back to article Is your kid looking at GCSE in computer science? It's exam-only from 2022 – Ofqual

GCSE computer science will be exam-only, the UK's education watchdog has said, after concluding it isn’t possible to fairly and reliably assess the secondary school qualification any other way. Ofqual consulted on the planned changes to the GCSE, to be in place for those sitting exams in 2022, last year and has now confirmed …

  1. Rudolph Hucker the Third

    Somehow this reminds me of Hogwarts - with Death-Eaters in charge of the school - students are only expected to have a theoretical knowledge of the Dark Arts.

    Re "schools to issue a statement that confirms that students have been given the chance to design, write, test and refine programs as part of their course of study" -

    "Given a chance" smells like a huge festering ambiguity ...

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      "schools to issue a statement that confirms that students have been given the chance to design, write, test and refine programs as part of their course of study" -.... Given a chance" smells like a huge festering ambiguity ...

      Nor much different to the approach to lab skills for chemistry etc. Exams are generally harder to cheat.

      So this change depends on your point of view. My view is that conventional exams are more a test of memory and technique than talent. Open book testing, or controlled practicals would be better, but that's mostly too much like hard work for exam boards.

      Computer Science GCSE will become a like Music GCSE - some pupils are useless at the real world application and still do well in an exam based on theory and rote learning. And some are brilliant at the real world application, but do poorly in a written test.

      1. ds6 Bronze badge

        I transferred to a new college and had to take a math placement exam because my math credits were non-transferrable. I suck at tests and I always go over the time limits; this time was no different. I placed in the lowest percentile and would have to take 5 math courses (not credits, courses—specifically those 5 to meet both the credit and course requirements) to meet the PREREQUISITES to get the lowest CS degree they offered. After those 5 prerequisite courses I'd have to take another few math credits to go toward the actual degree.

        I said pah to all that and never went back to class, and I now work in a university datacenter. Funny how things work out.

        A reminder that I taught myself programming and light trigonometry in my youth, all for the nobile goal to create (admittedly very bad) computer games.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Exams are generally harder to cheat."

        And that's the issue. Some people will cheat, given the opportunity. So-called league tables have increased the pressure on schools to "do well", which can lead to people on the borderline of maybe cheating being pushed over to the dark side. Sadly, the attempts to stop the cheaters means the trustworthy majority get restricted too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are they going to award marks based on the ability to copy and paste chunks of badly-written code from Stack Overflow?

    1. Stacy

      Re: You missed one...

      Only if they can display no understanding of what it is they copied. But are sure of it's quality because they got it at Stack Overflow :)

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Stop

      Are they going to award marks based on the ability to copy and paste chunks of badly-written code from Stack Overflow?

      I hope not....if that becomes a criteria for getting an IT qualification, then I know some developers who could be in line for an honorary doctorate.

    3. ISYS

      I think that is the point - coursework was cut and paste of badly written code from t'internet. So, as they can't prove the students work is original, they are resorting to a closed exam at the end of the course.

      Computer Science has always been a weird subject to teach in schools - when I was in school (1980s) we all knew more about it than the teachers. The course was a complete farce as we had to demonstrate we knew how to write a For Next loop (when I say write I literally mean it - on paper with a pen) and the rest of the course was identifying a Mouse, a Keyboard etc as input devices and a Monitor and printer as output devices.

      Looking at what my kids are taught today it isn't much further forward and as ever, the kids know more than the teachers.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Computer Science has always been a weird subject to teach in schools - when I was in school (1980s) we all knew more about it than the teachers.

        A blessing and a curse. Whilst the coursework itself was immensely frustrating, I made a fortune moonlighting, coaching the teachers on the material that they were about to deliver in the coming weeks.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Or you get a lecturer like we had in Uxbridge College in the 90s that knew all the old skool stuff but not the new. So was teaching us obsolete shit.

        1. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

          Old skool

          "Or you get a lecturer like we had in Uxbridge College in the 90s that knew all the old skool stuff but not the new. So was teaching us obsolete shit."

