Computing

Mission Statement

“To give all students the opportunity to develop computational thinking, information technology and digital media skills, in order to facilitate further and higher levels of study in these areas leading to qualifications which equip them for a professional career.” 

How we use computers and computer programs has defined the world we live in today. Computer scientists connect the abstract with the concrete, creating the products we use every day. A fundamental understanding of computing enables students to be not just educated users of technology, but the innovators capable of designing new computers and programs to improve the quality of life for everyone. Needless to say computer scientists are always in high demand. Computer science is a practical subject where students can apply the academic principles learned in the classroom to real-world systems. It’s an intensely creative subject that combines invention and excitement, and can look at the natural world through a digital prism.

The Four Pillars

Skill

Each child will develop:

  • An understanding and ability to apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including: abstraction, decomposition, logic, algorithms and data representation
  • The ability to analyse problems in computational terms through practical experience of solving such problems, including writing programs to do so, and error correction
  • The capacity to think creatively, innovatively, analytically, logically and critically
  • The capacity to see relationships between different aspects of computer science, in particular the relationship between hardware and software components, and how they communicate with each other, and with other systems
  • Mathematical skills
  • Digital literacy
  • An understanding of the fundamentals of e-Safety

Character

Generally, students much prefer to collaborate than to work alone, and computing can give them the disciplines and methods they need to work successfully on large uncertain projects, and in collaborative teams.

Computational thinking also helps to build resilience through problem solving and encourages students to take risks; computers are forgiving in the sense that it is easy to rectify a mistake simply by clicking undo. Although students need to be aware that virtual mistakes – such as those found in bad programming – bugs – can have just as much impact as physical ones, Computer Science by its nature can teach students how to “fail well”.

It is essential that students learn how to become responsible “digital practitioners”. This involves, for example, good e-safety and file management practice, commonly termed as “acceptable use”; and being conversant in the moral, ethical, legal and social issues behind technology.

Experiences

Computing teaching nurtures students’ interests, passions, and sense of engagement with the world around them. Programming is both the expression and implementation and of computational thinking, and a role in which millions of people across the planet are employed; and Computer Science students simulate this job role every week in their lessons. In order to embed some of the “digital practitioner” elements identified in the previous section, and gain an understanding of the significant current emphasis in the technology sector, these simulated experiences will involve some focus on cybersecurity.

Criticality

Computing students learn logical reasoning, algorithmic thinking, design and structured problem solving—all concepts and skills that are valuable well beyond the computing classroom. Students gain awareness of the resources required to implement and deploy a solution and how to deal with real-world and business constraints. These skills are applicable in many contexts, from science and engineering to the humanities and business, and have already led to deeper understanding in many areas.

Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It allows you to tackle complex problems in efficient ways that operate at huge scale. It involves designing, using and evaluating computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems. It which enable students to focus on the most pertinent aspects of a problem, and move from specific solutions to general ones.

Computational thinking involves a clear focus on tangible problems; a large collection of proven techniques such as abstraction, decomposition, iteration, and recursion; an understanding of the capabilities of humans and machines alike; and a keen awareness of the cost of it all.

Students also develop a “healthy scepticism” when searching for and evaluating digital information prior to its use: in particular, critically evaluating the reliability, accuracy and quality of that information.

Students also need to develop efficiency when working with technology, which necessarily involves working with computers in an organised manner.

 

Subject fundamentals

This section outlines the fundamental knowledge, understanding and skills, as outlined in the national curriculum, which underpin ours.

Key Stage 3

Throughout key stage 3 students will develop their computational thinking, information technology and digital media skills so that they:

  • design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems
  • understand several key algorithms that reflect computational thinking [for example, ones for sorting and searching]; use logical reasoning to compare the utility of alternative algorithms for the same problem
  • use two or more programming languages, at least one of which is textual, to solve a variety of computational problems; make appropriate use of data structures [for example, lists, tables or arrays]; design and develop modular programs that use procedures or functions
  • understand simple Boolean logic [for example, AND, OR and NOT] and some of its uses in circuits and programming; understand how numbers can be represented in binary, and be able to carry out simple operations on binary numbers [for example, binary addition, and conversion between binary and decimal]
  • understand the hardware and software components that make up computer systems, and how they communicate with one another and with other systems
  • understand how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system; understand how data of various types (including text, sounds and pictures) can be represented and manipulated digitally, in the form of binary digits
  • undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users
  • create, re-use, revise and re-purpose digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design and usability
  • understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct and know how to report concerns.

Key stage 4

All pupils must have the opportunity to study aspects of information technology and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career.

All pupils should be taught to:

  • develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in computer science, digital media and information technology
  • develop and apply their analytic, problem-solving, design, and computational thinking skills
  • understand how changes in technology affect safety, including new ways to protect their online privacy and identity, and how to identify and report a range of concerns.

 

Overview of Years 7 and 8

Students will develop the knowledge, understanding and skills outlined in the fundamentals by reaching the expected standard in the following content.

Year 7 Computing

Autumn Term HT1:

Introduction to Academy IT systems; E-Safety

· Basic use of a computer and file management

· Use of search engines, the world wide web, and online services

· Communicating safely online

· Online identity and privacy

Autumn Term HT2:

Compute-IT

· The history of computing

· How computers work: hardware & software

· Introduction to computational thinking and programming using Scratch and Python

Spring Term HT3:

Human Computer Interface

· Identifying user requirements: target audience (persona) and purpose

· Using software to develop prototypes

Spring Term HT4:

Integrated cross curricular project – developing interactive multimedia products

· Searching for digital artefacts using complex search techniques and basic logical operators

· Selecting digital artefacts, assessing their value and using discretion in the selection of information

· Combining and refining artefacts using a range of ICT tools to produce and present products for a specific purpose

· Gathering and using feedback to inform future work

Summer Term HT5:

Combined IT project

· This project will give students the opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have developed during the year to produce a range of different products according to a set brief with specific success criteria

Summer Term 6:

Computers & the Law

· Understanding the ethical issues surrounding the application of information technology, and the existence of legal frameworks governing its use e.g. data protection, computer misuse, copyright.

