A Level Computer Science Course

A level Computer Science at Ashbourne 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.

Why study A level Computer Science?

Almost every aspect of modern life is affected by computing 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 A level Computer Science will open a window for you to discover how computers work and enable you to design and determine what they do. Given that Artificial Intelligence is fast shaping the world we live in it is vital to open this field to a wide and diverse community who can begin to represent those around them. You will need a 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.

A level Computer Science at Ashbourne

Ashbourne A level Computer Science 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.

Ashbourne A level students achieve outstanding A level results, receive plenty of individual attention and go on to top UK universities.

Ashbourne students seize the challenge

Ashbourne students are encouraged to take part in a variety of prestigious competitions, challenges and courses that enable them to expand their understanding in computer science.

Oxford University Computing Challenge
Former student Alex Vlasto won third place in the Bebras Computing Challenge final hosted at Oxford University. He was among the 100 top-achieving finalists selected from more than 50,000 students nationwide. Ashbourne students have also previously won the top prize. The Challenge introduces students to computational and logical thinking. 

Cipher Challenge
Ashbourne crypto-busting students have also achieved success at the National Cipher Challenge organised by the school of mathematics at Southampton University. Competitors attempt to break increasingly difficult cryptograms to win the top prize.

MIT and Harvard courses
Year 12 students can enter the MIT or Harvard online computer science course CS50, hosted through, where they will develop their understanding of computer science and delve into new areas of artificial intelligence, python and game development. Previous student have received excellent feedback on these courses and some have gone on to teach the skills they have learned in year 13 as part of Ashbourne’s extracurricular club programme.

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; immersive virtual and augmented reality; audio-visual special effects; and robotics, to name but a few.

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.

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?

Irwin Chin

BEng Electrical Engineering (Imperial College, London); QTC in ICT (Hertfordshire University)

Irwin has been teaching Mathematics and Computer Science for more than 30 years, as well as lecturing in Electrical Engineering. Along with this extensive experience he brings a wealth of expertise in programming robotics and applying high-level programming languages. In his spare time, Irwin loves playing the piano, singing and writing children’s books. He is also a football coach and ref.

Anastasia Eleftheriou

PhD Complex Systems Simulation (University of Southampton); BEng (Hons) Computing (Imperial College London)

Anastasia has experience teaching up to degree level and brings plenty of practical knowledge to the classroom. She is a researcher, academic and entrepreneur in computer science, new tech and its application. She is director and co-founder of a tech research and innovation organisation in education, she has published on a range of topics and serves on the scientific committee of the Educational and Development Conference. She is also a member of the European Female Founders Forum, chaired by the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel.


OCR AS and A Level Computer Science
Heathcote and Heathcote

Reading and resources

Print and online

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. TED

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. TED

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.

A level videos
OCR A level specification


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. BCS


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.

A Level Menu ☰
A Level Menu ☰