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Ofqual confirms its long-term plan for GCSE computer science assessments

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Ofqual has confirmed its decision on the long-term assessment arrangements for GCSE computer science. These will replace the interim assessment arrangements implemented for the qualification in January 2018, in response to evidence of malpractice in the conduct of non-exam assessment (NEA). Following consultation at the end of last year, Ofqual has now confirmed: 

  • From 2022 (ie for students whose teaching will start in 2020), exam boards will be required to assess all of the Department for education (DfE) prescribed subject content for GCSE computer science through assessments that meet their definition of exam assessment. This includes the assessment of students' programming skills, which will fully contribute to the overall qualification grade (in the interim arrangements they did not).
  • Beyond the requirement that all subject content is assessed and that all assessments within GCSE computer science meet their definition of an exam, they will not place any additional requirements on the form those assessments must take beyond their general conditions, ie exam boards will be free to design their exams as they see fit.
  • They will reinstate the original assessment objective weightings, replacing the ranges that were adopted under the interim arrangements.
  • Exam boards will be required to collect a statement from heads of centre entering students for GCSE computer science exams from 2022 onward, confirming that students have been given the opportunity to design, write, test and refine programs using a high-level programming language with a textual definition, either to a specification or to solve a problem. Ofqual will not impose any requirements on how or when schools and colleges provide such an opportunity.
  • The interim assessment arrangements for GCSE computer science (whereby schools and colleges are required to timetable 20 hours for the completion of a programming task specified by their exam board) will remain in place for students taking their examinations in 2019-21. This will not be required for students taking their exams from 2022 onward.

The full consultation response can be found here

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.

On 8 January 2018 Ofqual 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 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.

Ofqual's full statement can be found here.

Updated on 25 January 2019