Head of Department - Mr J Spencer
Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Impact in Computing
Introduction to subject
St Martin’s School’s curriculum intentions for computing are firmly based on the outcomes expected in the National Curriculum. Allied to these is a concern to prepare students for the practical requirements of current external examinations in computer science and to encourage further study and engagement in the subject beyond Key Stage 4.
Why is the study of computing important?
Computing plays a vital role in our lives. Rather than simply users of computing technology, it is vital that students learn how computers and computer systems work. St Martin’s believes that every student should be digitally and data literate. This includes being familiar with different models for the representation of data, basic computational models and algorithms, as well as programming proficiency. Moreover, being digitally and data literate will enable young people to understand AI concepts and computational systems at a basic level to make important decisions about how to act on information presented to them. It would also support them in functioning and succeeding in transformed workplaces, allowing them to be active participants in the digital world.
How does the study of computing develop your skills, knowledge and understanding?
Students understand that computers and technology are part of almost every part of the world we live in. They learn that computers are used at home, in schools, in businesses, in transport and hospitals and how they connect people globally through the internet.
St Martin’s teaches algorithms & coding aspects of the curriculum by placing algorithms at its core. Our curriculum ensures that pupils know what algorithms are and that they underpin the design and development of computer programs. Computer programming is planned for progression, with the constructs of sequence, selection and repetition running throughout. Students progress from simple sequential statements in programming on to designing and developing functions and procedures using variables.
They also learn about data, what forms data takes (e.g. text, images, audio and video) and how it is represented and transmitted in computer systems.
Computational Thinking underpins the curriculum. The fundamental principles of decomposition, abstraction, pattern spotting and logical thinking are designed in, enabling pupils to problem solve, design solutions and use technology creatively. The curriculum enables repeated practice of computational thinking skills. e.g. students are asked to design algorithms (using decomposition) prior to writing computer programs.
How are students assessed in computing?
Students are assessed by using student progress trackers informed by end of unit assessment guidance and associated end of unit assessment tests. The trackers enable students to identify any gaps in their knowledge, understanding and skills and take appropriate action. Each lesson revisits learning from the prior session at the start. Any gaps in skills or learning are addressed by adjusting planning going forward.
How does computing support learning in other areas of the curriculum?
Computing and maths
Computing requires similar skills to those used in maths, as it requires the use of logic when trying to solve problems. Mathematical processes are found at the heart of computer algorithms, while computing can also help to build an understanding of data and how to use it.
Computing and English
The theory behind computing syntax, how data is ordered and understood, is closely linked to the syntax of the English language. An understanding of the basics can help students with their sentence structure, as it encourages them to give careful consideration to how sentences are formed. For example, does a line include all of the necessary information and does it drive the desired thought process among those reading it?
How can students extend and deepen their knowledge in computing?
Students can take part in a number of competitions such as:
FIRST LEGO LEAGUE: the world’s largest STEM programme, delivered in the UK by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). FIRST LEGO LEAGUE is a real-world life skills programme, involving robotics and coding, real-world research, and competition.
UK Bebras: an international initiative aiming to promote computer science and computational thinking among school students at all ages.
The British Informatics Olympiad (BIO): an annual competition in computer programming for secondary schools and sixth form colleges. BIO aims to encourage students to take an active interest in information technology, to allow them to meet and exchange ideas and develop programming skills.
Cyberfirst: Inspired and led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, CyberFirst is a programme of opportunities to help young people explore their passion for tech by introducing them to the fast-paced world of cyber security. Each course is designed to inspire and encourage students from all backgrounds to explore and consider careers in cyber security, offering young people with potential the support, skills, experience and exposure needed to be the future first line of defence in our CyberFirst world.
How does computing link to the world of work?
The digital sector is not only one of the most productive and innovative parts of the British economy in its own right, but it has also propelled technological change in every other industry in some shape or form. In many jobs, basic digital literacy is now a necessity, and for those with more advanced skills, the transformative opportunities exist not only within the technology sector itself, but in other innovative industries, such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing. The digital sector therefore plays an essential role in solving the growth and productivity problem.
