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Dd's having a change of heart about GCSE Computer Science

(21 Posts)
Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 10:38:03

Dd is in Year 9, chose her options in February. One of her choices was Computer Science although both she and I worried about her Maths which she isn't strong on (but has improved a lot since starting secondary).

I had a worried message from her today saying she has just seen her report and is changing her mind about Computer Science. I haven't seen the report yet but I know she didn't do very well in the end of year test.

She is thinking about Music instead. She plays the flute and is Grade 4 standard.

I think she's worrying about not getting a good grade in Computer Science or find it very hard. Part of me agrees but part of me thinks it shouldn't just be about grades and whatever she learns will be useful to her in later life.

Can anyone give me any advice? Her other subjects are Maths, English x2, History, RS, Spanish and either double or triple science (to be decided at end of Year 10).

muminhants1 Wed 24-Jun-15 13:24:17

If it were me, I would do what I am best at/most likely to enjoy.

I did Music GCSE and wish I hadn't. But that was a lot to do with a conflict with the teacher. If she'd rather do Music than Computer Science, I would go with it. She's got a good spread of other subjects.

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 13:34:11

I also did Music GCSE in 1989 and hated it. I didn't enjoy the composing part at all and tbh dd has not enjoyed composing either when they've done it in lessons.

She did think about Art originally but that's incredibly time consuming.

CultureSucksDownWords Wed 24-Jun-15 13:49:56

I used to be a Computer Science teacher up until very recently. If she's not keen and has no current interest/enthusiam for computers and computer programming then it could be a hard slog for two years.

The Maths connection is a useful indicator - if a child is good at Maths, there is a fair chance they will be able to think logically and problem solve. Being less good at maths doesn't rule this out, but makes it less likely.

If she enjoys most parts of Music, and already plays an instrument then that would seem a better fit to me.

I chose an arts type subject for one of my GCSEs and in retrospect someone should perhaps have pointed out to me that I had no interest, skill or enthusiasm for it! It was my lowest grade GCSE.

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 14:04:31

Thank you. The strange thing is, she has shown a flair for computer science over the last year or two. At Parents' evening this year, the teacher was raving about her work and her excellent work ethic. She DOES seem to enjoy it and although Maths isn't her strongest subject she is quite a logical thinker.

Oh I don't know!

securitylecturer Wed 24-Jun-15 14:09:32

The single best predictor of success in computer science at university is maths. There are very few high-rated universities that don't insist on A level maths, and those that don't are starting to change their position.

"she has shown a flair for computer science over the last year or two."

Are you sure you aren't confusing ICT with computer science? I may be doing the school a disservice, but how many schools are delivering a CS syllabus in KS3?

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 14:23:16

I think it's changed at dd's school security It was ICT in Years 7 and 8, it is now Computer Science. I don't know much about the subject at all but dd has been doing things called 'Scratch' and 'Alice' over the year if that means anything to you.

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 14:29:59

culture I think she IS interested in CS and generally enjoys the lessons but is worried about her poor end of year test and subsequent comments on her report (which I've yet to see).

So she probably won't get an A or A* but do you think a B is achievable with average Maths? She's generally a bright girl at a selective school and I would say she's in the top third overall (apart from Maths!).

starfish4 Wed 24-Jun-15 14:42:57

It might be worth your DD speaking to teachers in Computer Science and Music. Students are chosen by Head of Music in my DD's school and it's based on current level, effort and attending music clubs, as well as things like concerts and shows.

I wasn't sure about my DD doing music, but has a real passion for it. Does your DD happily practice, like messing around creating her own pieces and/or do lunchtime/after school music clubs. If so, then music could be a good optional choice.

CultureSucksDownWords Wed 24-Jun-15 15:05:20

She is doing Computer Science in KS3 if she's been doing Scratch and Alice as those are both programming environments.

Scratch and Alice are not as complex as what she might do at GCSE, it will depend on how much she understands the logic of what she's doing currently.

An ability in Maths is vital at degree level, and it is insisted on by a lot of universities. One of the reasons for this is because CS A level is not offered universally whereas Maths is.

But presumably she's not thinking about a degree in CS or a future career in it? Plus her maths may yet improve!

It may well come down to which one she might enjoy doing more. Speak to her CS teacher and ask for an honest view on whether she can get a B grade.

