The main aim of the computing department is to “…equip(s) pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world” (NC, 2013).
The Computing Department at Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School aims to do this by teaching the underlying skills and knowledge required for pupils to be able to autonomously solve an array of different problems through a series of project based units in a variety of languages and applications. We aim to enable students to independently analyse problems, design, develop and implement solutions, and test and evaluate their successes. In order to do this, students will need to have good analytical skills founded on experience of a number of programming constructs. The foundation of this is an understanding of the “fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation” (NC, 2013). In addition, we develop pupils’ theoretical understanding of how systems work, ensure they are digitally literate and are made fully aware of the potential dangers in use of the Internet and the responsibilities they have as a future e-citizen.
The KS3 programme aims to give pupils a wide flavour of computing. Pupils enter the school in Year 7 with a varied experience of computing. Skills are developed initially through the use of more visual based applications which enables even those pupils who have had quite a limited computing experience at their previous schools, to still fully access the concepts being explored. The underlying understanding of programming constructs is reinforced in these early stages so pupils can move on to more complex applications with a sound theoretical foundation. Pupils are encouraged to share their ideas about their system development throughout Key Stage Three. Pupils are encouraged to discuss their work, and support each other when appropriate. The department has a strong emphasis on pupils documenting their iterative development throughout each project. This reflects the importance placed by most computing based workplace environments on team approaches to programming challenges. The curriculum supports this by supplying template documents to scaffold the written parts of the units. Every lesson and its resources is placed on Google Classroom to support out of hours learning and to assist pupils when they embark on revision for unit tests. Support is often provided by teachers through this platform when pupils struggle with classwork and homework.
Choice of content:
- A series of varied units aim to build understanding of the core principles and concepts that underpin computing. Developing skills and confidence over time to ensure pupils become responsible, creative and autonomous participants in a digital world.
- Development of an understanding of the technology used around them so that they can make informed choices about how to use and express themselves both in school and the workplace beyond.
- An awareness of the underlying mathematics and science that shapes our digital age and an appreciation of how technology may develop further into the future.
Pupils can opt to study Computing at GCSE level and at A level. Pupils who do not opt to take GCSE Computing at Key Stage 4 undertake the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award – developing their understanding and awareness of E-Safety, learning how to design and create digital artefacts, developing problem-solving skills, developing code-based solutions and analysing and manipulating data sets. This gives pupils the opportunity to obtain an industry- recognised qualification which can be used to help demonstrate their digital and enterprise skills to potential employers.
Whilst the content of the Key Stage 4 and 5 examination board specification dictates the content delivered, the approach taken by the department is to deliver this content through practical programming and real life contextual work wherever possible. Some overarching concepts are taught holistically and are frequently re-visited and developed to develop stronger topic knowledge. Advances in technology and computing are transforming our world, especially in the workplace, and equipping pupils with the fundamental skills, confidence and informed responsibility required to adapt their working practices to future technology as creatively and productively as possible is the key aim in the Computing department’s teaching.
At Key Stage 4 and 5, students are encouraged to develop their own programming and problem-solving skills beyond the scope of the curriculum. Many students teach themselves both software and hardware based skills outside of classroom time, and where possible, this is reinvested back into the student body via tutorials, facilitated by the department, that take place with small groups informally outside of curriculum classroom time (although this has been limited more recently by restrictions due to the COVID pandemic). In addition, members of the Computing department are often found giving advice and sharing expertise on self-initiated student computing projects taking place outside school.
Computing is taught via a series of units. There is an emphasis on using practical skills and real scenarios to deliver the underlying theoretical concepts where possible. This enables pupils to apply theory more readily in tests and examinations.
Current topics taught are:
- Year 7: E-Safety; Kodu; Microbit; Small Basic; Flowcharts and Pseudocode; HTML/Networks.
- Year 8: Bases and Logic; How Computers Work; Visual Basic; Turtle Power; Pygame.
- Year 9; Python; Advanced Python; Networks; Spreadsheets; GCSE Computer Systems.
- Year 10/11: Algorithms; Data Types; Programming Concepts; Number bases; Hardware and Software; Networks; Cyber Security; Ethical Legal and Environmental Impacts; Aspects of Software Development.
- Year 12/13: Fundamentals of programming, data structures, algorithms, computational thinking, data representation; Computer Systems; Computer organisation and architecture; Consequences of the use of Computers; Communication and Networking; Databases; Functional programming; Software Development.
The department utilises a shared document area and shared assessment area on the network to ensure consistency and to enable more reliable comparisons to be made on the performance of different teaching group. The following features have a considerable impact on the quality of learning in the department:
- Staff have excellent subject knowledge and are all subject specialists.
- Using common resources, and having them readily available allows teachers to ensure students are all able to work and different paces based on their ability.
- Students are regularly given opportunities to work independently and/or with others as appropriate.
- Lessons engage students and encourage them to develop their skills and approaches to problem solving and data management. Students are encouraged to question, offer opinions and explore topics both inside and outside of curriculum time.
- Regular low-stake testing on topics taught in previous lessons ensure that students are required to recall previous topics to push them into long term memory and to form links with prior learning. Higher stake unit tests are used to inform planning and teaching for individual pupils to address identified gaps in knowledge.
- Assessment can be teacher assessed, peer-assessed or electronically assessed. Teacher assessed work always give pupils a clear indication of how to improve future work.
- Homework is set regularly, in line with school expectations. Tasks make a meaningful contribution to the programme of study, often reinforcing or extending work done in class.
- The use of technical vocabulary is embedded from the start of Year Seven, with the expectation that students understand and use this terminology with increasing confidence as they progress.
- Written project development logs help develop literacy skills, with high expectations of students’ spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.
Assessment in Key Stage 3 is conducted via standardised tests with pre-planned grade boundaries equated to levels. At Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 formal assessments use examination style questions as the basis of assessment, with percentages equating to GCSE/A-Level grades being awarded.
The impact of the Computing department’s curriculum and teaching can be seen through the following:
- There have been an increasing number of pupils taking computing at GCSE and A level.
- There has been an increase in the number of students opting to take computing or computing related fields of study at university including the Russell Group of universities.
- An increasing number of pupils successfully apply to prestigious Computing related apprenticeship programmes at organisations such as GCHQ, Microsoft and IBM.
- By the end of KS3, pupils have good foundation knowledge of the key principles in computing and this facilitates sustained and fast progression at KS4. An increasingly high proportion of students are choosing to pursue extra Computing training in their own time.
- The practical knowledge of programming is developed through all key stages and allows pupils to excel in terms of their programming skills at KS5
- The way KS3 has been planned allows for easy recall at KS4 of key terms, key programming skills and key knowledge in the world of Computing and how this impacts society and the general public.
- There are relatively few problems concerning e-Safety at school. Pupils have a good awareness of how to be responsible users of technology and are aware of how to report concerns when they have them.
Computing SoW (all year groups)