          How much fundamental computer science is actually obsolete (as opposed to superficial stuff like the latest programming fad)? Much of it was formulated well before the 90s and is still relevant.

          1. steviebuk Silver badge

            Re: Old skool

            I like retro stuff but when being taught computing, they need to teach what is relevant now that will get you a job. Teaching stuff that was now obsolete like defunct OS's was pointless.

            1. Warm Braw Silver badge

              Re: Old skool

              what is relevant now that will get you a job

              I think you're confusing University with Technical College, though, to be fair, the Universities of today are probably complicit in your confusion.

              If you still want a job in twenty years time when the "defunct OS's" are those of today, or want to be able to contribute to the technology of the future, you need to learn some of the fundamentals. The priniciples of OS design haven't changed a great deal since Multics.

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: Old skool

                And you're confusing IT (how to drive) with programming (how to build a car).

                In today's world, *EVERYBODY* needs to learn IT, it's today's "how to drag a pen across a sheet of paper". Only those with the skills, interests and aptitudes "need" to learn programming, and will most likely do it by themselves.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Old skool

                  ...and is exactly why the article is about Computer Science, an optional subject, and not general IT which all students do at least until they choose there exam courses at 13/14 or so.

                2. Carrot007

                  Re: Old skool

                  > And you're confusing IT (how to drive) with programming (how to build a car).

                  Now this is why nobody likes car analagies.

                  IT (being a passenger and not falling out), Programming (how to drive), electrical engineer in computers (how to build a car). But whatever.

                  1. ds6 Bronze badge
                    Coat

                    Re: Old skool

                    I wouldn't even say that is true for the modern person.

                    IT: Solves common problems through basic knowledge and searching car forums (eg. my steering wheel fell off, my car won't start). Maybe runs a few OEM diagnostics, maybe uses some third-party tools... But usually unpaid for this extra work.

                    Infastructure: Builds and maintains the roads the cars drive on.

                    Programming: Installs custom parts (or prefab/aftermarket parts from CarOverflow) in a car and prays it still runs afterwards.

                    Designer: Makes the car look pretty and gives guidelines for the engineers.

                    Engineer: Building the car to spec.

      3. Persona
        Facepalm

        I briefly worked with a chap who would have failed your written For Next loop test. Every time he programmed a loop he got an out by one error, and on more than one occasion when the error was pointed out to him he would "fix" it ..... and end up with an out by 2 error.

        He didn't work for us for very long.

        1. ds6 Bronze badge

          Our network infastructure guy that programs the vlans, configures the ports, installs switches... doesn't know how DNS wildcards work, and keeps one-liners in a constantly-open Notepad window to copy/paste into some proprietary terminal emulator, because he doesn't know how to use anything else...

          I don't know how he manages it.

      4. TRT Silver badge

        They used to give you a made-up programming language on the paper, IIRC. With rudimentary versions of generic procedural code concepts - a structure for loops, variable assignment, maths and comparison operators' decision tree, user interaction (input/output), flow control... you had to complete the "assignment" there and then using the correct syntax as described. It was just simple stuff like: write a program to repeatedly ask the user for a value (a sum of money in pounds) and return that value with VAT added at a rate of 15%. The program should exit if supplied with a value of 0.

        It wasn't so much to test your knowledge of a particular language, but to test your understanding and ability to use basic concepts. It wouldn't be very good if they said "write a Python script to do this task..."

        I wonder if they could do the same for object oriented code now? Hm. Well, I don't suppose it's that different really.

        Now if they wanted to test your ability to work as a developer nowadays it would be something like;

        "Outline the code blocks required to perform the task of displaying prices (Part A) with and without VAT at 20%. (Part B) Using your answer to part A, prepare a KANBAN board and write a hypothetical user story arising from round 1 acceptance testing that includes a role-feature-reason justification for initiating a new code iteration cycle in the scrum."

        1. David Roberts Silver badge
          WTF?

          Developer?

