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A Level Computer Science

A Level Computer Science at St Edmund’s College is a practical subject, in which you will apply academic principles to real-world systems.

Computer science is an intensely creative subject. Choose this course to develop your problem-solving skills and critical thinking, as you learn to view the world through a digital prism.

Enrichment opportunities at St Ed’s include:

  • Supporting younger students with ICT skills
  • Computer Club (Raspberry Pi and Python)
  • Programming in Scratch, Gamemaker, App Inventor
  • Dreamweaver web design activities
Head of Department Mr K Fry BSc (Brunel) MSc (Herts) PGCE (Exeter)
Syllabus OCR

Course structure

Two topics are covered:

  • Computer systems: This topic will introduce students to the internal workings of the Central Processing Unit (CPU), the exchange of data and will also look at software development, data types and legal and ethical issues. It is expected that they will draw on this underpinning content when studying computational thinking, developing programming techniques and devising their own programming approach in the programming project component.
  • Algorithms and programming: This topic will incorporate and build on the knowledge and understanding gained in the computer systems topic.

Written examinations

Paper 1 – Computer Systems – 2.5 hours (40% of final mark)

This paper will assess students’ understanding of Computer Systems topic.

Paper 2 – Algorithms and Programming – 2.5 hours (40% of final mark)

This paper will cover the Algorithms and Programming topic.

Coursework – Programming project (20% of final mark)

Students produce a solution for a computing problem to work through according to the guidance of the specification, applying knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework and digital convergence.

Topics overview
 Computer systems (01) Algorithms and programming (02)
This component will introduce students to the internal workings of the Central Processing Unit (CPU), the exchange of data and will also look at software development, data types and legal and ethical issues. It is expected that they will draw on this underpinning content when studying computational thinking, developing programming techniques and devising their own programming approach in the Programming project component. This component will incorporate and build on the knowledge and understanding gained in the Computer systems component (01).
  • The characteristics of contemporary processors, input, output and storage devices
  • Software and software development
  • Exchanging data
  • Data types, data structures and algorithms
  • Legal, moral, cultural and ethical issues

  • Understanding what is meant by computational thinking
  • Understanding the benefits of applying computational thinking to solving a wide variety of problems
  • Understanding the principles of solving problems by computational methods
  • Using algorithms to describe problems
  • Analysing a problem by identifying its component parts.
Project work Programming
  • Analysis of the problem
  • Design of the solution
  • Developments of the solution
  • Evaluation
  • We build on the programming knowledge gained at GCSE.
  • The main programming language is Python. We also look at JavaScript, SQL, Java and other languages that are of interest.

Tips for success

  • Organisation skills: Use your folder effectively and keep it neat. Ensure that all of your classwork, prep work, handouts and resources are organised chronologically and by topic. You will thank yourself for doing this during revision time.
  • Media consumption: Despite the wealth of computers & technology available to us, we are often stop to think how it actually works. Push yourself to seek out new technology and programming languages; read, listen and watch; this will engage you with wider issues involved with the technology in our lives and contexts.
  • Programming practice: Take every opportunity to enhance your coding skills, particularly related to solving problems and trying new languages, in and out of school.
  • Independent thinking: Be original in your ideas and discussion of IT & Computer related issues. Try to avoid just what you read in the text books. Showing that you are aware of current technology and its impact on society.
Platform Background Research
Pod Casts  Available on the VLE in the Computer Science section
Magazines  Computer Active , PC Weekly, net, PC Pro and plenty more available
Online BBC Technology pages are an excellent starting point and many others listed on the VLE

Mathematical skills

Computer Science uses mathematics to express its computational laws and processes.

All A Level Computer Science qualifications contain a minimum of 10% mathematical skills. Students may be asked to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills of computational processes and problem solving in both theoretical and practical ways.

The following list of topics will be counted as Level 2 (or higher) mathematics:

  • Boolean algebra
  • Comparison of complexity of algorithms
  • Number representation and bases

Whilst the concept for each topic is Level 2 (though it may not appear in GCSE mathematics specifications) candidates will be expected to apply skills in a Level 3 context.

Reading list

There is no expectation that students purchase any of the below books; they are all stocked in the department and some are available in the College library.

However, students may wish to use some of the texts to enhance and enrich their understanding by making notes in the books. The list below is therefore intended to give a flavour of the course and provide a reference point if any topics prove particularly challenging.

