Call for computer science to be added to list of EBacc subjects

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Computer science should be included within the English Baccalaureate league table measure and also as part of the government's EBacc Certificate (EBC) examination reforms, a report has concluded.

Computer science should be included within the English Baccalaureate league table measure and also as part of the government’s EBacc Certificate (EBC) examination reforms.

The call comes from a new report – published by the BCS, the chartered institute for ICT – which includes contributions from leading ICT firms and top universities among others.

The Case for Computer Science as an Option in the English Baccalaureate says that some of the new computer science GCSEs require a “higher degree
of intellectual depth to achieve grade C than is required by some physics GCSEs”.

The report points to education secretary Michael Gove’s speech at January’s BETT Show, when he said: “If new computer science GCSEs are developed that meet high standards of intellectual depth and practical value, we will certainly consider including computer science as an option in the English Baccalaureate.” 

The report argues that computer science has met this challenge, stating: “Computer science is a distinct science and engineering discipline which, when realised as an appropriate key stage 3 and 4 curriculum, equips pupils with the core knowledge, competency and capabilities to support progression into further education and a professional career.”

It adds: “There are new GCSE qualifications in computer science that would easily qualify for inclusion in the EBacc if they were eligible, because they meet exacting standards of intellectual rigour and support progression into further education and a professional career. Also, it is feasible and desirable to develop a computer science EBC qualification that could be introduced at the same time as the other EBCs. This could be developed from any of the GCSEs that already exceed our EBacc benchmark.”

The government unveiled plans  earlier this term to scrap GCSEs and replace them with EBCs.

EBCs in the core subjects will be rolled out in 2015 with first exams in 2017. Courses in other EBacc subjects – history, geography and languages – will follow.

The new EBCs will feature one end-of-course exam, although Mr Gove said that “where individual practical work needs to be assessed we will be flexible”.

The proposals will also see one exam board delivering each subject, a move designed to stop competition between awarding bodies. Mr Gove has invited exam boards to offer “wholly new qualifications”.

Bill Mitchell, director of the BCS Academy of Computing, explained: “When the EBacc was introduced computer science did not exist as a separate GCSE subject, but now there are at least two that we have shown far exceed the standards of rigour necessary to justify their inclusion in the EBacc. 

“We also now have the (recent) Royal Society and Next Gen reports explaining that computer science is a rigorous, intellectually challenging subject that should be taught in schools and that should be included as an EBacc option. We’re therefore calling on Mr Gove to follow up on his promise.”

Mr Mitchell added: “We need computer science to be a significant part of a renewed ICT curriculum that also encompasses digital literacy and information technology. All of these are important, but without computer science in the EBacc there just will not be enough secondary schools willing to take on the challenge of introducing such a rigorous subject at GCSE level. 

“That will be bad news for UK plc at a time when we need to out-educate all of our international competitors to remain competitive.”

To read the BCS report, visit http://academy.bcs.org/EBacc


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