          "Outline the code blocks required to perform the task of displaying prices (Part A) with and without VAT at 20%. (Part B) Using your answer to part A, prepare a KANBAN board and write a hypothetical user story arising from round 1 acceptance testing that includes a role-feature-reason justification for initiating a new code iteration cycle in the scrum."

          Well, I'll never get a job again (not that I want one).

          Didn't understand a word. Which may, of course, be to my immense credit.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: Developer?

            I Google'd "KANBAN board", saw the words "agile project management" used to describe it, and decided I didn't want to know any more about it.

            1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

              Re: Developer?

              Kanban boards are fine tools for the right situation. They are indeed pretty much a ticketing system, and you've probably used one. Most short order kitchens use one.

              It's not about the tool, it's a way of modelling a live process. In the kitchen example you might have a single written order that several people want to look at, and it's a waste of time to have someone read it out to you. Same way for assigning coding tasks, cleaning rosters etc.

              They are mainly effective when you have an already efficient self aware workforce, and zero use if you have to do any explanation about them each time someone wants to use them.

              They are simple enough for a four year old to use, hence the appeal to manglement types. They might not understand the words on the post-its stuck to the whiteboard, but they do sound like good things.

          2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: Developer? - Didn't understand a word.

            I didn't understand it because for me the word "Kanban" is the Japanese for "job ticket" and the Kanban board is where the factory job tickets are posted so as each worker becomes free he or she can collect a new job ticket and go off and do it.

            So as I read it the code monkeys collect a new job ticket, do it, and then apparently go and play Rugby in order to help management think of a reason for writing more code.

            It makes as much sense as anything I've read about how to develop, though rather more than the manager who told me "there are too many bugs in our code so we must stop sending updates to our customers until we have fixed all of them."

        2. Random Handle

          >They used to give you a made-up programming language on the paper, IIRC.

          I quite like the (AQA) course - it's difficult in comparison to some of the other GCSEs my daughters are doing. They use psuedo-code and flow charts for sketching - then write it in C, Java and Python. Most of the content is really fundamentals of computer science though, the programming project is only 20 hours officially.

          You get a sense of the course priorities and weightings here:

          https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/computer-science-and-it/gcse/computer-science-8520/specification-at-a-glance

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Most of the content is really fundamentals of computer science though,"

            Which is what it should be. Very few kids leaving school at 16 with a CompSci GCSE are going to walk into a programming job. They need to go on to A levels and college/university where they can learn more.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I think that is the point - coursework was cut and paste of badly written code from t'internet."

        I think the initial point was that they wanted something more rigorous than the previous IT BTEC which the IT teacher at my son's school advertised the subject at the "GCSE choices" parents evening as being "a great choice because its all coursework which you can submit as many times as you want until you get an A"

        1. TRT Silver badge

          while ((grade < 'A') && (days_before_exam_submissions_close ≥1)) {

          grade = show_tutor(coursework);

          }

          1. Law

            @TRT

            "while ((grade < 'A') && (days_before_exam_submissions_close ≥1)) {

            grade = show_tutor(coursework);

            }"

            I'm afraid you failed your exam... Here's the following marks breakdown:

            - Variable and methods not camel case

            - Opening brackets should go on the next new line

            - Operators should have a single space either side

            - variable names should not be overly long

            Of course, this is exactly why judging understanding of programming basics at GCSE shouldn't be exam based... Not because it's harder, but because even if the student gets it right fundamentally, the exam board will eventually make sure assessment is so narrow you will need to parse a style guide and be a robot to get full marks.

      6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "the kids know more than the teachers."

        My experience is that the kids only think they know more than the teachers. Yes, some kids are a whizz at programming, but get them to write the code in a structured, maintainable and documented way, and they don't have a clue. It's all in their heads. A good teacher will guide those kids, hopefully without the kids getting frustrated at having to slow down a bit.

    4. Anonymous Bullard

      Bonus points for copying the code in the SO question, rather than the answer.

    5. LateAgain

      You're not supposed to learn that until after getting a job :-)

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Douchus McBagg

    pffft, does it matter any more?

