Ofqual raised concerns that thousands of students were cheating. Source:

Until this week, coursework made up one fifth of the marks for all GCSE Computer Science students’ grades in that subject. But, following the United Kingdom’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) uncovering of alarming rates of cheating, this has ended.

Will students rely solely on their exam results then? For their grades, yes, but this will not make up the entirety of the course.

Computer Science pupils will still be expected to complete the same coursework as before – however it will gain them no marks.

In November 2017, Ofqual addressed countless reports of leaked answers on online forums and websites. In response to this, it launched a consultation to review the qualification.

More than 2,500 students and teachers responded to the consultation and it was decided the “current situation is untenable”.

Ofqual chief executive Sally Collier said: “We are pleased that so many teachers and students took the time to respond to our consultation. A clear majority of respondents agree that there are currently shortcomings with the non-exam assessment that could unfairly advantage some students.

“While the tasks themselves will no longer contribute to students’ grades, we strongly believe that learning about a high-level programming language and having the opportunity to show how it can be used to solve problems is hugely important.

“We believe these changes will make the qualification as fair as it can be for all students.”

The Telegraph reported one student asked online for help designing a piece of software. Soon enough the first response came in with a full solution. This post has now been viewed over 2,500 times.

Ofqual described how a “simple search” for a key requirement of a task on one popular forum brought up more than 40 pages of results.

“The speed with which the tasks appeared online and the number of times the discussions and solutions were viewed threatened the integrity of this aspect of the qualification,” the report by Ofqual explained.

Computer Science is a relatively new subject – it became part of the curriculum three years ago – in which the Government is heavily invested. The Chancellor pledged £84 million in the November budget toward the training of an additional 8,000 GCSE Computer Science teachers. It also declared plans to treble the number of teachers specialising in Computer Science.

The BBC reported Ofqual told students the decision was made “with reluctance” but “we do not want anyone to have an unfair advantage”.

“While not contributing to your grade, the task will continue to be an important part of the qualification,” Ofqual’s director for general qualifications, Julie Swan, wrote in a letter to students.

“Learning about a high-level programming language and having the opportunity to show that you can use it to solve problems is an important aspect of a computer science course of study.

“We know that not everyone will agree with our decision. However, if we do not act now, it would be impossible for us to correct any unfairness caused by rules being broken.”

Many Year 11 students have already completed huge amounts of their coursework which will now effectively go to waste. The decision is likely to be met with frustration from Year 10 students as well. They will have to complete the coursework from scratch but gain no marks toward their final grade from it.

“Finding out halfway through the year that their hard work will no longer count toward their final grade is a particular source of disappointment for students,” Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC.

The new regulations will affect students due to undertake the qualification in 2018 and 2019. Ofqual is yet to decide on the future of the course structure beyond 2019.

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