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Ofqual announces its decision on GCSE computer science assessments

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UPDATE: Revised assessment arrangements for GCSE computer science will continue for the 2020 exam series, Ofqual has confirmed.

As per the arrangements for 2018 and 2019, students will be formally assessed only by exam. These students must still complete a task set by their respective exam boards, but this will not be formally marked.

Students may be given a choice of which non-exam task to complete by their exam boards. The tasks support the curriculum requirements for the course, notably the opportunity to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills involved in programming.

Schools and colleges must, therefore, confirm to their exam boards that they have set aside the required amount of time for students to complete a task and given them the opportunity to do so.

While the exam boards might change the conditions under which the task is completed and/or give a greater prominence in their exam papers to questions drawing on students’ programming experience, students’ grades will be based on their exam performance alone.

Later this year, Ofqual is intending to invite computer science teachers to provide feedback on the new arrangements and consult on any proposals for the longer term.

Ofqual's full statement can be found here.

Today (8 January 2018) Ofqual has announced that the non-exam assessment for GCSE computer science will not count to the final 9 to 1 grade in GCSE computer science in 2018 or 2019. 

However, it has decided that all students taking their GCSE computer science exams in 2018 and 2019 should continue to complete one of the tasks set by their exam boards for the qualification. As such, schools must give their students an opportunity to do so and set 20 hours aside in the timetable to allow them to undertake the task. JCQ has released revised requirements for the delivery of the task for GCSE (9 to 1) computer science in 2018, the details of which can be found here. Students' grades for the qualification will, however, be determined by their performance in their exams alone.

Ofqual has published a statement for students and their parents/carers to help them to understand the changes to the assessment arrangements, which schools can direct them to or that schools can use as the basis for their tailored response. You can access this here.

Its decision comes after analysing more than 2,500 responses to its consultation, which was launched, following evidence that some of this year's tasks had been posted to online forums and collaborative programming sites, contrary to exam board rules.

Most respondents agreed there were shortcomings with the current approach to non-exam assessment in GCSE computer science (70 per cent) and 75 per cent thought changes should be made. However, the consultation did not find one preferred course of action among stakeholders, including teachers, students and the exam boards. Ofqual's analysis of the consultation responses can be found here.

Next steps

  • Ofqual will consult with the exam boards on the revised subject level conditions and guidance they will put in place to give effect to these decisions. The rules that cover the taking of the non-exam assessments are set by the exam boards themselves. The exam boards are considering whether to relax their rules and, if so, how. The exam boards will communicate any changes directly.

Ofqual's full statement can be found here.