    Borland "Turbo" pascal on an RM Nimbus 80286@10Mhz (the three "fast" machines in the lab), and the rest being the older 80186 version. could they even run windows or was it MS-DOG only? I remember "lemonade stand" and "trains".

    compute the science out of that you little squirt and realise how good/easy you have it now.

    I had to inter-op between that crap at school, and Hisoft pascal on my home A1200 68EC020@14Mhz using PC formatted DD 720kilobyte floppy disks.

    ah the days of performance parity/sparring between 68k and x86. with Mips, Sparc, Alpha, and Power etc, being ethereal god-like cpu archs. that you only read about.

    My dad would be all, "where's your homework?" and i'd just hold up an unlabelled disk (that was actually part of a zip-spanned copy of wolf3d). He'd just throw his hands in the air in despair. good times.

    little did we know it would all boil down into the hard nugget of consumerist locked out crap. How do you inspire kids to give a crap enough to get their hands dirty now, when they just have to shout at alexa?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

      'A1200 68EC020@14Mhz' You mean the Amiga.

      'How do you inspire kids to give a crap enough to get their hands dirty now, when they just have to shout at alexa?' I don't know. Why say Alexa when you can say 'Scalable Neural Architecture with a Voice Driven Interface'?

      1. Alt C

        Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

        Back in the late 80's I wrote wrote my dissertation program on an A1200 running a PC emulator so I could code C++ (yes it was slow) - The labs got very busy and you had to book computer time and I was never organised enough to do that - I also blew my entire budget on a maths co pro (for the lab PC) because floating point maths.

        Happy days

        1. paulc

          Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

          "The labs got very busy and you had to book computer time"

          lucky you. I had to put my code in for an overnight run as a stack of punched cards...

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

          Converted point of sale tills for me. Had to write assembler on paper, convert it to hex code and punch it in manually.

          Uphill both ways.

    2. SVV Silver badge

      Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

      Reralise how good we have it now?

      PCs? MS-DOS?

      Piffle and hogwash! O Level Computer Studies 1987: BBC Micros (a couple of Commodore Pets at first) and being made to submit "dry runs" on paper as part of coursework. Happy days. Most of us in the class were already good enough BASIC programmers, so spent many a lesson just playing Chuckie Egg. And got a grade A.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

      Sure the computers are faster now, but is it easier to learn how to program on them? Stuff like directly addressing the pins on the parallel port, and putting together some electronics stuff that responds to it; that certainly would not be easier now.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: pffft, does it matter any more? - but is it easier to learn how to program on them?

        Semi-seriously, if I was in charge of GCSE compsci the first year would be learning to use a PIC (which teaches assembler, C if you want, and the concepts of making things happen in the real world by setting and resetting bits in registers). You could actually have an exam based on that which could be run on a dirt cheap PC with no Internet connection and a simple little emulator.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: pffft, does it matter any more? - but is it easier to learn how to program on them?

          Again, that's *NOT* CompSci, that's CompEng. You're getting people to sign up to learn to drive a car, then teaching them motor mechanics.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

        Sure the computers are faster now, but is it easier to learn how to program on them? Stuff like directly addressing the pins on the parallel port, and putting together some electronics stuff that responds to it; that certainly would not be easier now.

        On a modern PC or laptop running windows, you are right.

        But on a Raspberry Pi or Arduino with the whole web to help you, it’s literally child’s play. Far easier.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

          "But on a Raspberry Pi or Arduino with the whole web to help you, it’s literally child’s play. Far easier."

          Easier than out 0x378,1 to toggle bit 0 in MS-DOS on a PC?

          (Note, I may have the port address wrong. A google search brought up pages and pages of links to MAC addresses and network printing and I admit you'd be hard pushed to find a PC with a parallel printer port these days)

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

            Easier than out 0x378,1 to toggle bit 0 in MS-DOS on a PC?

            Yes far easier. How did you find out you could toggle bit zero in 199?

    4. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

      Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

      "Borland "Turbo" pascal on an RM Nimbus 80286@10Mhz (the three "fast" machines in the lab)"

      Lab? Luxury! We had to work in a small shoebox in the middle of t'road!

