Spoilt for choice?

Your Vote Your Choice

Originally uploaded by alternatePhotography

A little over 2 years ago I managed to get my department onto the OCR GCSE Computing Pilot. Now, our first cohort is coming out the other side and with all the ‘kerfuffle’, a flood of exam boards (well, 2) have suddenly gone from saying “there’s no demand, it’s not worth it” to rushing out GCSE Computing specifications for first teaching from 2012.

My default position is to stick to what I know. I’ve spent 2 years creating resources and learning about how OCR wants me to tackle the specification, and how it wants the students to tackle it. But on the other hand, I don’t want to sit here out of habit and miss a better opportunity.

This morning I’ve had a good read through what AQA and Edexcel have to offer. And I think I’ll stick where I am. Not least because for an exam board to go from ‘no spec’ to a spec ready for submission to the DfE or Ofqual or whoever is doing the QCA’s job these days within a couple of months is a little bit rushed for my liking.


The AQA spec looks broadly similar, although the theory topics skip a lot of the software and binary representation stuff in favour of prototyping and testing and there are two programming controlled assessments which is a little more… up front than the OCR approach (in which the practical investigation has really turned into a programming task – although they were bullied into that by the (then) QCDA and I like that at least it’s something a bit different.

A key point for me is that in the summary marking criteria for the programming unit, the programming techniques used section gets 36 of the 63 marks – the next largest component being just 9 marks. Sounds ideal!

Until you read the detailed mark scheme, where you get those 36 marks for “discussion of most of the programming techniques” – death by writeup…

You actually get 9 marks for producing the code itself.


What can you say about Edexcel? In fairness, I moaned that AQA had probably rushed their specification out. Edexcel haven’t – because there isn’t even a draft to look at yet. There are some outline details – a 40% written exam, 35% practical exam and a 25% controlled assessment.

I must admit, I’m a fan of practical exams. They’re logistically more difficult, but they provide a more accurate reflection of a student’s ability than coursework and the focus switches to teaching and learning rather than doing and redoing.

That said, with options evening tomorrow, I don’t feel compelled to jump to a spec I haven’t read and I’ve not been a huge fan of Edexcel’s output in recent years (although I know many that have).

So at the moment I don’t feel that spoilt for choice. Competition is a good thing, and for centres coming at GCSE Computing for the first time either in 2012 or 2013 then perhaps the route is a little less cut and dried. For me, though. It’ll be another year at least with OCR.