The new Computing curriculum and its assessment is a great opportunity

(For the benefit of readers who don’t live in England, in September there will be a new Computing Programme of Study (ie the specification laid down in the National Curriculum), and schools no longer have to use “Levels” to assess pupils’ work.)

I was involved in a conference about preparing for the new computing curriculum recently (see Planning for the new Computing curriculum), and one of the delegates asked me:

“But what are we supposed to do about assessment now?”

“Well”, I replied. “Regard it as an opportunity.”

Cue guffaws of laughter.

But it is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to be creative in what we teach (the aforementioned Programme of Study provides the barest of outlines), how we teach it, and how we know whether what we’ve taught has actually been learnt. It’s the first time in years that such freedom has been explicitly given.

Above all, it’s an opportunity for teachers, and schools, and also pupils and their parents, to think about assessment in a different, perhaps deeper, way. I realise that that statement could be construed as insulting, so allow me to explain what I mean.

If a particular way of doing things is laid down, you clearly have to think about what you’re doing, but that thinking is, by and large, within the constraints imposed by the system under which you are operating. Once that is taken away, you are pretty much on your own.

I think it would be a great pity, though, if people merely re-created what they’ve “lost”: another system of levels, whether based on Bloom’s Taxonomy or not. It would be much better, in my opinion, to consider lots of options, and then decide. You may end up with a facsimile of the system that’s been rejected, but I think that the process of getting there will have been enormously valuable.

Judging by the amount of activity in this area in CAS, a lot of teachers are doing a lot of this kind of thinking. For those still worrying about whether you’re up to the task, I’ll repeat what I said to a room full of teachers recently:

“You’re professionals, you know what you’re doing. You know when a student has learnt something or not. Above all, you have the intellectual and experiential tools to think about such things.”

I was reminded of the importance of thinking recently as I am reading Oliver Quinlan’s book, The Thinking Teacher. It’s readable, relevant and thought-provoking – which is just as well, really, given its title!

I’ll be reviewing that in the next issue of Digital Education, in which Oliver writes about educational research. Look out for that soon, or have it delivered to your inbox by subscribing. And do it now, before you forget!

cross-posted on

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."