Year 8 Computing

Autumn Term HT1:

Computational thinking

· Problem solving, algorithms and programming

Autumn Term HT2:

Spreadsheet modelling

· Collecting, analysing and evaluating data

· Using data for forecasting

· Presenting data in different output formats

Spring Term HT3:

Databases

· Importing, storing, sorting and querying data

· Processing data to present information

Spring Term HT4:

Computer systems & binary logic

· Input, process, output

· Representation of data in computer systems

· Boolean logic

· Computer communications & networking

Summer Term HT5:

End of year project (music festival)

· This project will give students the opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have developed during the year to produce a range of different products according to a set brief with specific success criteria

Summer Term HT6:

Moral, ethical and social implications of IT

· Students will explore the moral, ethical and social implications of technology with particular reference to the internet. They will evaluate emerging technologies and their impact both positive and negative on society

Computech

In addition to the above programme of study, all year 8 students follow the one hour per fortnight “Computech” programme, where they learn about hands on Computing in an integrated design and technology & computing project using the BBC Micro:bit.

This is the practical application of computational thinking within a design & technology context, delivered “in-curriculum”, by dedicated Computech teachers.

By the end of the programme, all students have designed and programmed at least one computer system which is:

  • embedded within programmable hardware (Microbit)
  • customised using design & technology materials (plastics)
  • manufactured using CAD and CAM technology
  • a prototype of a real world device (stepometer / smart controller).

Overview of Year 9

In IT & Computing, the focus on year 9 is developing key foundational skills required for the relevant key stage 4 qualifications.

For computer science, this is about developing and expressing computational thinking skills required for the GCSE Computer Science course.

For IT, this is about developing graphic design and multimedia skills required for the Creative iMedia course (students learn to become proficient in various Adobe Creative Suite packages).

For both subjects, students will also develop research skills enabling them to search effectively and efficiently, understanding the importance of using a range of sources and how to discern reliability.

Curriculum overview – Computational Thinking

In year 9, students complete a foundational ‘computational thinking’ course. Students follow a timetable which is equivalent to two lesson hours per week.

The computational thinking course helps them prepare for the second examined component of the GCSE, and also the element of the practical programming project which requires students to demonstrate solutions to problems in algorithmic form.

Year 9 students also learn about the ‘journey of data’, which helps them understand the relationship between data and computer systems.

These are our subject ‘fundamentals’ in year 9.

A parent-friendly introduction to both of these topics can be found on our Moodle:

https://secondary.moodle.tgacademy.org.uk/course/view.php?id=397&section=1

In this section, there is a video introducing the concept of computational thinking, and a Powerpoint presentation introducing the ‘journey of data’.

Overview of Years 10 & 11

Computer Science programme of study

Students follow the OCR GCSE in Computer Science (9-1). The exam board is OCR.

There are three components in the GCSE specification. Component 01 covers computer systems; Component 02 covers computational thinking and algorithms, and Component 03 covers programming. The following explains the programme of study by year.

Year 10

  • In year 10, students study the following topics from component 01 (computer systems): systems architecture, memory, storage, networks, and ethical, legal, cultural and environmental concerns relating to technology.
  • They study the following topics from component 02 (computational thinking): standard algorithms, computational logic, and data representation.
  • They also complete a practice project in preparation for component 03, which is a practical programming project. Students are taught the Python programming language.

Year 11

  • In year 11, students study the following topics from component 01 (computer systems): network topologies, protocols and layers, system security, and system software
  • They study the following topics from component 02 (computational thinking): advanced algorithms, robust/defensive programming, and translators/facilities of languages.
  • They also complete the component 03 practical programming project.

Examinations and assessment

The following information gives the examination and assessment breakdown for each component in the GCSE.

Component 01 – Computer Systems

1 hour 30 minute written examination (80 marks)

Worth 50% of the GCSE

Component 02 – Computational Thinking, Algorithms and Programming

1 hour 30 minute written examination (80 marks)

Worth 50% of the GCSE

Component 03 – Programming Project

Completion of a practical programming task.

Home/online learning and The Moodle

The “Moodle” is the Academy’s own online learning platform containing video tutorials, interactive quizzes and downloadable assessment materials including practice and exam questions.

The Moodle is the Computer Science student’s “one stop shop” for all home learning and revision resources, and has contains content for every single topic in the specification. All students have been given a guided tour of the Moodle in lessons. The link to our Moodle is here:

https://secondary.moodle.tgacademy.org.uk/course/index.php?categoryid=7

Information on recommended textbooks is available on the school website. The specification can be found here:

https://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/gcse/computer-science-j277-from-2020/

Extra curricular opportunities

The department has a dedicated STEM co-ordinator who organises trips and events to develop and inspire students’ curiosity in the wider, real world application of the subject. These include online CyberSecurity challenges such as Cyber Discovery (joincyberdiscovery.com), the CyberFirst girls competition (https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberfirst/girls-competition), trips to industry-led events such as the Barclays IT girls coding workshop, and university organised events such as the University of Birmingham’s Maths & Computer Science Experience.