    5. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: pffft, does it matter any more?

      Try pascal on a 1Mhz 6502 with 64k ram.

      And I remember having to reverse engineer assembly programs on my exam and work out what the program did.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    online exam only?

    I hope its not an online exam. I'm sick of how many online testing sites STILL use Flash.

    Contact the providers and they just reply with "yes, we're aware of it. We're planning to migrate at some point in the future".

    Anon, because I should be teaching IT right now.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: online exam only?

      at least the bcs ecdl moved from java last year. that was the last reason we needed java.

  6. adam payne Silver badge

    GCSE computer science will be exam-only, the UK's education watchdog has said, after concluding it isn’t possible to fairly and reliably assess the secondary school qualification any other way.

    So students are going to be taught how to pass the exam.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As it is with all subjects. The real question is whether the exam tests the student on worthwhile things.

    2. Graham 32

      That's all the students want. It's just a stepping stone to the next level of education.

      Reminds me of my A levels during the time when most teachers were handing out exam papers from previous years to help us learn the sorts of things the exam board liked to test. This wasn't happening in the Computing course so we asked one of our teachers and he wouldn't give us any old papers. Then we asked what we needed to know for the exam, he pointed at the 400-page text book and said "learn everything in that, you'll get an A." So we just asked the other teacher at the next lesson and got what we wanted.

      I didn't realise at the time, but even then we were showing a very smart problem solving skill: understand the scope of the problem.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "So students are going to be taught how to pass the exam."

      Inevitable given that schools have contrived to foul the nest in the past. I suppose it's a consequence of league tables.

  7. Jay 2

    "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

    At university I was finding out the hard way that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a programmer (am now a sys admin). Part of that voyage of discovery was the first year exams, one of which was pretty much designing and coding on paper for 3 hours. I think I got an E for that one. I wasn't the greatest fan of having to do something rather computer-centric, without an actual computer. Aside, yes I know in the very old days that's how people did stuff, but I'm pretty sure we'd moved on from that in the 1990s.

    On the flip side to all this it's obvious that the coursework element to such a subject, moreso when it is actually coding, is just far to easy to subvert via a multitude of methods. Quite what the best answer to this problem is I'm not sure. I guess there is the concept of coding within a time limit in some sort of closed condtions, though I've managed to screw up such things myself too (the pressure, the pressure!).

    1. colinb

      Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

      depends on what you mean by 'very old days'

      in the early eighties our school programming course was paper only with the joy of 30 kids standing around the single terminal of the DEC PDP/11 housing in a room the size of a bathroom once a week watching a lucky suck-up (pupil) type the program in and seeing if it worked.

      Still loved it so i got the principal to agree to let me in early in the morning, boot the computer, play with it and then have the room key back by 9. it took 10 minutes to boot up...

      1. Paul Cooper

        Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

        In the late 70s, you pretty much HAD to program on paper; although we did have an interactive terminal (whoo-hoo!),you still had to edit things line-at-a-time, and you could only see a few lines at once. If you wanted an overview of your code, you had to keep a listing next to you, and constantly refer to it - usually making annotations on the paper as you went!

        My usual development process then was to sketch a flow-chart, write the code, type it in and then test it - often on a live database as there wasn't any other kind!

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

          My usual development process then was to sketch a flow-chart, write the code, type it in and then test it - often on a live database as there wasn't any other kind!

          Ahhh....the flowchart.

          <cue shimmery harp music and wavy visual FX>

          I remember getting a flowchart stencil from WH Smith when I was doing 'O'-level Computer Studies in the early 1980s. Served me well, and I hung onto it.

          It's still in my desk drawer, and it occasionally comes in handy. Generally I'm happy to assist people with design work but if someone is being overly needy or annoying in asking for help with doing a design then I'll offer them the use of it.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

        "in the early eighties our school programming course was paper only with the joy of 30 kids standing around the single terminal of the DEC PDP/11 housing in a room the size of a bathroom once a week watching a lucky suck-up (pupil) type the program in and seeing if it worked."

