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21 March 2022

The importance of CS extra-curricular activities at Post 16

Javier De Las Heras profile image
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Javier De Las Heras

When I started at my current school, I had to put together the GCSE and A-Level long term and medium term plan as well as resource it with appropriate, engaging and challenging learning activities. A lot of my time went into that as I wanted a CS curriculum suitable for all students and easy to implement for non-specialists within my department. By the end of the academic year, we ended up with the right SoWs to maximise learning. However, without enrichment, we didn’t have a comprehensive and holistic offer really!.

The main obstacle for extra-curricular opportunities is lack of time, resources or budget, however, there are many things we can do to address these obstacles. As a department we looked into this very carefully as we did not want to bite more that we could chew. The whole team (I wanted ownership and commitment by all members) came up with the following ideas over a two week period:

  • Coding taster sessions for A-Level students not doing Computer Science
  • Coding enrichment sessions specifically for girls in year 10-12
  • University Ambassadors visiting and doing masterclasses on their specialisms
  • Join and invite STEM Ambassadors
  • Visits to local universities (Faculties of Maths/Computing)
  • Hackathon in the Summer
  • Physical computing (Local computing hubs can facilitate Raspberry Pi devices, etc)
  • Promote local and national computing competitions (Eg; Bebras Computing Challenge)
  • Liaise with RAF or other external agencies for STEM experiences (Bursaries available)
  • Year 12 running workshops for year 11 pupils

These further experiences are paramount to learners, especially in deprived areas, in order to close the gap for vulnerable students and ensure the UK has the workforce needed for the future. The good news is that UCAS data published in 2021 shows that acceptances to computer science courses in 2020 are almost 50% higher than a decade earlier (up from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020). Data released in 2021 also shows the popularity of A level computer science has increased by 12%, with the share of female students increasing slightly to 15% of the total. However, more work is needed to encourage applications to computer science courses from girls and students from less affluent areas. It took our school 6-8 months to incorporate 6 of these ideas that required little time or resources and were free. The outcome was very encouraging; 50% of students chose GCSE CS as an option and 47% of those were girls. At A-Level, the numbers tripled with girls opting for the first time. It was very encouraging!

There is one of the enrichment experiences mentioned that was highly effective, engaging and at no cost; This is the University Ambassadors Programme by the university Of Birmingham. Students in year 12 commented on how they brought the curriculum more alive with varied learning activities linked to instil curiosity and pursue a CS career. One of the student ambassadors said at the end of the experience: "My experience of teaching at The Khalsa Academy Wolverhampton has been wonderful; the teaching staff and pupils have been welcoming. The teachers in the department have cultivated very comfortable environments in which to teach. They've helped me progress and understand more about T&L; I'm grateful to have had the opportunities to work with students at a forward-looking school and to help inspire students to go further into the field of computer science."

I am including here some related links in order to guide your choices in terms of extra-curricular activities:

What do you do for upper school and sixth form enrichment at your school?


Javier De Las Heras
13/05/2022 08:23

Physical computing for A-Level students

By incorporating Raspberry PIs, Picos, etc in the classroom, students can experience computing in a hands-on way that allows them to design and create interactive objects and therefore be more engaged and inspired. By using digital programming to control a tangible object, the learning process is enhanced through a constructionist approach. You can borrow physical computing devices from your local computing hub. Find your local hub here.

Physical computing devices available through computing hubs.

These types of experiences lead to students who are better prepared for the future world. According to recent polls, the most in demand jobs over the next few years are in the areas of application software development, medical services and nursing. All fields that require computing skills in different ways. Students preparing for these fields benefit from experiencing computing and computer science in their education in both an online and physical way to ensure they are ready as they enter the workforce. This is furthered by the top skills employers are looking for.

Ways to Include Physical Computing in Your Classroom

Tackling real-world problems is an engaging way to bring physical computing into the classroom. Sensors, motors and output displays allow interaction with the real world. Using sensors and an open source microcontroller, students can create an automatic watering system for household plants or use sensors and conductive thread working together to create wearable clothing that reacts to the environment. Adding the physical aspect to computing opens many new learning possibilities for students.

Utilizing physical computing in the classroom allows students to explore new careers they might not experience or think require STEAM skills. Use this year’s Computer Science Education Week to think about how to incorporate physical computing into your lesson plans and help students go beyond the computer screen and get hands-on.

“Why Teachers Need to Incorporate Physical Computing into Computer Science Lessons”
by Jenny Nash, Leanna Prater

Javier De Las Heras
17/05/2022 08:15


If you are planning to have a hackathon at your school, maybe after exams have finished, this is a simple guide to help teachers. Click here.

I am planning one with my year 10 & 12 students to help them with their programming projects (yr12) and to engage them into the subject even more (yr10).

Some tips from the article:

  • Choose a theme
  • Research other’s hackathons before you start planning
  • Find sponsors
  • Find sponsors
  • Find support staff and teachers to help, including SLT
  • Have a plan. Organise it as a department or cross department
  • Invite students

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