Computing degrees but no computing a-level?

(24 Posts)
MrKlaw Fri 11-Oct-19 22:38:27

DD is getting quite frustrated at her school (all girls). Doin first year of GCSEs and she is doing computer science as an option along with others. It’s the first year the school has even offered that GCSE (how?) and there are only 10 in the class.

She wants to do something in the field for her degree, but currently the school isn’t offering a computer science or related a-level. She’ll probably do maths and chemistry but was hoping to do computing too.

Aside from the disappointment of not doing a course she wants, will it affect applications to university? Some seem to suggest a specific computer science a-level isn’t necessary but I’d appreciate info from any of you that may have gone through this before.

OP’s posts: |
stucknoue Fri 11-Oct-19 22:39:33

My daughter is doing an engineering degree that's half computer science and she has physics, maths and electronics

Comefromaway Fri 11-Oct-19 22:42:40

Since the change from IT to Computer Science a lot of schools have struggled to recruit teachers. Dds school never offered it, ds’s does at GCSE but not A level.

So many schools don’t offer it so that’s why it’s not essential for a degree.

If your dd really wants to do it can’t she go to a local college instead. That’s what most kids here do as the colleges can offer a much wider range of A levels than individual school 6th forms.

MillicentMartha Fri 11-Oct-19 22:46:06

Are there any alternative 6th forms or colleges nearby? In my county there is lots of movement between schools for Y12 and 13. And you can hold multiple offers for sixth forms.

SallyOMalley Fri 11-Oct-19 23:03:30

I'm an admissions officer for computer science (I work in a department).

In our university (RG), we don't ask for computer science or computing A level. However maths A level is essential and we look for a strong science background at at least GCSE level. I can't speak for all other universities, but CS is by no means essential.

I would say that, in the last year, about 70-80% of successful applicants have comp sci A level, but we don't favour those who have it over those who don't. In general, when we look at the A level subjects of those at the top end and doing well at the end of the first year on their degree, they tend to have sciences such as physics and chemistry, and often Further Maths too.

What I'm saying is that CS at A level is not always essential. However, a clear passion for the subject will if course help the personal statement if she wishes to study the subject at uni.

Can your dd join a computing club in or out of school? Also look at the EDT webpages - they run lots of schemes encouraging young people into STEM subjects. Headstart, for example, is a good one. Your local uni may also run some widening participation schemes, both in STEM in general, and for getting girls into computing.

bpisok Fri 11-Oct-19 23:32:48

DD was thinking about a CS based degree but changed her mind however we spent a while looking at degrees.
...good Unis mainly wanted Maths (and pref FM too) none seemed to need CS.

Poss consider doing an EPQ in 6th form on something CS related (develop an app, programme a robot etc) which might give you an edge?

KitchenDancefloor Fri 11-Oct-19 23:51:37

I work in HE and we are aware of the issues of recruiting CS teachers so don't require it as an A level subject.

Prospective students do need to show an awareness of CS and demonstrate an aptitude for logic and problem solving.

Wanting to be the next CEO of google does not count!


Frangipane Fri 11-Oct-19 23:56:36

My son has a degree in computer science. His a levels were in maths, physics and economics. It didn't seem to matter when he was applying to university.

HostessTrolley Sat 12-Oct-19 01:35:11

Son is doing a computer science (information security) masters accredited by gchq. A levels were maths, further maths and physics, he applied for both the B.Sc and M.Sc at the same uni. Due to his extra curriculars in the area (mainly being very successful with cyber challenge uk) he got unconditional offer for the masters.

VaguelySensible Sat 12-Oct-19 02:01:11

Look at the Smallpeice Trust (yes, that's the spelling), Young Rewired State, and Cyberfirst. They all do extra-curricular computing courses and events, that will both support her GCSE work and extend it. CS degrees don't generally require CS at A-level, but they want strong Maths at GCSE and A-level, and evidence of interest and experience in computing.

sashh Sat 12-Oct-19 02:26:05

Tell her to take maths. Computer Science is a great A Level but not everywhere does it.

The shortage of CS teachers bothers me because I have a PGCE in computing but my IT is not very strong and due to ill health I can only work part time so can't get a job.

MrKlaw Sat 12-Oct-19 08:21:57

Thanks everyone - reassuring and disappointing at the same time. Switch from IT to computer science seems to be messing things up generally

@SallyOMalley thanks for your great answer
@VaguelySensible will check those resources

She’s started on a gchq sponsored STEM challenge and were looking at extra curricular stuff. She’s doing maths and considering chemistry rather than physics. If no computing shed like to do a humanities subject as her third

We’re checking other colleges but there aren’t any particularly close. There is a partnership with the nearby boys school but even they aren’t sure they’ll offer a course - will continue to try and push to get it offered but good that it isn’t essential

OP’s posts: |
SallyOMalley Sat 12-Oct-19 08:35:33

For her third subject, how about Psychology or Philosophy? There are some really interesting links between these subjects at CS.

