the most widely used coding languages today. Ashbourne uses the latest iMacs, connected wirelessly, and Smartboard technology.

Why study A level Computer Science?

Almost every aspect of modern life is affected by computers from running our personal and social lives using the internet, mobile devices and home appliances, to complex programs that help businesses and public services run smoothly. Vast networked systems of computers control global communication, trade, finance and transportation, and much more besides.

Studying Computer Science will open a window for you to discover how computers work and enable you to design and determine what they do. You will need an good grasp of Maths and be willing to learn the language of code. Once you crack it though you will be able to deconstruct it and build up your own vocabulary.

You will also become a skilled problem solver able to analyse and break down problems to find the most efficient and effective solutions. After a while you will apply these skills to your everyday life not just to technical problems.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the OCR specification for AS and A level Computer Science.

What is covered in this course?

AS and A level students cover computer systems (01) and algorithms and programming (02). A level students also complete their own programming project (03 or 04). Throughout both courses students will receive intensive practical training in Visual Basic.Net and Python, high-level programming languages.

Unit 1Unit 2Project
Computer systems (01)
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is essentially the nerve centre of a computer through which all information flows. You will examine how this works and how processors differ; for example desk top computers and mobile devices. You will find out how to identify different data types, work out how programs integrate through data exchange and develop your own software using sophisticated coding languages. Privacy, sharing, hacking and the environment are just some of the legal and ethical issues you will consider in the development of software and its applications in current and future technologies.

AS level written exam: 1hr 15mins, 70 marks, 50% of overall result.
A level written exam: 2hr 30mins, 140 marks, 40% of overall result.

Algorithms and programming (02)
In this unit you will develop your problem solving skills by learning to recognise, analyse and break down ‘problems’ in order to create solutions that the computer will be able to understand. Here you will discover how invaluable algorithms are in helping you describe and resolve complex problems. Algorithms are step-by-step instructions that lead to a final outcome and they exist not only in a scientific context but all around us. Following a cake recipe is just a basic real life example of an algorithm. Algorithms are also responsible for an enormous range of complex activities from codebreaking to financial market management, predicting behaviour, crime prevention and social networking.

AS level written exam: 1hr 15mins, 70 marks, 50% of overall result.
A level written exam: 2hr 30mins, 140 marks, 40% of overall result.

Programming project component (03 or 04)
Go ahead and wow the world with an amazingly innovative program that will change life as we know it using all the problem solving techniques, skills and programming language fluency you have perfected over the course. Now’s your chance to show how you can analyse problems, design and develop solutions and give yourself marks out of ten (evaluation).

Programming project (03 or 04)
A level non-exam assessment: 70 marks, 20% of overall result.

Who teaches this course?

Ruchi Agarwal

Head of Faculty for Finance and Computing

MA Computer Applications (MCA, India); B.Com Hons (India); PGCE (Institute of Education, London)
Ruchi joined Ashbourne in 2012 and is a key senior member of staff. She began teaching ICT and Computing in the UK in  2001 and completed her PGCE in ICT at the Institute of Education, University of London. Ruchi continually strives to improve teaching strategies for best outcomes and is passionate about promoting Computer Science. In addition to her love for Bollywood, Ruchi enjoys reading fiction and aspires to play badminton well.

George Kontos

MRes Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (University of Sussex); PGCE (University of Brighton); BEng Electronic Engineering (University of Surrey)
George has extensive experience as a computer scientist in the private sector developing and testing software as well as teaching software and games development, programming and lecturing in Computer Science. He is fluent in a wide range of programming languages, and is bilingual in English and Greek

Beyond A level Computer Science

You can go on to study degree courses in Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Games Programming. Some of Ashbourne’s students have also created their own websites and produced complex iPhone and iPad applications with support from the college.

Computer Science also offers students the opportunity to explore other pathways: music production; digital art; architecture – computer aided design and modelling; smart fabric design for fashion, healthcare and other industries; communication networks; sports analysis; crime investigation; weather and financial forecasting; 3D printing; virtual reality; audio-visual special effects; and robotics, to name but a few.