  • ++ Provided either in paper or electronic  form by the department
  • ** These books are highly recommended.
  • ## Excellent for the Independent Project and learning how to make Graphical User Interface in various languages


  • **OCR AS and A level Computer Science, PM Heathcote and RSU Heathcote, PG Online. ISBN: 978-1-910523-05-6
  • ++OCR A level Computer Science, George Rouse, Jason Pitt & Sean O’Byrne, Hodder Education. ISBN: 978-1471-83976-4
  • Head First Design Patterns, Eric Freeman & Elisabeth Robson. ISBN: 978-0-596-00712-6
  • Head First Java, Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates. ISBN: 978—596-00920-5
  • Head First Object-Oriented Analysis & Design, Brett D McLaughlin, Gary Police & David West. ISBN: 978-0-596-00867-3
  • **Learning to Program in Python, PM Heathcote, PG Online. ISBN: 978-1-910523-11-7
  • **OCR A Level Computer Science, My revision notes, George Rouse, Sean O’Byrne & Jason Pitt, Hodder Education. ISBN: 978-1-4718-6583-1
  • **Essential Maths Skills for AS/A level Computer Science, Gavin Craddock & Victoria Ellis, Hodder Education. ISBN: 978-1-4718-6357-8
  • Python Programming, Third Edition, Michael Dawson, Cengage Technology. ISBN: 978-1-4354-5500-9
  • ##More Python Programming, Third Edition, Michael Dawson, Cengage Technology. ISBN: 978-1-4354-5980-9
  • Monkey game development: Beginners Guide, Michael Hartlef, Packt Publishing. ISBN: 978-1849692038


Key to success on most A Level courses is keeping up with new developments. Engaging with a variety of media and different products builds a deeper understanding of a subject.

Small habits make a major difference, such as checking the latest Computer Tweets or choosing to listen to a podcast on the bus. Below are some websites, Twitter feeds and podcasts that can help. These suggestions a starting point.

X (Twitter) feeds

  • @craigndave1
  • @SmallpeiceTrust
  • @w3c
  • @astro_pi
  • @computermuseum
  • @tnmoc
  • @Computing_News
  • @arduino
  • @ocr_ict
  • @ictinfouk
  • @WIRED
  • @BBCTech
  • @guardiantech


The computer science section of the College VLE is updated with lesson material and independent research material.



Department aims

At its heart lies the notion of computational thinking: a mode of thought that goes well beyond software and hardware, and that provides a framework within which to reason about systems and problems.”  CAS-Computer Science a Curriculum for Schools

Department rationale

Aims & objectives

  1. To develop analysis skills through practical and theoretical problems using a range of different platforms (micro analysis).
  2. To develop critical autonomy through the exploration of wider politcal, social and cultural contexts, and the issues and debates that IT and the expanding role of computers brings (macro analysis).
  3. To be able to apply and discuss all of the four theoretical concepts of Computer Science, along with relevant theory and subject terminology.
  4. To promote academic essay writing skills and techniques that allow students to write critical, well thought out technological discussion points in a balanced and structured way.
  5. To enhance students’ appreciation of the attention to detail required in successfully producing documented code.
  6. To develop students’ ability to undertake thorough independent research into complex technological topic areas across a range of different sources.
  7. To understand the necessity of rigorous planning and pre-production of media texts, including an awareness of the logistics and practicalities of media production.
  8. To enhance and diversify young people’s media consumption, through exposure to a range of products.
  9. To promote engagement with current technological affairs and contemporary social/cultural trends in IT and Computer Science through the discussion of hot topics.
  10. To prepare students for the demands of Higher Education by promoting engagement with academic scholarship and independent approaches to learning.
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
Edsger W. Dijkstra, Computer Scientist (1930 - 2002)
Key skills developed
An understanding of and ability to apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science including; abstraction, decomposition, logic, algorithms and data representation The capacity to see relationships between different aspects of computer science
The ability to analyse problems in computational terms through practical experience of solving such problems including writing programs The ability to articulate the individual (moral), social (ethical), legal and cultural opportunities and risks of digital technology
The capacity for thinking creatively, innovatively, analytically, logically and critically Mathematical skills


Future pathways

The rapid innovation and expansion of technology into all aspects of our lives has created a high demand for computer scientists in many organisations, all around the world.

Such is the demand for technology skills, that young people who study computer science at university can expect to command a high graduate starting salary in this thriving sector.