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AS / A Level computing :: Asperger Home Education

 

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 Post subject: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:47 pm 
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My son has decided to skip over GCSE ICT because he thinks it is below his technical ability. His plan is to study AS Level computing then progress to A Level. He is reading the course textbook A Level Computing by PM Heathcote and S Langfield but has had difficulty in finding an exam centre that offers the subject. The local colleges only offer an A Level in ICT that my son says he doesn't want because it doesn't include programming which he enjoys. One of the college tutors informed him that A Level computing is one of the rarer subjects because most colleges have now replaced it with vocational courses. Is anybody able to help?


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#2  PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:48 pm 
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Both myself and my son have A Levels in computing but we both did them at college. My son got an A grade last year and says that a really high level of exam technique is needed to get the higher grades. He was given extra help at college with this because the staff knew that he knew the subject material well but he didn't have the knowhow of how to correctly answer exam questions to get full marks.

I think there was a cram college in Hertfordshire that offered an A Level in computing and admitted private candidates. You could also ask the exam boards for a list of exam centres that offer the subject then contact them individually to find out if they will take private candidates.


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#3  PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:16 pm 
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Location: South of Hampshire
Computing is indeed one of the rarer A Levels. Only 5,610 candidates took the computing A Level exams in 2007 which was fewer than the number that took Spanish. Last year Neil McBride, a principal lecturer in computing, from De Montfort University criticised the computing A Level as being tediously boring with a curriculum that was tired and dated in an article published on the website. I haven't really investigated the computing A Level curriculum recently but if there is much truth to what Neil McBride says then it could partially explain why very few colleges still offer the computing A Level course, and instead offer the ICT A Level or vocational courses. I have a suspicion that independent schools with 6th forms are more likely to offer a computing A Level than state run further education colleges because the computing A Level is perceived as being of higher academic calibre than the ICT A Level or vocational courses. This could work to your advantage if you want to sit the exam because independent schools tend to be more willing to let private candidates into their exam halls than state schools and colleges are.

If you have no success in finding an exam centre that offers a computing A Level then there are a number of alternative options.

1. Check out the ICT A Level. You might find it more interesting or relevant to the real world than the computing A Level. According to Neil McBride the ICT A Level curriculum contains programming although I haven't compared the quantity and depth of programming between the computing and ICT curricula.

2. Enquire at a further education college. Some colleges are willing to allow under 16 year olds to study A Level courses. They usually study in evening classes alongside the mature students rather than in the day classes for the 16 to 19 year olds for some reason only known to the college. Most colleges now offer services to 14 to 16 year olds but they are generally vocational rather than A Level courses. Free college education is officially only available to 16 to 19 year olds, so if a college allows someone under 16 to study an A Level course then they will probably charge the same fees that adults have to pay.

3. Change to a vocational course. Some vocational courses such as the ECDL or basic website design are probably beneath your ability but a number of advanced vocational courses exist such as Microsoft, Linux, and networking certifications. They are offered by specialist course providers rather than colleges so fees are charged. However, anybody can take them without any previous qualifications such as GCSEs and I believe there is no minimum age limit. These advanced vocational courses are recognised by industry and employers who sometimes value them more than academic qualifications. You might find them more interesting and relevant to the real world than A Levels so they are definitely worth investigating.


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#4  PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:57 am 
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Many thanks for all this information. We shall investigate the other options Canopus has provided. The vocational courses could be interesting and are possibly overlooked by the HE community.

My son would be grateful for more information either for the computing or ICT A Levels or any other high ability vocational courses.


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#5  PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:39 pm 
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[QUOTE=AS Home Ed]My son has decided to skip over GCSE ICT because he thinks it is below his technical ability. His plan is to study AS Level computing then progress to A Level. He is reading the course textbook A Level Computing by PM Heathcote and S Langfield but has had difficulty in finding an exam centre that offers the subject. The local colleges only offer an A Level in ICT that my son says he doesn't want because it doesn't include programming which he enjoys. One of the college tutors informed him that A Level computing is one of the rarer subjects because most colleges have now replaced it with vocational courses. Is anybody able to help?[/QUOTE]

Hi.
I joined this forum because I saw your post and I may be able to give you some advice. I am a teacher in a further education college, teaching A level Computing and ICT, in addition to some level 1 and 2 (GCSE standard) courses.

It is true that A level Computing is a rare subject but not because it's 'replaced' by vocational courses. ICT is a more popular option with students as most of them are not looking for the programming aspect which your son is. ICT is seen as being the 'easier' subject, although I have students who would disagree with that statement, and Computing is a science in itself, so we always ask for at least a B in GCSE Maths or a science as there's a lot of logic involved in the course.

Is your son still in school? A lot of colleges offer a National Diploma in ICT which is worth 3 A levels. This will cover much the same content as the Computing A level with additions and in places in more depth. I know that there is programming involved and this may be a course that he is interested in. If you contact your local colleges, I'm sure there will be someone who can give you more information on what they offer, both full time and part time.

If you have any questions about either of the A levels or a vocational course, please don't hesitate to ask. :)


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#6  PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:58 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#7  PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:58 am 
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My son agrees with many comments Neil McBride says about A Level computing. He personally thought the course was quite tedious and boring with subject material that was tired and dated. The course didn't cover any of the exciting developments in computing such as games, multimedia, software for mobile phones, computer aided design, and web applications - all the things that the younger generation are interested in. The module about the internet appeared to be over 10 years old and didn't cover things like blogs and forums or server side scripting languages. The teaching materials were somewhat biased towards Microsoft software and there was absolutely no mention of open source software anywhere. The programming module assumed the use of Pascal as a programming language. I learnt to program in Pascal as part of my computing A Level back in the 1980s, but I don't think it is used commercially any more. At least my son's teacher introduced the students to more modern programming languages or those popular in industry such as C, C++, Java, PHP, and Python.

I asked my son if he would recommend A Level computing to anyone. His answer was that if you really want to learn about computers then you can find plenty of exciting and informative books on the shelves of a PC World store.


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 Post subject: Re: AS / A Level computing
Post Number:#8  PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:38 pm 
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