Digital technologies are transforming our lives and are expected to change the types of jobs that will be available in future. Whilst there has been a rapid increase in the demand for data science skills, there is uncertainty about when and which jobs will cease and what new types of jobs there will be. Computing is of enormous importance to the economy, and the role of Computer Science as a discipline itself and as an ‘underpinning’ subject across science and engineering is growing rapidly.
How does computing link to the three strands of our core values?
Learning for the Future
Outstanding Personal Achievement
Students understand the importance of the journey of education and play an active role in all lessons. Students are taught the history of computer science and the reasons why computer science is critical to the national infrastructure.
St Martin’s aims to enhance students’ enjoyment, resilience, understanding and attainment in computing by empowering and equipping students to become computing masters. Mastery in computing means acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject. It is demonstrated by how skilfully a student can apply their learning in computing to new situations in unfamiliar contexts (versatile).
We use growth mindset and problem-solving approaches that enable students to develop resilience, persistence, independence, and confidence. All students are encouraged to believe in their ability to master computing and are empowered to succeed through curiosity, tinkering, perseverance, and teamwork.
Computer Science follows the school’s curriculum implementation of shared learning intentions, retrieval practice and effective assessment so that our students can master this challenging but rewarding subject.
Shared Learning Intentions: Learning intentions are shared with students at the beginning of each lesson and are revisited at the end of the lesson in a plenary to establish what has been learned and the starting point for the next lesson. During Year 10, the grounding in coding in Python is taught in a methodical sequence of lessons and students have access to a range of online resources, leading to an end of year test in computational thinking and programming skills. During Year 11, their programming skills are developed further, and students work towards the paper in computing concepts, which is more theoretical in nature. Should students decide to go on to take an A-level in computer science, they will learn additional computing paradigms, such as object orientated programming and functional programming. Computing follows a linear progression pathway as all new learning blocks require a solid understanding of the programming taught in year 10.
Retrieval practice: Each lesson is linked to the foundations of writing code and extended with new programming constructs, so that the coding skills are constantly practised and embedded in the student’s tool kit. Consequently, there is a lot of repetition in year 10 to make sure that the cornerstones of this subject are fully understood.
Feedback loop and effective assessment: We use a range of assessment strategies to support our students’ learning in Computer Science such as verbal feedback during the lessons and written feedback following on from termly tests. At the end of each assessment, students are given a DIRT activity which comprises of a set of questions to test and extend their knowledge. The teacher then structures future lessons to address areas where understanding is weak. However, the most important tool is giving the students the ability to read the different types of syntax and logical errors from the integrated development environment. Students then have the freedom to both make and fix the errors in their own code. Students are always encouraged to be meticulous in their approach to coding enabling them to take ownership of their development, which in turn improves their practice.
Teacher’s subject knowledge: As well as having over 20 years teaching experience, the computer science teacher continues to improve his own understanding of the subject and is currently doing a master’s in computer science. He is also an ambassador for the examination board, AQA, as well as being on the British Computer Society’s steering committee for computer science education in England.
Personal development in curriculum implementation: Computer Science incorporates the school’s THRIVE philosophy of teamwork, honesty, resilience, independence, versatility and empathy. In addition, it develops skills in logical thinking, sequencing, reasoning, evaluation and the determination needed to overcome initial difficulties and arrive at solutions. These skills, combined with the technical knowledge, often lead on to highly paid employment opportunities in fields as diverse as cyber, AI, data analytics, cloud architecture, robotics, cybernetics, mechatronics, quantum computing and engineering.
Computer science is the new Latin for the 21st century. Students studying this subject gain access to the top degrees; both computer science related and otherwise. Computer science is a very popular subject at both GCSE and A-level and results at both GCSE and A-level are significantly above national averages. Students have gone on to study engineering, cyber security, physics and computer science amongst other subjects at top universities. The department offers a range of trips such as Engineering at the University of Cambridge , AI at Google Deepmind, Autonomous weapons at Qinetiq, the Royal Society for an AI conference.