A couple of weeks ago I launched a survey to find out what GCSE options schools were offering to their students. In return for completing the survey, you receive an up-to-date list of officially approved qualifications in Computer Science and other digital technology subjects. If you would like to take part in the survey and by so doing acquire this marvellous freebie, here is the link:
Actually, that's the link even if you don't wish to take part in the survey, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, here are some initial results. Bear in mind that I haven't had the chance to send out this "call to action" in my own newsletter, Digital Education, yet, so these results may change once I've done that.
The big picture
First thing to do is look at the word cloud above. I thought that would be the easiest way of conveying the gist of what schools are doing. As you can, Computer Science is the main offering, with the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) a close second (perhaps unsurprisingly given that one organisation has claimed to be able to get students through it in three days -- see this news article).
The ECDL is a skills-based course. Cambridge Nationals is a vocational, business-oriented alternative to the (soon-to-be-scrapped) ICT qualification, and that, too, is extremely popular. As you can see, it is more or less neck and neck with the ECDL.
I think it's encouraging that some schools are offering skills and vocational alternatives (or additions) to the more academic Computer Science. (Don't forget: in theory you can offer any approved subject from the third "bucket" of Progress 8. That means that you could offer Computer Science from the second "bucket", which would count towards the eBacc, and a more vocational option in the third "bucket". I say "in theory" because in practice much will depend on the senior leadership team -- and the head of department's ability and willingness to "sell" the other options.)
Cambridge iMedia is popular too, as you can see from the word cloud, though apparently less so than the others I've already mentioned.
To put some numbers to these findings, 85% of respondents are going to be offering Computer Science GCSE, while 72% will be offering a computing-related option from the third "bucket". The reason that these figures add up to more than 100% is, of course, that schools can offer more than one computing option.
The reasons given for offering Computer Science includes "academic rigour" and the EBacc. Reasons for offering alternatives include "engages girls and boys across ability ranges" and "suitable to the needs of the target audience".
The long-term view
As an eternal optimist I see the demise of ICT as an opportunity. Like the discarding of Levels in the context of assessment, it should act as a catalyst to rethink one's approach. Looking at the list of approved qualifications, there are some interesting and exciting-looking alternatives.
Some schools have reformed their Key Stage 3 curriculum in the light of the requirements of Key Stage 4. There is a danger that doing this at too early a stage could perhaps serve to narrow an individual's choices, so flexibility should be built into the system. On the other hand, taking, in effect, five years to cover a GCSE subject should yield very good results. Certainly that proved to be the case when I adopted such a strategy, ie introducing GCSE-type work and questions into Year 7 and beyond.
I will be publishing the results of the survey soon after the forthcoming half-term I hope. If you wish to take part in it, and acquire the list of approved qualifications by so doing, then once again the link is: ICT and Computing Qualifications Survey.
There has already been a sizeable response to the survey, but obviously the more responses the better, so please do take part if you have not done so already. I've designed the survey in such a way as to not take up too much of your time.