Suggested reading and resources

Print and onlinePodcasts and talksOrganisationsBooks
WIRED magazine cover all the latest technology and science news, views and issues of the day.

Click Live for the latest gadgets, websites, games and computer industry news from the BBC.

Computer Weekly is the digital magazine and website for IT professionals in the UK.

Science of online dating
How do dating websites calculate the likely success of a relationship. Christian Rudder from a popular dating site explains how his algorithm was a such a hit, on TED.

How do hard drives work?
How did generations of engineers, material scientists and quantum physicists finally come up with such a powerful tool capable of storing so much information in such a small space? Kanawat Senanan explains in this TED talk.

Discover the physical side of the Internet
Underwater cables, secret switches and other physical parts that make up the internet – journalist Andrew Blum explores how they all fit together.

 

Quantum computers for beginners
Shohini Ghose describes how quantum computers are on a completely different level compared to traditional computers and will pave the way for a technological revolution with radical consequences for medicine, encryption and far more.

Big data
What is big data and is it taking over the world? Brian Cox, Robin Ince and guests discuss everything about Big Data in this episode of the BBC’s The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Royal Institution
A selection of talks from the world-famous Royal Institution on everything science.

Smashing security keeps you updated with news and views from the world of cybersecurity, hacking and internet threats.

OCR A level specification videos

British Computing Society (BCS)
The BCS is the voice of the computing industry promoting education in the field though news, videos, blogs, expert opinion, lectures and debate.

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code Charles Petzold weaves an illuminating narrative for anyone who’s ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines.

Computational Fairy Tales by Jeremy Kubica
Introducing the principles of computational thinking through fairy tales, Kubica explores computer science concepts, the motivation behind them and how they can be applied outside of the computer.

Pattern on the stone by Daniel Hill
Daniel Hill unravels the seemingly complex operations of computers and shows how these can be broken down into a series of simple but repeated procedures.

Saving Bletchley Park: How #socialmedia saved the home of the WWII codebreakers  by Dr Sue Black
This book tells the story of how the iconic Bletchley Park was kept alive using the power of social media and the computing technology that was born there. Dr Sue Black, OBE, computer scientist and entrepreneur describes her hugely successful campaign, backed by supporters from all walks of life, to keep this historic treasure open to all.

Textbooks

Title – OCR AS and A Level Computer Science
Authors – Heathcote and Heathcote
Weblink – OCR AS and A Level Computer Science

Why Choose Ashbourne College?
StudentsParentsTeachers
My time at Ashbourne was a fun and exciting experience. It had a very relaxed atmosphere which helped me settle in very well. The College’s approach to teaching in the classrooms was very different to traditional 6th form Colleges and a lot more informal which I believe was a great aid in developing my skills in independent study. During my time as a student at Ashbourne, I was passionate about physics and maths as well as music. My teachers and other staff members were very supportive of this and were an incredible assistance in helping me find an ideal course at university which catered to my interest. Thanks to Ashbourne I went on to do a joint degree in Physics and Music at Cardiff University. I graduated in 2018 and have remained at Cardiff to do a masters in Astrophysics.
AmyBSc in Physics and Music and MA in Astrophysics at Cardiff University
Academic excellence in a relaxed atmosphere! Small classes means that the teachers are able to give the students the dedicated attention that they need not only to succeed but also to understand the material taught.This is a nurturing institution that equips students with all the tools they need in future. I would certainly recommend this school to anyone – but saying this I do not want Ashbourne to lose the close knit family relationship that my daughter enjoys with faculty staff, teachers and students. So I want this to remain as a closely guarded secret!!
Ashbourne is a wonderful place to teach and an even better place to study. The staff treat the students as adults and the mutual respect results in a relaxed university approach to study. Teaching classes that only have a max of 10 allows for individual tuition and greater differentiation within the groups helping the students grow in confidence and develop a love for their subjects. I really like the fact that students are encouraged to refer to their tutors by their first name and feel that this breaks down tutor/student boundaries and means that the students are confident in asking for help. Brilliant students, brilliant tutors, great place to work
Rachel TeasdaleFormer Head of GCSE and Biology Teacher
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