        Oooooooh, you jammy begger! In my 1978 Comp Studies, we either submitted coding sheets to be typed in by the punch operator at the local town hall, or submitted rolls of 5(!!) hole paper tape and prayed we'd not made a typo. Deliveries between school and town hall were once per week. Latency between submitting the programm and getting the printout was TWO weeks. In a school of 1100 pupils, there were 10 of us on the GCE O level course.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

      Planning out your code (on paper, graphic design tool, UML, ust in your head, whatever of the many other methods you prefer is always useful compared to leaping in , opening editor and typing without proper advance planning)*

      You should try the days when you had to plan out your code in advance and then "punch" each character of that line correctly into a punched card.

      Repeat for all lines of code, keep stack of cards in correct order (yes you labelled them sensibly in case you dropped them (or more likely someone pranked you by throwing them off the desk))

      Then, when it was your turn the card reader would kick into action and you would find if your code compiled without error, and then if it behaved as expected.

      With that long tedious process you tried to avoid mistakes as they could be time costly.

      * Assuming a change / new feature of non trivial nature as opposed to a minor edit, simple bug fix

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: "...programming skills assessed only via examination..."

      I wasn't the greatest fan of having to do something rather computer-centric, without an actual computer

      Indeed. My own technique is to test and experiment as I code and get the computer to tell me if I've got it right before moving on. I've done exams where I've had to write dozens of lines of Java code with a pen, and this after doing UML and pseudo code.

  8. Wellyboot Silver badge

    It's only a GCSE

    Basically it's the starting point for going and doing a few subjects properly later.

    Pure exam based results are ok at this level, actual codeing during the course is there to reinforce the concept learning process with a little practice.

    Many (many) moons ago the 'O' level in computing (as an add on extra course while doing 'A' levels) was taught with code writing as a paper exercise due to the lack of hardware in schools/colleges (maybe 1 or 2 RML-380z with basic interpreter).

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: It's only a GCSE

      the A level is going the same way. 2 exams and project at the moment but the project portion is under review by the exam boards too.

  9. Dr. G. Freeman

    Next, because of health and safety, GSCE Science will no longer involve doing experiments

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Next, because of health and safety, GSCE Science will no longer involve doing experiments

      I believe that's already the case. I was having a conversation on these very forums with a fellow commentard about some of the stuff I used to do at school (chucking a lump of sodium in a dish of water, that trick with the exploding cocoa tin full of gas/air, etc.) and they said that such stuff was no more in the classroom.

      <sigh>

      1. ridley

        Then they have the wrong teachers. Those exp are still allowed and I still do them in my classes. (I am the only teacher at the school to have the license to make gunpowder and demo in the lab.)

        Copper Oxide and powdered Magnesium is my personal fave, extremely bright flash followed by a Very impressive mushroom cloud.

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Those exp are still allowed and I still do them in my classes

          That's good to hear. I assume that the various japes we used to get up to with mercury are very much a thing of the past though?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I enjoyed the magnesium experiment at school, my physics teacher was pretty cool, I even discussed concepts from the jolly rogers cook book with him out of scientific curiosity of course. This was also at the sort of school where trying to get to your seat in science was like a super mario bowser level.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I am the only teacher at the school to have the license to make gunpowder and demo in the lab."

          License? How times have changed.

          1. David Roberts Silver badge
            Windows

            Licence?

            I've still got my Dad's old chemistry books somewhere with detailed explanations on how to make gun cotton and nitroglycerine.

            His University course was between WW1 and WW2 and AFAIK you still has to speak German to read some of the text books.

            No doubt happy days.

            1. Danny 14 Silver badge

              Re: Licence?

              jolly rogers and anarchist cookbooks are classed as terrorist training manuals now. A town on the coast near us had a chap locked up for having a copy. frightening times.

              nitrification of benzene was a standard experiment. Dont let that process warm up too much.....

              1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                Re: Licence?

                nitrification of benzene was a standard experiment. Dont let that process warm up too much.....

