Government watchdog will assess the programming skills in GCSE computer science after coursework leak

The coursework element may never return, Ofqual says

Digital skills

Ofqual has announced that the computer science GCSE may become an exam-only assessment in future, following the news that the supervised coursework assessment was leaked online.

The 2019 and 2020 assessments have been withdrawn from the syllabus after it surfaced that they were leaked online and downloaded "thousands of times," with the assumption being it was almost exclusively by students studying for the qualification. This means the GCSE will have to become a test-only subject to prevent pupils cheating or leaking the proposed coursework-based assessment.

"Practical programming skills are an important aspect of the computer science GCSE and we have carefully considered how best to assess them," Sally Collier, Ofqual Chief Regulator said. "Reflecting on how programming could be effectively assessed, previous experience with this qualification, and the views of those within the sector, we believe that in order to secure valid assessment and manage the risk of malpractice, programming skills should be assessed by examination."

As a result, Ofqual has also proposed that all computer science students due to take their exams in 2022 (those that are starting the course in 2020) will need to complete a written exam that will involve designing, writing, testing and refining a program that "achieves a task" or "solves a problem." It added that the original assessment criteria and objective weightings that existed as part of the supervised coursework project would be reinstated.

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"We are keen to encourage innovation and in our consultation, launched today, we propose granting exam boards discretion over the form of exam assessment they offer," Collier continued. "We are proposing a timetable that ensures exam boards have sufficient time to determine their approach and that teachers can select and prepare to deliver the approach that best meets the needs of their students. I encourage anyone with an interest in GCSE computer science to respond to our consultation."

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