Mrs N Godfrey
Computing is an exciting and challenging subject that incorporates Computer Science, ICT and Digital Literacy. Our focus is Computer Science, the scientific discipline covering principles such as algorithms, data structures, programming, systems architecture, design and problem solving. ICT, the assembly, deployment, and configuration of digital systems to meet user needs for a specified purpose is incorporated within the subject at all stages and is also taught as a cross-curricular skill. Similarly, Digital Literacy, the basic skill or ability to use a computer confidently, safely and effectively is a cross-curricular skill that is taught and applied in many subjects as well as Computing.
At WGHS we follow a programme of study in line with the national curriculum with the following aims for all pupils:
- To understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation
- To analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems
- To evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems
- To be responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
Aims 3 and 4 were part of the previous ICT curriculum. The addition of Aims 1 and 2 provide opportunities to explore and develop students’ abilities in this key STEM subject. Computing is closely linked with Mathematics and Physics hence there are many cross curricular skills in these subjects.
Computing is taught within dedicated IT Suites where each student can work on their own PC with access to the latest software. A range of other hardware is available such as Raspberry Pi, Lego Mindstorm, BBC Microbit and expansion kits.
Lessons have great variety. Students are encouraged to work independently and collaboratively in groups, with a good mix of theory and practical application.
Key Stage 3:
Students have one lesson every week. During Years 7 and 8 they will be able to develop a wide range of skills from this diverse and challenging subject. Typical topics covered will include:
- How computers work including the use of binary, operating systems and hardware.
- Using different programming languages to create computer programs that provide solutions to everyday problems.
- Using databases to manipulate and present data.
- Cyber security including eSafety, encryption, computer misuse and copyright legislation.
- Different types of networks, their structure and how they work.
- The ethical issues of our increased use of technology.
During Year 9 students have an opportunity to experience Computer Science at GCSE level, exploring representation of data such as text, images and sound including binary and hexadecimal representation of codes. They have opportunities to practise their computational thinking skills through analysis and decomposition of problems and design algorithms, using flow diagrams and pseudo code. They learn a wide range of programming techniques and create solutions using a text-based language. These skills are consolidated through completion of a programming project. Key Stage 3 studies conclude with a unit on the ethical, legal and environmental considerations of the use of technology and future developments.
Throughout Key Stage 3 students are assessed each half term to enable them to gain experience for the summer exams and to prepare them fully for examination conditions in later years. End of unit quizzes enable them to identify areas of misunderstanding, to obtain further assistance if needed and to achieve excellent outcomes. Homework time is provided for revision. At other times of the year, homework comprises either an extension of the lesson, an independent research activity or preparation for the following lesson.
Key Stage 4:
Students may study GCSE Computer Science as one of their option subjects.
Computer Science is a practical subject where students can apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world problems. The qualification is very relevant to our constantly evolving, technology-driven world. Nationally, Computer Science is male dominated, however, statistics show that females choosing to study this subject generally out-perform their male peers. Students studying GCSE Computer Science at WGHS consistently perform above the national average.
The course values computational thinking, helping students to develop the skills to solve problems and design systems that provide solutions to the problems. These skills will be the best preparation for those who want to go on to study Computer Science at A Level and beyond. The qualification will also provide a good grounding for other subject areas that require computational thinking and analytical skills.
Students are assessed through two papers at the end of Year 11. Paper 1 focuses on the theory of Computer Science; Paper 2 focuses on computational thinking, programming and algorithms. Both papers have identical weighting and mark allocations. Students will be given many opportunities to undertake programming tasks, either to a specification or to solve problems, during their course of study.
Key Stage 5:
AQA A Level Computer Science is becoming an increasingly popular subject having been first offered for study in September 2018.
The course is split into two complementary sections, programming and theory. On the programming side of the course, students learn to develop desktop applications in the C# language using Visual Studio. Students will cover the fundamentals of programming, data structures, algorithms, and object-orientated programme design.
The theory side of computer science teaches about the internal workings of a computer, right down the basics of how all data is stored using binary, whether that data consists of numbers, text, pictures or even music. It goes on from there to cover aspects of computer architecture, showing exactly how data is accessed from main memory using assembly language instructions and the fetch-execute cycle.
As well as covering programming the course aims to promote good programming practices such as avoiding global variables, sensible variable naming, structured programming, good re-use of code through procedures and functions, and proper commenting of code. It also covers higher level concepts such as the social and legal impact of computers, and how to go about breaking down a big problem into individual programmable steps.
A level Computer science consists of two exam papers, each 2 1/2 hours long and each worth 40%. The remaining 20% comes from your coursework.
The coursework assesses your ability to take on a significant problem and produce a solution to it. Despite the large programming element, you will actually be marked on the documentation you produce. This will typically consist of an analysis, designing the solution, annotated code showing your finished solution, tests demonstrating that your solution works and an evaluation.
Extra-curricular activities are offered to reflect students' interest and include, but are not limited to:
- Minecraft programming - Minecraft but not as you know it.
- Microbit creations - using inventor's kits to make all sorts of clever devices.
- Lego Robotics – learning how program Lego Mindstorm robots of their own creation. The school has entered a team in the annual Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge for several years. The teams have been successful prize winners each year.
- Animation club – using specialist software to create detailed 2D animations.
- Raspberry Pi robotics.
- CyberFirst competition, an exciting competition for Year 8 students only offered by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and facilitated by WGHS.
Clubs are by generally run by GCSE or A Level Computer Scientists in conjunction with a member of the Computing department.
GCSE students are offered a trip to The National Museum of Computing in Milton Keynes. This is a well-attended trip that students have thoroughly enjoyed.