The framework for English education at school level is largely determined by three inter-related but largely independent components: the national curriculum, which describes what should be taught in local authority maintained schools between ages 5 and 16 and is determined by the government’s Department for Education, the specifications of GCSE (16+) and A-level (18+) qualifications, regulated by Ofqual (the Office for Qualifications), and the school inspection regime conducted by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education). Ofqual and Ofsted are non-ministerial government departments. UK devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own curricula, qualifications and inspection arrangements.
The focus in the data presented here is on the uptake of and achievement in the GCSE and A-level qualifications in the 2016 summer exams, two years after computing was introduced as a national curriculum subject, but before the withdrawal of ICT as GCSE and A Level qualifications.
2010 A new coalition government is elected. Their first acts in education include the abolition of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority and the British Educational Communication and Technology Agency. They reject the previous government’s proposals for a revised primary National Curriculum and announce a review of the whole National Curriculum, to be chaired by Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment.
Also in 2010, the OCR exam board announce the pilot of a new GCSE qualification in computing, to sit alongside the existing qualifications in ICT (information and communication technology), which had become rather devalued by students and employers due to a focus on relatively mundane, user-level skills.
2012 After persuasive advocacy from The Royal Society, the video games and visual effects industries, Google and the grassroots subject association Computing At School, and concerns expressed over the quality of the ICT national curriculum and qualifications, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the ICT curriculum would be ‘disapplied’, giving schools the freedom to interpret this curriculum subject in whatever way they chose. He subsequently announced that a panel, chaired by the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering would be convened to provide expert advice on the content of a new ICT curriculum, which would include programming and other aspects of computer science.
2013 ICT is replaced by Computing in the National Curriculum. The subject emphasises computational thinking and creativity, with elements of computer science, information technology and digital literacy (foundations, applications and implications) for all students from 5 to 16 in local authority supported schools.
The Department for Education accepts a BCS recommendation that GCSE Computing be counted as a science for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) school performance measure.
2014 The new national curriculum takes effect. The programmes of study for computing, as with other subjects, apply to all years simultaneously, allowing no gradual phasing in of the new requirements.
Alongside reform of other A-level qualifications, new subject content requirements are produced for A-level computer science. Three of the four exam boards subsequently develop qualification specifications in line with these requirements. Of note are an open-ended coursework project, and a requirement to know about a variety of programming paradigms.
2015 New requirements for GCSE computer science are announced by the Department for Education, and all four awarding organisations subsequently develop specifications approved by Ofqual. These increase the academic rigour of the subject and place more emphasis on theoretical computer science. The specifications include 20% credit for a non-exam assessment (NEA) of practical programming, requiring 20 hours of independent work under closely monitored conditions.
Subsequently, the department for Education announces that GCSE and A-level ICT will not be renewed and will thus cease to be available, citing too much overlap with the new computer science qualifications.
2017 After reports of widespread malpractice in GCSE computer science NEAs, Ofqual announce their intention to remove this component from the assessed work for GCSE computer science: thus pupils will still be required to undertake the NEA but this work will no longer count toward their exam grade.
2018 Students will sit GCSE and A-level exams in ICT for the last time. The evidence we present here indicates that as a result there will be fewer female, BAME, socio-economically disadvantaged and lower ability students taking qualifications in the computing space, thus the subject area becomes less inclusive and less diverse overall.
This is my introductory text to the poster Pete Kemp, Billy Wong and I presented at SIGCSE 2018 in BaltimoreShare