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The Department of Computing Science has two broad goals within the school: firstly, to meet the general Information Communications Technology needs of the school community at large and, secondly, to provide a platform for pupils to gain technical expertise in an ever-changing world.
The Department has a forward-thinking approach, where the most up-to-date technology is regularly introduced. For instance, Form 1 and 2 pupils gain experience of using the BBC Microbit.
Each session students participate in the Beaver Computing Challenge. This national competition is held in November and is designed to test and encourage logical thinking – crucial for Computing Science. In the last three years, the Department has produced a number of ‘Hall of famers’, including one student who was invited to Oxford University!
The Department is very well resourced with hardware – the computers are ‘refreshed’ every four years. We are extremely fortunate in that we have access to much of the latest software, including Windows 10 and Office 2016. The Department heavily supports the whole-school iPad deployment, offering advice and encouragement to both pupils and staff alike.
Increasingly, pupils are called upon to use computers, portals and other electronic resources for their studies. The Department provides courses and general support covering a range of Office and Internet applications. This helps pupils with their studies at school and, looking further ahead, their organisational skills for Further Education and the workplace.
In Forms 3 and 4 pupils are offered National 5 Computing Science. This course is aimed at further developing generic transferrable skills (in ICT, logical thinking and problem solving), whilst at the same time building up a solid knowledge of the concepts behind creating and managing information resources and software development. The topics covered are: Software Design and Development and Information System Design and Development. The former primarily concerns programming (we use Python as our main language) and the latter involves (amongst other things), the examination of databases and the web (HTML and CSS).
In Forms 5 and 6 pupils can opt to study Higher Computing Science, and then Advanced Higher Computing Science. These courses provide a progression of study from the National 5 qualification. Students will develop their programming skills further, learning how to apply algorithms to solve complex problems, mainly using Python. Pupils will be introduced to languages like PHP and begin to work with web development toolkits, producing HTML, CSS, SQL and PHP based websites which interact with their own virtual webserver. The course also provides a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding of the structure of computer systems and their architecture. The Advanced Higher course includes a significant project. In recent times this has seen pupils develop products such as web-based appointment scheduling systems, card game applications, and 3D games targeted at the Xbox 360/ONE games consoles.
As part of our co-curricular commitment, Computing Science offers a number of clubs: The Computing Club, the Minecraft Club and the Photography Club. These groups are predominately pupil led. This allows students the opportunity to develop ‘soft skills’ such as leadership and organisation as well as enhancing both their ICT knowledge and creativity.
The Department provides a structured independent learning approach across all year groups and courses, with pupils being supported to make the most of their own potential. Full use is made of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) where pupils can submit homework electronically. This facility also provides secure access to Departmental resources such as teacher notes.
In July 2016 the Head of Department organised a school trip to California (birthplace of the silicon revolution – “Silicon Valley”). Members of staff from Art, Technology and Drama assisted. The group visited the ‘Googleplex’, the Intel Museum, the Computer History Museum and NASA, as well as several other tourist attractions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.