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GCSE computer science: this year and beyond

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Earlier this year we announced changes to the assessment arrangements for the new GCSE in computer science. We found that the confidentiality of some of the assessment tasks had been compromised, and some students would have had an unfair advantage over others. We reluctantly decided to change the arrangements, such that students’ grades this summer and in 2019 would be based only on their exam performance. We have recently announced that these arrangements will also apply to the 2020 exams, and that we are considering the longer-term solution.

What do these changes mean for schools and students?

Schools still need to make sure that students have the opportunity to undertake one of the tasks set by their exam board, but these do not need to be marked in the formal sense, as there is no requirement to send marks to the exam board. Schools will need to confirm to the exam board that their students have had this opportunity.

While these tasks will not contribute to the final grade, we believe that it is vital that the tasks are completed. The tasks support the curriculum requirements for the course, in that students are required to use their programming skills to solve a problem. Completing the task therefore helps to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills involved in programming, and will help students in the rest of their computer science course.

How will grades be calculated in 2018, 2019 and 2020?

When students take their exams this summer, those exams will contribute 100% to the final grade, rather than the original 80%. Exam boards can re-weight the exams to be 100% in one of two ways – they can scale up the exam marks so that the overall total number of marks is the same as originally envisaged, or they can set grade boundaries on the total number of marks for the written papers only. Both methods produce the same end result.

What will happen post 2020?

We have already begun the process of consulting with computer science teachers and others about what should happen post 2020. We’ve recently held meetings with teachers, subject associations and learned bodies to find out how the interim arrangements are working out, and to discuss options for the longer term. Our next steps are to discuss some of those options with the exam boards and in the autumn we’ll consult on some proposals. We’re clear that any long term solution must do two things – it must be something that teachers can deliver, and it must support and enhance the GCSE computer science course of study for the students


Cath Jadhav
Associate Director for Standards and Comparability

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