GCSE Computer Science

Introduction

The devices we use to consume a wide range of media, whether it’s an Android phone or an iPad, are at the heart of almost everything we do. From Facebook to the latest apps, creativity is central. Stop being a simple consumer of software and start designing your own. If you can spot a gap in the market, if you sometimes think, “I wish I could find an app to…” then maybe you could be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

A GCSE in Computer Science at Ashbourne will give you a fantastic set of skills to do just that. But even more than this, it will give you the skills you need for any career. You want to become a designer, architect, engineer, publisher, medical researcher, sports coach, music or film producer (the list is endless)? Then Computing is one of the best points to start from. Don’t know what you want to do with your life just yet? Perfect! Most of the jobs that will be available when you leave university haven’t even been thought of yet!

Computing is the very best start you will get here too.

Why study Computer Science?

Take a look at the world around you. How close to a computer are you? When was the last time you used one? When was the last time you were creative with one? Life without computers is almost unimaginable. There’s nothing that doesn’t involve computing in some way.

It is an exciting time to be a computer scientist!

We are living in the midst of a revolution powered by computers. This revolution has invaded all aspects of society. It is a communication revolution, a transportation revolution, a medical revolution, an entertainment revolution.
Learning to be a computer scientist at Ashbourne would equip you with necessary skills to stand proud to be someone who is not merely a user of technology but understands it as well.

Which syllabus do we follow?

We follow OCR specification for GCSE Computer Science.

Unit 1Unit 2Unit 3

Unit 1 (A451) – Computer systems and programming

This unit covers the body of knowledge about computer systems on which the examination will be based. Students look at how hardware devices could be used in any scenario; discover the various types of software and understand how computer works with binary language. Students will learn to produce logic diagrams, write algorithms or recipes to solve a problem. Demystify the concepts of networking and understand the importance of efficient database. Students will also debate the legal, ethical and environmental issues surrounding the use of computers via interesting real life case studies.

Unit2 (A452) – Practical Investigation

This is the first controlled assessment that is completed in the first year of GCSE.
In this unit students will carry out a practical investigation into a computing issue and engage with computing in the real world. Students will study one from a range of topics which will be supplied by OCR. Students will be expected to carry out practical investigations of the topic and any supplementary research necessary to complete these investigations. They will produce a report in which the topic is analysed, justified and evaluated showing evidence of the practical work undertaken. The research component will give the opportunity to work with other students in class in a group activity. Students will produce a report which will then be assessed by the teacher. Some of the topics we have researched at Ashbourne are: use of MIT App inventor to create a mobile phone App, Use of Python as a text based programming language, Use of Encryption to secure messages sent and received and use of low level programming techniques in LMC simulator. We intend to extend our learning further by exploring the use of Raspberry Pi (the world’s smallest computer) and Unix as a platform.

Unit3 (A453) – Programming Project

This is the second controlled assessment that is completed in GCSE. In this unit, students start exploring some serious programming language techniques of variables, assignment, and selection (IF), iteration (LOOPS), arrays, file handling, input and output. Students create suitable algorithms which will provide a solution to the stated problem then develop their solutions in a suitable programming language (usually Visual Basic.Net or Python). They then test the programs developed and ensure that it works as intended. Students have to write a comprehensive report documenting all stages of system life cycle of a project explaining how they analysed, designed, implemented, tested and evaluated their solution. Students enjoy this unit as they get to show off all they have learned so far and they have the freedom to work on their won and explore in as much depth as they would like to. Some of the projects created at Ashbourne include simulation of a vending machine, program to convert binary to decimal and decimal binary numbers, programs to store and search an address book, program to develop a simple calculator and a program for a chef to store all their recipes.

How is each unit examined?

Unit 1
Students sit a one hour, 30 minute examination.
Unit 2
Controlled assessment carried out in class. An investigative task Approx. 20 hour, worth 45 marks and 30% of the GCSE qualification. Candidates carry out a practical investigation of a topic chosen from a set of options supplied by OCR.
Unit 3
Controlled assessment carried out in class. An investigative task Approx. 20 hour, worth 45 marks and 30% of the GCSE qualification. Candidates create solutions to computing tasks from a set of options supplied by OCR.

When do the exams take place?

Students sit unit 1 exam in the summer term of their final GCSE year. Unis 2 and 3 are submitted for internal assessment and submitted to the examining board in May of their final GCSE year. There are no single unit resit opportunities as all units will have to be resit for any particular year.

Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?

Mrs. Ruchi Agarwal
PGCE (Institute of Education, London), Masters in Computer Applications (MCA, India), B.Com Hons (India)

Beyond GCSE for Computer Science students

Students can take A Level Computer Science and be benefitted by prior knowledge of the subject which will give them an edge over many others who have not studied computer science before. Computer science is gaining popularity and many universities are actively encouraging computer science. For example, the University of Bath are offering lower entrance grades for their computer science degree course if you have studied computer science at GCSE or A Level.