Have we made a mistake with GCSE options?

(35 Posts)
SophiaWinters Tue 03-Jul-12 16:59:43

My son is ending Year 8 and this week they've started their Year 9 lessons. He is potentially interested in a career in computer programming and he loves history although doesn't see history being involved in a career. With this in mind the options he has chosen is ICT and History. Next year he'll be able to choose more options.

Son had his first GCSE ICT lesson today and has come away a little downbeat sad He said nearly half the class are boys who are know to muck around and be disruptive in lessons which today as expected they did. Teacher set them a task to do and the software available to do said task is dated 2000. Son has the same software at home but a much more up-to-date version, he said it took him ages to do the task because it is so old nothing seemed familiar on screen. He has complained to me before about the software being very outdated but I somehow thought that for a GCSE course they would use something a little more modern and relevant to the task.

The other options he had to choose from were Media Studies (we thought this would be a "soft" option), Sport (son isn't sporty and doesn't enjoy it much), Geography (not a favorite subject but he may consider this for the next round of options), Language (he's doing Spanish as a subject anyway but didn't want this as a GCSE option), Music (not musical at all).

Has anyone's child done ICT as a GCSE and what did you or your child think about it? What software did they get to use and how outdated or new was the software? I don't expect a school to have the most up-to-date version of everything but 12 years old seems a little dated. I would also expect the industry standard software to be used but maybe I'm just getting this all wrong in my head.

cricketballs Tue 03-Jul-12 17:48:43

I teach GCSE ICT.....

first off, yes we often have people choice the subject as they think it is an easy option and that they will be 'surfing' all lesson. But in reality it is far from it.

In terms of the software being used, we do have issues at school in regards to software due to the huge cost of site licences and therefore there are still schools who have not been able to update. However, the specifications just state a spreadsheet/database etc and do not require students to be using the latest versions of anything as they know the reality.

There is very little that new versions of the software needed for GCSE offer that previous versions don't. For example, all spreadsheets will allow you to create formula, use functions, create a working model just like all databases will allow you to create relational tables, create queries, run reports etc

If you think about it, the fact that none of the screens were familiar to him is useful - he will always have to cope very quickly to different menus, screens, functions etc if this is the industry he wants to enter into as everything changes on screen all day every day.

PM if you want more detailed information/guidance

SophiaWinters Tue 03-Jul-12 18:58:04

I hope that you're right about it being challenging and hopefully the "surfers" won't disrupt the class too much. My son really is serious about this subject and wants to do well in it. I did point out to my son that he should see using older software as a challenge - getting the job done with the tools he has available rather than using the version he knows best.

I read that the ICT curriculum for GCSE is being scrapped from September this year. How will this work for my son now then? Will there be some other sort of GCSE exam that he writes, there was mention of computer science and programming. I don't really understand how it will work now for my son if the GCSE is being scrapped.

cricketballs Tue 03-Jul-12 22:15:08

the GCSE in ICT is not being scrapped. The new specifications just take into account the linear approach and this has meant nothing in terms of what needs to be learnt, just that they will be tested on 2 separate units at the end of the course, instead of one unit at the end of year 10, controlled assessment in between then the final unit the end of year 11.

There is of course the introduction of Computer Studies (OCR trialled it last year) however, there are few staff currently with the knowledge to teach it correctly as for so many years the focus has been on ICT rather than computing and therefore the qualifications of the majority of ICT staff do not match this.

The courses that are no longer continuing are the OCR Nationals...the have been re-designed as the OCR Cambridge Nationals (very similar to the current spec, but a different name!)

Even if a GCSE is being dropped there is notice given and those currently enrolled on teh course allowed to complete it so if there is an announcement tomorrow for example that all GCSEs are to be scrapped, it will take into account those who are currently studying (even Gove isn't that stupid as to try that one I hope)

SophiaWinters Tue 03-Jul-12 22:38:05

Thank you cricketballs, that answers a lot of questions smile

sashh Wed 04-Jul-12 05:47:22

ICT is crap. It is probably being taught by a non specialist.

