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Cyber security GCSE to equip future cyber-spooks

OCR's Computer Science GCSE will also teach the ethical and legal concerns around tech.

By Ellie Burns

Due to be submitted to Ofqual next week, OCR’s new Computer Science GCSE aims to equip students with the computer skills that could see them as future cyber-spooks for MI5.

A major feature of the new qualification is a focus on cyber security, including phishing, malware, firewalls and social engineering.

Signalling the first time that cyber security has been taught at the GCSE level, pupils will also learn the ethical and legal concerns around computer science technologies.

Since September 2014, compulsory computing in the curriculum has moved away from using applications to learning how to create them.

Central to this new qualification is ‘computational thinking’, which will represent 60% of the course content. This will involve breaking a complex problem down into smaller parts, establishing a pattern, ignoring unnecessary information and designing a solution through programming.

20% of the GCSE will be focused on applying newly learnt programming skills to work on an independent coding project.

OCR will partner with specialist education technology company, Codio, to provide schools with a cloud based programming and course content platform where students can learn the theory and apply it in real life situations, in any computing language.

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This platform will not only help school students programming, but also help support teachers to enhance their own computer science knowledge and skills at the same time.

Rob Leeman, Subject Specialist for Computer Science and ICT at OCR, said: "This specification builds on OCR’s pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations like Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that the content is relevant.

"There is growing demand for digital skills worldwide. Whether students fancy themselves as the next cyber-spook, Mark Zuckerberg or Linus Torvalds, our new qualification will be the first exciting step towards any career that requires competence in computing."

James Lyne, Global Head of Research at Sophos, said: "The specific inclusion of cyber security in the GCSE curriculum is long overdue so this is a welcome move from OCR. Not only is it key that we develop skilled professionals to close the existing skills gap and protect our future technology and infrastructure, but being able to secure yourself is a key skill for any member of modern society who is connected to the Internet, from a very early age onwards."

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