Tech lessons – new GCSE to be offered in coding and internet security

With computers now seemingly dominating all aspects of day-to-day life, a new GCSE is to be launched that will involve learning about cyber security and how to create apps.

For this new qualification, students will be taught how to thwart internet hackers by learning about the methods employed to obtain information nefariously, such as by creating trojans, data miners and viruses. Students will also learn how to create secure coding solutions such as firewalls and anti-virus programs.

Additionally, students will be allowed the opportunity to hone their programming abilities – ideal if they have designs on creating the next Instagram or Flappy Bird.

This exam has been created by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) board, and is designed to ‘boost essential 21st century computing skills.’

Computing became compulsory within the national curriculum in 2014, but many independent observers felt that the curriculum for computing was a little outdated, and that a toughening up was in order. The former secretary of education, Michael Gove, had scrapped the previous ICT curriculum in 2012, describing it as ‘demotivating and dull’.

This new course (and sixty percent of the final mark) will be focused upon how students are able to establish a computational mindset. This involves the understanding of a complex problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts. A pattern has then to be established and any unnecessary parts eliminated. The final stage will involve providing programmable solutions to each specific part, and then creating a solution to the original, complex problem by successfully integrating all the separate solutions together, as would be necessary in the creation of a complicated tech application.

Students undertaking the course will also need to learn coding skills in order for them to work on their own coding project. This part of the course will contribute twenty percent to the final grade and students will need to create an app that has real-world use, such as a game or a productivity aid.

The subject specialist in computer science at OCR, Rob Leeman, said: ‘This specification builds on OCR’s pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations like Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that the content is relevant. There is growing demand for digital skills worldwide. Whether students fancy themselves as the next cyber-spook, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, our new qualification will be the first exciting step towards any career that requires competence in computing.’

According to predictions from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, there will be nearly 150,000 job openings for coders and software developers over the next ten years. People employed in creative IT roles can expect to earn salaries of around £38,000.

Students now require at least a C grade in GCSE computer science if they will to complete an English Baccalaureate qualification. They all need at least a C grade, in English, maths, science, either history or geography and one foreign language.

Matt Smith of recruitment consultants Quantica Technology commented ‘This is really good news, we see the effect on our client’s business when they can’t easily find the skills they need. Whilst we are always able to provide a solution, there will come a time in the future where demand outweighs supply and it is important that we do something to counteract that now.’

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