Computer science is becoming a more important topic every day – from automation to AI and cyber security. Many businesses rely on their computer systems to operate now and our A level students are learning how to develop system to help shape the future.
A level Computer Science helps students to understand how computers operate, how programming languages work, how to analyse, design and build computer systems and how all this fits into the social, moral and ethical aspects of the modern world.
The skills you will learn are applicable to many situations – you must be logical and able to identify key points within a problem, you need to be able to explain how a system is appropriate for a situation and justify your answer (yes there are essays to write), you need to be able to understand and write algorithms and work with binary numbers. You don’t need to be a computer programmer to use these skills they are applicable to lots of different careers and even within computer science there are multiple career pathways to explore.
One of the best aspects of the course is the year 13 project. Here you are asked to come up with a system you would like to build and take it from the idea stage, analyse the requirements, then design, build and test it. This counts towards your overall grade but allows you to be as creative as you like and explore languages and systems you are interested in. In the past students have written games, used Alexa to pilot drones, written facial recognition systems with Raspberry Pis and many more ideas. It is really a great way to showcase your programming talents and build something you are passionate about.
Computing & ICT Teacher
What does it mean to be a computing student at Alsager School?
I would say it is a significant commitment. It requires a large subject interesting and the ability to motivate yourself to work independently and whilst that is daunting it is a real privilege to be able to learn how to project manage and work on your own ideas whilst having support nearby.
There is quite rightly an importance placed on coding ability and the ability to think logically, computing provides the opportunity to develop these skills. There’s also a large element of research and finding existing solutions to problems, the ability to read and understand other people’s programs is instrumental in developing your own knowledge.
The freedom you gain at A-level computing with your programming really allows for the ability to learn how you like to. The project you’re required to do as a part of the A-level is a fun yet challenging task – you have to work on something yourself, from scratch, designing, planning and testing yourself. To be a computing student gives you the freedom and ability to learn and focus on what interests you specifically, which is a wonderful feeling. (Year 13 student)
How do we challenge you in Computing?
By nature, computer science is a very challenging subject. It involves many areas from how computers functions to how to operate in one. Due to this, the subject is inherently difficult, but is very rewarding. The skills you gain by being challenged will aid in life and feel very fulfilling acquiring.
Again, many concepts and projects are a challenge, requiring students to be able to construct and document a functioning system within their ability, whilst also increasing their ability concurrently. This is definitely a struggle, but I believe there’s nothing more satisfying than that “ah ha!” moment when you get a program to finally run, or you fix that annoying bug.
I have developed my skills regarding coding, computer hardware and everything else in between. But more importantly, I have learned how to be more resilient in my work and come up with simple solutions to complicated problems, in and outside of the classroom. The challenging and mentally straining tasks have shown me what I am capable of and have made me a more well-rounded person and a better worker. (Year 12 student)
What skills have you gained/developed in Computer Science?
You are granted freedom in what you do for many projects and tasks, which really helps to develop independent skills. Although you might not think it, there’s a massive amount of personalisation and customisation possible.
Through this, you develop your ability to research, and recognise credible resources. You also develop your coding ability significantly, as nearly all aspects of computing can be related back and forth and can be worked with logically, which leads me to the next skill. Logical thinking and problem-solving: a hugely valued skill in the working world. Computing helps really improve your thinking and problem-solving ability, which will be greatly applicable in the future.
The ability to decompose massive problems into workable steps is another skill. Many people rightly feel overwhelmed by the thought of a huge project, however being a computer scientist teaches you how to abstract unnecessary information and devise a very manageable and scalable solution step by step.
You learn all sorts about the world. Due to the nature of the subject you end up consistently looking into contemporary topics, with the course needing you to be aware of current affairs, legislation and technology, you are always up to date on happenings. (Year 13 student)
How do we make you enthusiastic about A-level Computing at Alsager School?
Often in lesson, before we are taught anything, we are given some sort of real-life example or scenario (usually from BBC news) that helps us understand the topic that we will be taught in that lesson. This helps drive enthusiasm and interest in computer science as it helps students relate the subject to real world application and build up their experience in technology use cases and developments.
Having the freedom of your own virtual environment at A-level is a big positive. It grants you that sense of reward – you’ve been given the privilege to work how you want to and try out different software. Personally, I find computing a very interesting subject, and with the large jump in depth from GCSE it helps to maintain enthusiasm as you always learn something further about a topic you already thought you knew about. It’s a great feeling, opening doors to new areas., it allows for you to make connections, and presents opportunities to research and further your knowledge between these areas and preparing you for future topics. (Year 12 student)
What made you choose Computing?
I have always had a large involvement in computers, and they have always interested me. Immediately after picking up computing, I realised just how much more sophisticated it is. It opens up another world to an area I was already so passionate about, it can be challenging to stay up to date with latest developments but that just sparks my interest to keep learning.
Another example of great skills being taught is learning about the components of a computer and what makes them useful or efficient, as this allowed me to know what I am looking for when upgrading my current PC or family members computers at home. (Year 12 student)
What advice would you give to a GCSE student who is considering taking it at A Level?
Be aware of how much of a step-up it is from GCSE depth-wise. It is more demanding, but a lot more rewarding. I would certainly recommend it and believe it’s incredibly interesting. I would suggest if you’re interested to take it; make sure you’re up to date on the subject news and brush up on GCSE knowledge, since computing is one of those subjects where, as all areas are integrated and reference each other, your foundation knowledge is really important to your understanding of future topics. (Year 13 student)