                Can you get locked up for attempting to buy benzene rings?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Copper Oxide and powdered Magnesium

          If you have suitable borosilicate glass, you can use the magnesium/copper oxide reaction to plate copper on the glass, which is a more dramatic demonstration of moving oxygen to the more electronegative element than the usual ones.

          For extra kudos, set the experiment up to produce an actual nodule of copper, then whack it with a mallet to prove it really is elemental copper.

          Do this enthusiastically and one day one of your pupils may get a massive promotion due to remembering some metallurgy at a critical moment of major production foul-up.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Copper Oxide and powdered Magnesium

            Sodium in water was fun. And as you moved down the periodic table the reactions get less violent and you can create little speedboats. Our lab ceilings at school were covered in the stains of explosions.

            They still do the hydrogen production in soap bubbles where they ignite the gas on their hand.

            Screaming jellies babies is another popular one.

            At age 14 in school we fermented apples to cider and distilled the cider to near pure alcohol and tasted it (and regretted tasting it).

  10. x 7 Silver badge

    GCSE

    Government Communications Secret Exams?

    GCHQ

    Goverment Communications Hard Questions?

  11. devjoe

    GCSE?

    Well of course my kids are looking at Global Common Subexpression Elimination in computer science, where else would they look at that?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: GCSE?

      Government Computer Science Exam.

      Question 1.

      "IT Projects in the public sector are usually on-time, under budget and fit for purpose."

      Select at least two from the following list of possible answers

      [ ] Very true

      [ ] Especially when the supplier is Capita

  12. A-nonCoward
    Linux

    Learn something useful in school?

    I've spent most of today hunting down some old versions of a spreadsheet with certain data, that my day job has been using over many years.

    I do that on a Dell laptop, VPNd, Windows 10, a couple years old. Destroys a battery per year

    slow. Certainly no match for my personal Fedora machine, 8 years old.

    So. Turns out that the precious creatures, 1) defecate their name-brand-spreadsheet file pretty much anywhere, 2) put the most significant data (language, version) of the file name at the very end of 40 to 60 characters of redundant nonsense that replicates the client name, year, project, purpose, that any sane individual would already find in the folder tree anyway. Yes, because the folder tree has no logic, that data is actually useful. 3) show unnatural creativity in saving a few characters. Japanese might be JP, jap, Japan... 4) older Windows let you do a search, and refine inside that search. Not any longer. Because files are all over the shared drive, "Search" over VPN is even slower than anything else.

    Now, if these people, all of them with a degree, having had some kind of Comp Sci in high school, could at the very least name their files in a sane way; follow some kind of logic within their folders, or at least follow the "Best Practices" that we supposedly have for this.

    I know it would be way too much to convince the company to use a real production-level operating system. Even Windows 7 was not this lame.

    We don't need no educashon, right?

    right

    I am grateful I have at least this part-time job, and that I am given some real challenges to play with, otherwise life is so boring.

  13. David Glasgow

    Back to. Basics

    If its any help, I had to read a piece of punched tape for my CSE. It said "Marylin Munroe".

    Most exciting exam I ever had.

  14. LateAgain

    Pascal

    Wasn't Pascal the original easy to use, easy to describe programing language?

    Probably the simplest to use to outline a program in an exam.

    Won't actually cover anything anyone uses though.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    But 'programming' is not 'computer science' any more than 'mechanical engineering' is 'driving'.

    1. Random Handle

      Take a look at a past paper - it might cheer you a little:

      https://filestore.aqa.org.uk/resources/computing/AQA-85202-SQP.PDF

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm...

    As someone who is old enough to have taken O-levels, and remember the controversy over the introduction of GCSE and their reduced dependence on a sphincter-tightening sweaty-palmed exam to determine one's grade in favor of coursework, the reintroduction of a programming exam gives me a certain grim satisfaction. Oh won't someone think of the children!

  17. Matthew Taylor

    Not a science

    The study of algorithms and the programming of computers is not a science. The theoretical algorithmic elements are a branch of Mathematics, and the writing of software is an engineering discipline. To discard the writing of programs from the curriculum is incomprehensible.

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