He will do no programming at all, it's basically how to use a computer.

Buy him a raspberry pi - and let him learn Then at A Level make sure he does computing or computer studies or computer science NOT ICT,

Get him to consentrate on maths as well, he will need it.

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 06:53:05

What does a raspberry pi do that a computer doesn't do? I ask because son already has a very good computer in his room so don't want to go and buy something that duplicates what he already has. He has downloaded Python and is working his way through this book:

www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0982106017/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00

He has also been teaching himself some Java. He knows a little html as I use Dreamweaver for my work so he has access to that software. He knows his way around Photoshop very well (I use it for Photography) and uses that for some basic illustrations. He also knows most of the Windows based software fairly well like the MS Office suite and Windows Movie Maker - he's made and edited numerous movies for his Youtube channel.

Maths and Physics are subjects he knows he'll need to do well in. Fortunately he enjoys both and is currently in top set for both subjects smile

MrsRobertDuvallHasRosacea Wed 04-Jul-12 06:56:22

No choice in dd's school-she had to do a short course ICT. She has just taken it and has probably failed it.
Re and Citizenship compulsory shortcourse too.

OddBoots Wed 04-Jul-12 07:04:41

I have a Y8 boy going into Y9, all his year will be doing ICT GCSE next year so there have been no options as such but they are getting started on the course now too. He has the same issue as your ds although he is working in his streamed class so he is with the higher ability groups so a bit less mucking about (in theory!).

He sees it as a case of just plodding through it, the old software has been a bit of a challenge but as I run a very creaky old machine myself he has been able to have a play with mine (could you pick up the same old software cheaply so he can try it out in peace away from class?). His teacher has been good and provided he has done what is required of him that lesson he has been allowed to do a bit of his code academy.

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 07:10:38

Thanks for the link OddBoots, I'll take a look at that later and see what son thinks. Perhaps he can speak to his tutor and see if a similar arrangement can be agreed at school. But if not then he might want to work his way through that at home smile

CouthyMow Wed 04-Jul-12 07:34:53

DD's ICT class always has the most up-to-date programs. They also have run computer science for top set only for at least the last 4/5 years. It might help that they specialise in Maths and Computing? What is your DS's school's specialisations? It DOES sound odd that they are using 12 yo software. 5 years old maybe, but 12?!

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 08:05:10

The school specialises in Business Studies. His first choice school specialises in science and computing but we are out of catchment (slightly) for that school and although we went through the appeals process for year 7 admissions it unfortunately was not upheld. I know the other school would be a much better option for him (it was obvious from the open evenings) but we cannot get him a place there as they are over subscribed and we've tried the appeal and it did not work for us. We are gutted but what can we do sad I might look into privately funding some basic programming courses during the holidays for him or see if I can find a private tutor, I'm not sure what else I can do.

janeyjampot Wed 04-Jul-12 08:23:02

My DD was choosing this year between ICT and Geography and the school careers service advised her to take Geography because "she should be doing academic, not vocational courses". I don't know much about it but they suggested that the Computer Science course was the academic route. I was surprised to hear that ICT was not more highly regarded, but perhaps that's because I was forced to do dressmaking because computing was only for boys when I was making the same choices in the 80s!

GrimmaTheNome Wed 04-Jul-12 08:44:30

I write software for a living... of the age when you had to teach yourself. Sounds like he's on the right lines with learning Python and Java himself - its a pity his school doesn't do Computer science (my DDs - a girls school!! - is supposed to be introducing it next year, when she'll be in yr9 - I'd def encourage her to do that rather than ICT). But of the options he was given, the ICT sounds the best for him.