Or, is your dd good at languages? An aptitude here will no doubt help with picking up programming languages.

We only specify the A level Maths and the other two can be in any subject. Any humanities subject will be great for developing clarity of thinking , whatever the subject at degree level.

Good to hear about the extra curricular stuff linked to CS - we always like to hear about that! Anything that really demonstrates a passion for the subject.

VaguelySensible Sat 12-Oct-19 09:09:24

She’s started on a gchq sponsored STEM challenge

Sounds like Cyberfirst.

Serin Sat 12-Oct-19 09:58:39

GCHQ run online cyber challenges but they also do summer courses, 'cyberfirst' aimed at 16-17 year olds and 'cyberfirst advanced' aimed at 17-18 end of year 12. The courses are free and they get to stay in university halls.
Headstart are subsidised but you have to pay towards them, around £300-£400 for a week. Some of these seem to have more of an engineering/electronics base.
There is a scheme where older kids can help in primary schools with CS but I cant remember the name.

HostessTrolley Sat 12-Oct-19 15:04:06

CyberSecurity challenge uk are a great organisation to get involved with and their funding changes mean they’re now more focussed on school age kids. My son just got back from Bucharest with them today, where he was part of the uk team for the european CyberSecurity challenge - a team event comprising teams from 20 European countries. A great way to develop skills and meet likeminded people outside of what courses are available to them at school

Fifthtimelucky Sun 13-Oct-19 15:27:01

A friend of my daughter did computer science at Bristol with no computer science/ICT A level (or GCSE). She did maths and science A levels.

redchocolatebutton Sun 13-Oct-19 15:31:16

agree with poster up there - maths is good one for a solid base and an essential for many other sciences.

897654321abcvrufhfgg Sun 13-Oct-19 21:54:12

My son has just started computer science at Nottingham and half the students have never done CS or maths at A level

iVampire Sun 13-Oct-19 21:59:03

If you have maths (and further maths if your school offers it) you should be OK for just about any Comp Sci university course.

Especially if your personal statement clearly illustrates your interest in computing (look for competitions, enrichment days etc)

ErrolTheDragon Mon 14-Oct-19 02:51:49

3 years ago, we heard a CS admissions talk ( in a dept which had this in with the elec eng DD was interested in) - the CS guy said it didn't matter whether applicants had done the computing A level ... if they had, they'd lose the bad habits they'd acquired in the first term! (I think he was being humorous to reassure the potential applicants who weren't doing it). Maths was of course the essential, and ideally FM.

The sex ratio is particularly bad for CS so I'd guess that if she's got strong maths, gcse and extracurricular computing experience she will be fine. A relevant EPQ - perhaps as suggested upthread an 'artefact' type - might be a nice addition. By sixth form she might be able to help run a computing club of some sort for the younger girls? Computing/robotics type of field is perhaps one of the best for extracurricular possibilities.

iVampire Mon 14-Oct-19 06:47:13

If it was 3 years ago, was it the old spec A level (which had a lowish reputation) or the new one which came out about then, is much better regarded and which is desirable (though not essential) for university

MrKlaw Mon 14-Oct-19 06:53:28

We’d do one if there was one in our area - this (reassuring) thread helps that we don’t need it, but DS still wanted to do it.

Will check about EPQ but I don’t know she’ll be keen on doing a 4th qualification- will have to see if we can persuade her. I think she’s already doing the cyber challenge thing (just started) and the 6th form club for younger students sounds like a great idea

OP’s posts: |
ErrolTheDragon Mon 14-Oct-19 08:49:45

Yes, it was the old spec - I'm glad to hear the new one is better! DD dropped it after AS (at least that was an option then) to focus on her other 3 subjects and epq, but partly because the curriculum for yr 13 looked quite dull to her. She'd done it as a 4th because the school didn't do electronics.

Apart from the insufficiency of good teachers, I would guess CS is a subject which will suffer from the increased tendency to limit pupils to 3 subjects.

As a final thought to throw in (not necessarily for the OPs DD but there may be lurkers with kids thinking about their choices) - a reminder that if they like coding but other subjects too, they may want to take a different route. I write scientific software for which chemistry (with a relevant PhD) is the entry level requirement. Computers as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves, the same applies in other disciplines.

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