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 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 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.

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.


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.

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?

Ruchi Agarwal

Head of Faculty for Finance and Computing

MA Computer Applications (MCA, India); B.Com Hons (India); PGCE (Institute of Education, London)

Ruchi is Head of Faculty and a senior member of staff who has been working at Ashbourne for many years. She began teaching ICT and Computing in the UK in 2001. Ruchi continually strives to improve teaching strategies for best outcomes and is passionate about promoting Computer Science.

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


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.

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