Bolton School Sixth Form Boys

Computing

Why Study Computing at Bolton School?

Computing is a Natural Science - it is not just a variation on ICT; as such it is a very challenging subject at A-level, including many new concepts.  It also includes a significant amount of project work.  Here at Bolton School you would be taught and supported in a small group by specialist staff with 20-plus years of experience of teaching programming, as well as subject relevant degrees.  Although we are a minority subject, a high proportion of our past ‘A2’ students have gone on to degrees in Computer Science at selective universities and careers in the practical aspects of Computing and IT.  At either level, Computing supports many future careers, and the practical aspects of the course are excellent preparation for project work in future university studies.

What will I study?

The first paper concerns the fundamentals of programming, including the systematic approach to problem solving, problem abstraction and data structures.  It touches on the theory of Computation, and involves learning both to program and to write code in ‘PASCAL’. 

The second paper covers data representation, computer systems and their architecture at hardware level as well as networking and communications.  Material on the wider consequences of the use of computing is also included. 

The first practical paper is an onscreen programming exercise. Pupils must write original code in a high-level language to solve a problem.  This will be taken as an online exam, where questions are also answered about the candidate’s solution to the problem, using the materials provided in advance.  Material from the first theory module may overlap with this.  

At ‘A’ level the practical module involves each student finding, realising and documenting a solution to a serious, real-world problem by producing original program code in a suitable environment. The solution will span all aspects from analysis of the problem, through design to implementation, testing, and evaluation.  All aspects must be clearly documented.  This project is worth 20% of the total A-Level mark, so is extremely important, and spans most of the upper sixth year in parallel with theory work, so it is not for the faint-hearted!

Desirable requirements

There are no formal GCSE requirements, though students should note that this is a rigorous academic course, requiring numeracy and strong logical abilities.  The emphasis in the teaching is on understanding rather than simple learning, as computing as a discipline is extremely fast moving.  Strong candidates are those who can quickly infer patterns from information they are presented with, and then extrapolate these to deal with new situations.  Although candidates are taught to write programs in PASCAL, the practical exercise itself is self-led, so a high level of determination is required to complete it to the standard required in the time available. Computing is not offered to GCSE, so the level of effort required right from the start of this course is one of the highest.  Those aiming to study the subject at university should seriously consider studying Maths to A-Level.

How will I be assessed?

AS:  One theory and one practical paper taken at end of Year 12: 

A-Level:  Two theory papers plus a practical project taken at end of Year 13: the Practical Project runs throughout Year 13

Note:  By default in Computing, pupils will sit the AS assessments and may still continue to A-level – though this will ‘over-ride’ the AS result in all cases.  (At A-level there are 2 papers and a project.)  This is a new style specification since 2015 but is fully co-teachable between AS and A-Level.

Where will it lead?

In a fast-moving world, these are many and varied future applications of the subject, and no-one with advanced computing skills will ever be short of opportunities to apply them.