Millymollymama Wed 24-Jun-15 15:10:24

I would say Music would be the much better option for her. She has no Art subject and this would give her an ideal, all round, combination of subjects in my view. Computer science is not for everyone and is not needed by everyone either. Get the better grade in Music if she thinks she can achieve that. Triple or double science is just fine for many young people. If she does not need computer science for A level study, then she really does not need it at all. Music GCSE is valued.

securitylecturer Wed 24-Jun-15 15:53:54

"An ability in Maths is vital at degree level, and it is insisted on by a lot of universities. One of the reasons for this is because CS A level is not offered universally whereas Maths is. "

Someone with a CS A Level but not A Level Maths would probably not be able to access (as in, would leave the first lecture with a stunned look on their face) the first year syllabus at Imperial, UCL or equivalent.

As a pointer, here's the syllabus for the first year maths course which is compulsory at UCL for CS students:

There are departments for which CS A Level is a substitute for A Level maths, but they will insist on you taking what amounts to A Level maths when you arrive anyway.

CultureSucksDownWords Wed 24-Jun-15 16:18:52

SecurityLecturer.... I am aware of this. That's why I said a Maths A level is vital...

The CS A level (from any board) has not been fit for purpose really for a long time. It is changing from this coming September to increase the Maths content, which will hopefully help. I would still advise any student choosing A levels that wants to do a CS degree to opt for Maths A level, even over choosing CS A level despite me being a CS teacher!

Anyway, none of this is relevant to the OP, as she has a 12 yr old choosing GCSE options!!

HeadDreamer Wed 24-Jun-15 16:27:44

I see she is still taking maths? Then there is no reason to be scared of computer science if she shows promise isn't it? I would say take whatever she likes and is likely to get good results. Music isn't likely to be easier than comp sci I would think! Is she likely to take music to degree level?

HeadDreamer Wed 24-Jun-15 16:29:12

I'm biased as I have always found CS easy. I did it way back when they do binary number systems, algorithms like sorting and programming in basic. Way easier than maths.

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 17:54:03

Thank you, this is all very helpful.

An update - I've emailed the deputy head about dd's concerns, he hasn't got back to me yet, but I have managed to have a chat with dd's music teacher. Her concern was this: dd's main instrument is flute (Grade 4 standard) and also does a bit of piano but only at beginner level at the moment. She's been having problems for a while with some of the top notes on the flute and this has been noted by the teacher. She said in the performance element, a lot of marks are given for technical ability and if dd doesn't crack these top notes, she may lose marks and it will be hard for her to get an A/A*.

culture you're right about the programming getting harder - dd says she chose CS based on one good parents' evening and even though she was doing very well then, it's getting harder already even before GCSE work starts.

So I don't know. Dd made a list of other possible options - French, Geography, Italian, Japanese. She's v confused

AllTheToastIsGone Wed 24-Jun-15 18:07:43

No need to focus on university when it comes to computer science. An ability to code or at least to have some understanding of what it is about will come in very handy in many many different jobs and courses.

Also if she is likes coding and is a logical thinker this suggests to me that she isn't fulfilling her potential at maths and/or might turn out to be good at it later on.

Millymollymama Wed 24-Jun-15 18:08:28

HeadDreamer. Please remember that young people do not choose GCSEs based on what degree they may, or may not, take. Huge numbers of them won't have a clue at this stage. Therefore for many young people, and for the widest choice of A levels, it is best to do a wide portfolio of GCSEs. There is absolutely no need to think of doing a music or computer science degree at this stage!

Is there another art subject available ? Art, textiles or drama? If she is good at Spanish, what about Italian? It is possibly a bit easier than French. Does the school offer PE? Would she enjoy that? What subject, from the new list, does she enjoy? Would the languages be starting from scratch in year 10? If so, that's all big ask if you are not a natural linguist.

titchy Wed 24-Jun-15 18:12:56

Remember for music she can choose her own performance pieces so if she's still finding the top notes hard she can choose a piece without them! Standard-wise there are no marks for difficulty awarded beyond a grade 5 standard which she'll be next year anyway. Ds is currently G3 and doing music GCSE (year 9 currently) and we don't anticipate problems.

PerspicaciaTick Wed 24-Jun-15 18:17:05

The IT company I used to work for actively recruited music graduates to become programmers. Apparently an aptitude for music is a good indicator for an aptitude with computer science. Which is interesting, but possibly not very helpful for the OPs DD - sorry.

Dancergirl Wed 24-Jun-15 18:17:50

PE is definitely out, she's not sporty and doesn't enjoy it. She's quite quiet and shy so wouldn't enjoy Drama either.

She does have a rough idea of A Levels she might do though - something from English, RS, Psychology, History or Spanish. I wouldn't say she's a natural linguist but is doing well in Spanish at the moment and getting very good marks.

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