The thing I'd like to add is, he may know that he wants to do computer programming but does he know what sort of applications? If for instance he was interested in writing scientific software then the vital subjects are the sciences. My field we have a few computer scientists but mostly PhD scientists - you have to know what you're writing about.

zzzzz Wed 04-Jul-12 08:59:14

It's early to be thinking of careers but from an employment point of view the ability to jump between different versions and languages when programming is fundamental to most consultant level jobs. Your son needs to learn and prove his flexibility as well as ability.

Even in the work place there are people whose main aime is to prat about. If he wants to be a programmer ICT GCSE is not absolutely necessary but he should be focused on analytical type qualifications and certainly Maths and Physics are an ideal grounding, so it's good he likes those, grin

Being phased by a different version of familiar software is something he needs to get over. It's a bit like saying you can only write with a particular type of pen.

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 09:50:17

Is it possible, with the help of a private tutor if I can find one, for my son to study privately for a GCSE in computing/computer science? How would I go about arranging for this to happen, do you think his school would be able/willing to provide any help with sitting the exam?

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 09:51:54

Grimma and zzzzz, thank you for those comments. I will tell my son what you have said as I'm sure that will be helpful for him to know your thoughts.

noblegiraffe Wed 04-Jul-12 10:06:40

The kids at my school who are interested in computer programming teach themselves. I don't think a gcse qualification is going to hold much clout, tbh as they date so quickly. There are loads of blogs, videos etc on the Internet he can use to teach himself and he should be attempting to code his own stuff.

One of my students had his own web development business aged 15, another got a job in computing aged 16 based on his personal output. A friend of mine got a job as a games programmer by writing his own computer game. That's what I'd focus on rather than tutors and GCSEs. People on the web will help him if he gives it a good go.

genug Wed 04-Jul-12 10:35:14

We were advised that ICT is not well thought of, it covers skills that young people of graduate or programming potential can pick up in days without any formal training. This in itself may be less of a problem, but it also seems to attract some who would rather not be in the classroom.

Definitely look into programming, not necessarily as a GCSE option, but lots of exposure and practice, tutor should know of summer schools run by [better] universities that he can go to. Or google or call round your local universities. He will learn a lot more this summer at one of those, and network with others of the same mind.

If he is not already doing all 3 sciences, that would be a good replacement option, another language, electronics, geography, are all good alternatives. You're absolutely right to follow your instincts on this, good luck switching.

wigglybeezer Wed 04-Jul-12 10:59:51

Computing is available as a separate subject from ICT in Scotland, DS is doing it but unfortunately is struggling as it is definitely not an easy option! with the benefit of hindsight he probably should have picked ICT instead but he did well enough in the test to choose and the boys were all very dismissive of ICT ( it's a non- certificate course up here). Choosing options is really hard, I made DS1 take geography rather than history as he finds essays a challenge but the poor boy is finding it very dull.

Sometimes indepedant schools allow home educated kids to sit exams ( obviously for a fee). could your son follow one of the on-line courses available for computing and then sit an exam later?

Teaching himself would be good for his CV as long as he can demonstrate that he has reached a certain standard.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 04-Jul-12 11:02:57

Second what nobel said. My nephew has just started a computer science degree - I don't actually know what A levels he did but he spent a lot of time just writing stuff at home.

I think the point about Raspberry Pi (mentioned earlier) is that it doesn't have all the pre-built applications of the sort you learn to use in ICT. Its a cheap machine which you can learn to program on including (I think) building interfaces to control things. Sounds like a good thing to play around with, without all the layers of complexity you get on a windows PC.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 04-Jul-12 11:02:59

Been a bit of a waste of time for dd - she didn't even opt to do it, but they have to do a half course or something, she has now finished the course and will come home and say 'yeah, it was good, had ICT so I got my French homework done already' hmm

SophiaWinters Wed 04-Jul-12 11:48:33

There is a mandatory ICT course for everyone, this ICT GCSE is an option over and above the mandatory course. Having discussed with hubby and son I think we're going to leave things as they are with the course but son will continue to self-learn through the help of books, internet and experimenting. I'll also contact his ICT tutor to see if there are any clubs or courses on offer locally that might be interesting for him to join during the summer.

