The Perse School

Computer Science

Learning to think in a structured, logical way and take a methodological approach to problem-solving

Our aim

We see computer science as a ‘fourth science’. Our approach to the subject was developed with input from Cambridge high tech entrepreneurs, academics, other schools and the Computing At School organisation. Our curriculum is grounded in a rigorous and academic approach, exactly like any other science.

Now in its fourth year, our computer science course is intended to introduce the subject in a serious way to the younger years, giving them a strong foundation from which to progress to IGCSE and A level computer science in due course, if they choose.

Learning journey - Years 7-9

The course has been carefully designed to be accessible to all, regardless of previous formal computer science teaching.

At least half of the lessons are classroom-based (making use of technology such as Chromebooks), with other lessons taking place in the ICT rooms. This reflects the need for a strong grounding in thinking skills and theoretical concepts to complement practical tasks.

Lessons include:

  • A thorough and systematic grounding in algorithms and programming with open-ended and easily accessible practical tasks to help students master their new skills
  • Mathematical and digital technology concepts explored through programming tasks
  • An exploration of theoretical concepts

There is plenty of practical work such as programming Python, Arduino and HTML/CSS as well as an introduction to databases.

Learning journey - IGCSE

Students who elect to take computer science to IGCSE develop their understanding of the main principles of problem-solving using computers. They apply their understanding to develop computer-based solutions to problems using algorithms and a high-level programming language. They also develop a range of technical skills, as well as the ability to test effectively and to evaluate computing solutions.

The course helps students appreciate current and emerging computing technologies and the benefits of their use, and they learn to recognise the ethical issues and potential risks when using computers.

The course is open to students who join The Perse at Year 9 and have not previously studied computer science, as we recap on the basics.

Providing stretch

We set optional tasks each half term for pupils who would like to do extra work to deepen their knowledge, from writing a program to find the Highest Common Factor of two integers to researching the origins of the World Wide Web.

We enter the Bebras Computing Challenge (formerly the Beaver), with several students making the Hall of Fame each year. In 2016 almost 500 Perse students entered, and 11 were invited to the highly successful second round of the competition at the Department of Computer Science at Oxford University. One went on to secure second place in the intermediate age category. All eleven finalists attended a special lunch and prize-giving ceremony at Hertford College.

Our students attend the annual Think Computer Science conference organised by Microsoft, where they learn about the many fascinating ways in which computer science is helping to solve real-world problems.

Some students enter the British Infomatics Olympiad. In 2016, student Thomas Read reached the national final of the competition, where he was selected as a reserve for the UK team heading to the International Infomatics Olympiad in Kazan.

Beyond the classroom

There is plenty of scope for extension for those who develop a passion for the subject. A weekly Programming Society offers a range of certificates, material and competitions and programming also forms part of the activities of Lego Robotics Society. We also offer a Raspberry Pi club.

Each year Perse students enjoy entering the National Cipher Challenge. In 2013, student Pratap Singh shared the Trinity College Prize as the joint runner-up in the individual competition, and we are building up a tradition of Cipher success at The Perse, as three teams won prizes the previous year. During the Michaelmas term we run a weekly club for younger students wanting to take part in the Challenge to help each other and share tips. In the Lent term this club evolves into ‘Brain Teasers’, designed to help students develop their computational thinking through cryptic crosswords and game theory.

We also offer Digital Literacy club to enable students to achieve industry-approved Microsoft and Adobe qualifications. The certification covers a range of technologies including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PhotoShop, Flash, Dreamweaver and Software Development.

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