Through CAS members’ comments, it is clear that some students and their parents have an antithesis towards the NEA; there was a perceived futility. Some of the negative attitudes arise from the mid-course changes during early 2018 but a lot stem from the misconception that, because there are no marks or grades associated with the NEA, it has no value. This document contains statements that can be used when communicating the value of the NEA to students and parents.
The GCSE in Computer Science requires students to undertake 20 hours of practical work - previously called Non Examined Assessment (NEA). It is now the Programming Project.
The NEA is an opportunity to ensure all pupils following a GCSE in Computer Science receive an entitlement to learn about computer programming both practically and creatively in a supportive environment.
The Awarding Organisations (AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas and OCR) provide their guidance and requirements regarding the Programming Project. This is based on the Ofqual requirements that 20 timetabled hours must be set aside for candidates to engage with the Programming Project. Please note, the Awarding Organisations vary in the way in which they present the Programming Project – please check the conditions associated with your provider.
In January 2018, Ofqual took the decision to remove all requirements for examination conditions and limitation on teachers discussing solutions with other teachers. In September 2018 there was a further reduction of the limitations:
- Awarding Organisations are now able to provide access to the NEA in Year 10 as well as or instead of Year 11
- For June 2019 and June 2020 examinations, Awarding Organisations can set whole projects or a series of smaller activities providing they meet the learning outcomes prescribed by the specification.
- The Programming Project is conducted under normal classroom conditions whereby the teacher can inform, guide and support students during the programming activities.
The Programming Project is compulsory but it has no direct effect on a student’s grade. Even though there are no marks associated with it, it makes a valuable contribution to a student’s learning and preparation for the examination.
Why the NEA/Programming Project is valuable...
Practical work is essential to computer science; it is hard to imagine a student gaining a deep understanding of the subject without ever having programmed a computer. Practical work is educationally vital and reinforces theoretical concepts. The Programming Project strongly supports the students’ preparations for the examination and is therefore an opportunity as well as a requirement.
The CAS Assessment Working Group identified six topics as occurring in both the NEA activity and in the written examination.
During the programming projects students are given the opportunity to:
Note: in this analysis the brackets contain exam question numbers from summer 2018
- recognise and use basic programming constructs, including selection, data types, and variable names. At least six marks from the AQA exams (2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 6.2, 6.3) and at least four marks from the Edexcel exams (3ai, 3aii, 3aiii) addressed the topic this year.
- read and trace both pseudocode and computer code. At least 10 marks from the OCR exams (2ai, 2aii, 2b, 2ci, 2cii, 7ai) and at least eight marks from the Eduqas exams (4) addressed this topic.
- design, develop, and manipulate 1-dimensional and 2-dimensional data structures. At least four marks from the AQA exams (10.1, 10.3) and at least four marks from the OCR exams (1c) addressed this topic.
- identify and correct errors or shortcomings in their own program code. At least six marks from the Eduqas exams (7) and at least five marks from the Edexcel exams (4) addressed this topic.
- decompose their solution (modularisation) into procedures, functions, or objects in the design of the project solutions. At least six marks from the Edexcel exams (5a, 5b, 5c) and at least six marks from the OCR exams (4bi, 4bii) addressed this topic.
- design, develop, write, and test algorithms. All of the Awarding Organisations’ exams address this topic. At least 12 marks from the Eduqas exam (8), at least 13 marks from the AQA exam (7, 9.4), at least 9 marks from the OCR exam (6b, 8), and at least 9 marks from the Edexcel exam
The requirements and scope of the Programming Projects are such that students’ engagement with the activity should have a positive impact on their performance in the examinations. The regulations require that the Programming Project and the examination overlap in the knowledge, understanding, and skills developed.
Our analysis shows that between 24 and 42 percent of the examination marks (awarded in summer 2018 examination papers) are associated with the same knowledge, understanding, and skills as that developed by engaging with the NEA programming project. Carrying out the Programming Project activity is a valuable opportunity to develop understanding of the concepts of:
- code constructs;
- code comprehension through predicting the outcomes of code and code tracing;
- the constructs of 1 and 2-dimensional data structures such as arrays and lists;
- finding and fixing errors (debugging);
- modularisation of programs and algorithms through procedures, functions and objects;
- writing algorithms to solve a problem from first principles.
CAS Assessment Working Group