I've registered for a Raspberry Pi, had a good read of the website and it looks very interesting. Long wait time though for delivery!

ICT to be avoided at all costs. I think many parents think it is computer science, which it is not. All those I know who have done it say it is dull and unchallenging.

cricketballs Wed 04-Jul-12 16:37:08

whilst I agree that the ICT curriculum in places is not the most appealing I am going to defend my subject!

ICT is exactly that - information, communication technology and the curriculum has been forced upon us by governments who set the NC and therefore the exam boards just continue with this.

However, as dull as it can be students who 'think they know ICT' because they can use facebook still need to know who to use all the tools available and not just getting a spreadsheet to add up numbers. To become proficient they also need to know how to use the functions, how to use a spreadsheet to model etc. ICT is more than powerpoint!

The NC for ICT is going to be scrapped and this allows ICT teachers (many are specialists; the non-specialists generally teach KS3, just as non-specialists teach a whole range of subjects wink) to create their own SoW which you will find will include a lot more towards programming, and using multi media but I think that it will invigorate the subject in the schools where it is still going to be given a prominent position

UnimaginitiveDadThemedUsername Wed 04-Jul-12 16:46:45

Drop ICT. Pick a language, Geography or Music instead.

By the sounds of things he'll be capable of figuring a lot of computer stuff out in his spare time. Encourage that side of things, and if he keeps it up he'll be better positioned for work/further studies than if he does ICT.

As someone who has worked in software development, managed developers and is married to one, I would say that a tutor for this is unnecessary. There are many places he can go online to learn about various languages and to ask specific questions whilst he is learning - the development community is generally very helpful, or if you and he would prefer something more structured, spend the money you would spend on a tutor on some good introductory guides to various languages. Most of the very very good developers I worked with (in a high tech industry) were self-taught to some extent. There were not that many with degrees at all, and even fewer with Comp Sci degrees.

Also, tell him working with old software is a handy skill to learn. Most developers end up working with legacy systems and software at sometime.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 04-Jul-12 17:51:09

Would it be too extreme to say that anyone who needs a tutor to learn how to program is unlikely to be suited to it as a career?

A bit like, anyone who needs to go on a creative writing course wouldn't be my bet to win the Booker.

forevergreek Wed 04-Jul-12 18:32:12

Ict was always just one we had to take

Everyone had to do 12, think we only chose 3 the rest were complusory

I think it only became useful to life later in at a level

SophiaWinters Thu 05-Jul-12 05:57:24

WhatMakesYouSay, thank you for that information. I'm sure he will continue with the self teaching as he enjoys it very much and I will tell him what you have said about working with the older software.

sashh Thu 05-Jul-12 06:34:01

What does a raspberry pi do that a computer doesn't do?

It does a lot less in many ways, but it's £25, not bad for a computer and you can (I believe - mine's on order) allow you to program in assembly code - so you learn how the computer is handling data, not just that it does.

Teaching himself languages is probably the best way to go. Once you can program in one language you can easily transfer to another.

I've been using matlab recently and love it, but the principles I use are the same as I used on my ZX80.

HandMadeTail Thu 05-Jul-12 06:44:33

Someone like Kazuo Ishiguro, Grimma?

Not sure about your statement about programming, but the analogy doesn't really hold up.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 05-Jul-12 07:50:52

I don't suppose he needed to wink

Dwafffamily Tue 11-Dec-12 10:39:17

My son is in yr9 and yesterday they had an 'options' day. He says he is considering doing the computing gcse. Does this differ to the usual ict gcse? I know the ict was considered rubbish and wondered if the computing is a different end or indeed the same and just labelled differently?

lljkk Tue 11-Dec-12 13:39:19

.l (I want to know too).
Note: ZOMBIE thread otherwise.

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