Today is GCSE results day, and with it comes the usual amount of excitement and trepidation as thousands of young people in the UK find out whether they got the grades they wanted. So here’s a massive CONGRATULATIONS from everyone at the Raspberry Pi Foundation to all the students out there who have worked so hard to get their GCSEs, A levels, BTECs, IBs, and a host of other qualifications.
We also want to highlight the efforts of the amazing teachers who have spent countless hours thinking up new ways to bring their subjects to life and inspire the next generation.
Looking at the initial data from the Department for Education, it’s clear that:
- The number of students entering the Computer Science GCSE has gone up by 7.6%, so this is the sixth year running that the subject has gained popularity — great news!
- The number of girls entering the Computer Science GCSE has grown by 14.5% compared to last year!
- The proportion of Computer Science GCSE students achieving top grades (9 to 7) has gone up, and there’s been an even bigger increase in the proportion achieving a good pass (9 to 4) — amazing!
Views from teachers
I caught up with four former teachers on our team to reflect on these findings and their own experiences of results days…
What thoughts and emotions are going through your head as a teacher on results day?
Ben: It’s certainly a nerve-wracking time! You hope that your students have reached the potential that you know that they are capable of. You log onto the computer the second you wake up to see if you’ve got access to the exam boards results page yet. It was always great being there to see their faces, to give them a high five, and to support them with working out their options going forward.
Rebecca: I think that head teachers want you to be worried about targets and whether you’ve met them, but as a teacher, when you look at each individual students’ results, you see their journey, and you know how much effort they’ve put in. You are just really proud of how well they have done, and it’s lovely to have those post-results conversations and celebrate with them. It makes it all worth it.
Allen: I liken the feeling to that of an expectant father! You have done as much as you can to make sure things run smoothly, you’ve tried to keep all those involved calm, and now the moment is here and you just want everything to be OK.
Carrie Anne: As a teacher, I always felt both nerves and excitement for results day, probably more so than my students did. Sleepless nights in the run-up to the big day were common! But I always enjoyed seeing my students, who I’d worked with since they were youngsters, see the culmination of their hard work into something useful. I always felt proud of them for how far they’d come.
There has been an increased uptake of students taking computing-related subjects at GCSE since last year. What do you think about this?
Ben: It’s great news and shows that schools are realising how important the subject is to prepare our young people for the future workplace.
Carrie Anne: It’s a sign that our message — that all students should have access to a Computing qualification of rigour, and that there is a willing and ready audience hungry for the opportunity to study Computing at a deeper level — is making traction. My hope is to see this number increase as teachers take part in the free National Centre for Computing Education professional development and certification over the coming years.
Rebecca: I think it’s a step in the right direction, but we definitely have a long way to go. We must make sure that computing is at the forefront of any curriculum model in our secondary schools, which is why the National Centre for Computing Education is so important. In particular, we must support schools in ensuring that KS3 computing is given the time it needs to give students the grounding for GCSE.
Allen: I agree with Rebecca: more needs to be done about teacher training and helping schools see the overall benefit to students in undertaking such subjects. Schools that are investing time in nurturing these subjects in their curriculum provision are seeing them become more popular and enjoying success. Patience is the key for senior leadership teams, and teachers need support and to have confidence in their ability to continue to deliver the subject.
Why is it important that more students learn about computing?
Rebecca: Computing feeds into so much of our everyday lives, and we must prepare our young people for a world that doesn’t exist yet. Computing teaches you logical thinking and problem-solving. These skills are transferable and can be used in all sorts of situations. Computing also teaches you essential digital literacy skills that can help you keep safe whilst using online tools.
Ben: For me, it’s really important that young people pick this subject to help them understand the world around them. They’ll hopefully then be able to see the potential of computing as a power for good and harness it, rather than becoming passive consumers of technology.
Carrie Anne: Following on from what Ben said, I also think it’s important that technology developed in the future reflects the people and industries using it. The tech industry needs to become more diverse in its workforce, and non-technical fields will begin to use more technology in the coming years. If we equip young people with a grounding in computing, they will be equipped to enter these fields and find solutions to technical solutions without relying on a small technical elite.
Imagine I’m a GCSE student who has just passed my Computer Science exams. What resources should I look at if I want to learn more about computing with the Raspberry Pi Foundation for free?
Rebecca: Isaac Computer Science would be the best place to start, because it supports students through their A level Computer Science. If you wanted to experiment and try some physical computing, then you could take a look at the Projects page of the Raspberry Pi Foundation website. You can filter this page by ‘Software type: Python’ and find some ideas to keep you occupied!
Allen: First and foremost, I would advise you to keep your hard-earned coding skills on point, as moving on to the next level of complexity can be a shock. Now is the time to start building on your already sound knowledge and get prepared for A level Computer Science in September. Isaac Computer Science would be a great place to start to undertake some further learning over the summer and prime yourself for further study.
Ben: Same as Rebecca and Allen, I’d be telling you to get started with Isaac Computer Science too. The resources that are being provided for free are second to none, and will really help you get a good feel for what A level Computer Science is all about.
Carrie Anne: Beyond the Raspberry Pi projects site and Isaac Computer Science, I’d recommend getting some face-to-face experience. Every year the Python community holds a conference that’s open to everyone. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills. PyConUK 2019 is taking place in September and has bursaries to support people in full-time education to attend.
We’ve been working on providing support for secondary and GCSE teachers as part of the National Centre for Computing Education this year. Could you talk about the support we’ve got available?
Allen: We’re producing resources to cover the whole range of topics that appear in all the Computing/Computer Science specifications. The aim of these resources is to provide teachers — both experienced and new to the subject — with the support they need to deliver quality, engaging lessons. Founded on sound pedagogical principles and created by a number of well-established teachers, these resources will help reduce workload and increase productivity for teachers, and increase engagement of students. This will ultimately result in some fantastic out-turns for schools, as well as developing confident computing teachers along the way.
Rebecca: As Allen explained, we are busy creating new, free teaching resources for KS3 and GCSE. The units will cover the national curriculum and beyond, and the lessons will be fully resourced. They will be accessible to teachers with varying levels of experience, and there will be lots of support along the way through online courses and face-to-face training if teachers want to know more. Teachers can already take our ‘CS Accelerator’ programme, which is extremely popular and has excellent reviews.
Thanks for your time, everyone!
How was your GCSE results day? Are your students, or young people you know, receiving their results today? Tell us about it in the comments below.