New computer science GCSE will give students the ability to design their own apps

Students will learn how to develop mobile apps as part of a new GCSE developed by AQA and supported by Microsoft. This is the first time that Microsoft has partnered directly with an exam board to create a GCSE.

The syllabus for the new GCSE Computer Science is unique, as in addition to learning computing theory and essential programming skills, for the first time students will put this learning into practice and design, make and test their own applications.

The course covers programming fundamentals such as how to interpret and create simple algorithms, develop prototypes and code solutions to a given problem. The practical element of the syllabus gives students the chance to create an appropriate software solution, which could take the form of a gaming, web or mobile application.

The qualification has taken 18 months to develop and will be taught from this September. The course is designed to address the demands of the IT industry and other employers, and will give students the opportunity to gain a high quality qualification and then progress onto A-levels, vocational courses, industry-recognised IT courses, or employment.

This announcement follows the February launch of a low-cost computer which is available to schools as a programming aid, and Education Secretary Michael Gove’s recent call for schools to teach ICT qualifications which are relevant to employers.

Geoff Coombe, Director of General Qualifications Development at AQA, said:

Our new Computer Science GCSE gives students the chance to gain the latest computer programming skills and will stand them in good stead when competing for jobs in the future. Computer literacy still has its place, but we hope this innovative qualification will help take students’ abilities to a whole new level. The syllabus we’ve created is designed to take the growing importance of mobile and web technologies into account and ensure that students aren’t left behind.

Steve Beswick, Director of Education at Microsoft, commented:

As a business, Microsoft needs British school-leavers with programming and design talents not just for the jobs we need to fill now, but also to future-proof against careers which don’t even exist yet. Working with hundreds of schools and thousands of talented teachers through our IT Academy programme and Partners in Learning network, we know that computer science lessons have the potential to be experimental and genuinely engaging, but schools need the right type of curriculum to get results.

Over the past 18 months, we have worked closely with AQA to develop a fully tested and considered qualification which develops the skills to help to inspire the next generation to build careers in the creative, programming and media sectors.

The new AQA curriculum is aligned with the existing Microsoft Technology Associate Qualification, which means that in addition to having the breadth of understanding needed for further and higher education, students are also set up to achieve an industry-recognised qualification which will bridge the gap between full-time education and the business world.

The draft syllabus and supporting assessment materials for the qualification were published on AQA’s website last month and have received an enthusiastic reception from ICT teachers, with over 200 schools and colleges so far expressing interest in offering it to their students.

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