back to article Cambridge Assessment exams CHAOS: Computing students' work may be BINNED

Budding tech teens - who have taken close to 40 hours of Computing GCSE controlled assessments - face the agony of seeing some of their work scrapped by a leading Brit exam board, after it said it was withdrawing tasks for key units amid cheating claims. Awarding body the OCR, which is part of Cambridge Assessment, had posted …

  1. James 51

    *sigh*. I wonder what Gove is going to say about this. One more push for a single exam to measure performance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > One more push for a single exam to measure performance.

      Closed-book too, as it should be. Continuous assessment is a total joke.

      The exam could be a mix of straight questions and of a simulated environment where code has to be written to meet certain requirements.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Closed-book too, as it should be."

        Of course, because closed book memory tests are sooooo representative of useful skills in the real world. In practice these work strongly in favour of people with good memories for arcane detail who can write quickly. Those two skills are fairly unimportant in my business.

        "Continuous assessment is a total joke."

        That's a separate (and contentious) point to the merit of closed book exams. I'd rather we fixed the flaws of continuous assessment rather than continued to rely on single chance end of year exams where many talented students don't shine, and where sometimes lazy chancers get lucky and get grades they don't deserve.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          An exam shouldn't be a memory test - at least not rote answers. The exam should be proving the students knowledge of the subject - taking what they have learnt and applying it to problems.

          Some parts are inevitably rote, things such as historical facts, although this can also be made less rote if they have to describe their interpretation of those facts, for example. Then you are testing, whether they have understood the subject or whether they just learnt some facts and figures.

          Most of the exams I did at school were based around applying knowledge learned - especially in accounts, commerce and computer studies. In Accounts we were given paragraphs describing transactions in long form and we had to generate ledger entries, P&L etc. from those descriptions.

          favour of people with good memories for arcane detail who can write quickly. Those two skills are fairly unimportant in my business.

          I would beg to differ, a lot of my time is spent sitting in meetings, coming up with arcane facts I've learnt and taking notes about the meeting, so that I can write the protocol afterwards. I also have to write a lot of documentation, so being able type quickly is certainly a key skill. I tend to write my notes in OneNote these days, but still with a digitising pen.

          Likewise programming is mainly remembering arcane library constructs, applying them to knowledge of the problem at hand and typing them in.

          I do agree, however, that they should be looking at fixing the continuous assessment model.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Those two skills are fairly unimportant in my business."

          The object of education is not to facilitate your business. At school level it's supposed to teach you the foundations of subjects and get them into your head so when you move on, you don't have to keep looking things up.

          Continuous assessment in itself is not a bad idea. My great grandfather had on his drawing room table the successive objects that he had to make as an apprentice to pass to the next year. But the Internet has made cheating almost unbelievably easy, which is where the problem came in here. You can no longer give a kid a forge and an anvil and tell him to make some rose petals out of wrought iron, and be 100% certain that he did the job himself.

          The same problem did exist with subjects like English, where our 6th form English teacher (who was also an examiner) told us that certain girls' boarding schools used to teach their pupils specimen examples by rote. The exam boards didn't like to upset the apple cart because parents at these schools were often very influential, but none of these gels were stupid enough to think they would survive at a real university, so no harm was done; they took their A levels and went off to marry a stockbroker and stick to ponies and Agas.

          Fixing continuous assessment, in other words, would be expensive because schools and teachers have a somewhat vested interest in getting round the system. Sudden death exams aren't perfect but they are harder to fake. How much are we prepared to pay for a system which involves external examiners for continuous assessment who are prepared to have their sources of income, assets and foreign holidays scrutinised? - and in a world where getting money is seen as far more worthy than not being corrupt.

          1. Phil W

            Re: "Those two skills are fairly unimportant in my business."

            Exams closed book exams at any level are massively flawed in numerous ways.

            As has been said above they inherently favour those with good memories, but as most educational institutions still insist on having students lined up in rows of desks in a hot stuffy hall hand writing exams, they also favour those with good tolerance for uncomfortable working conditions and who have legible handwriting that they can produce quickly.

            I recall doing the final exams of my BSc at University in this fashion and not completing what I wanted to write in the allowed time and leaving the room with severe cramp in my hand, I hadn't been required to hand write anything of significance for at least 5 years prior to that, my HE college had allowed us to type our exams on suitably locked down PCs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Arnaut the less

            "The object of education is not to facilitate your business. "

            Well at least it's succeeding in that, then.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Arnaut the less

              Well, it isn't. You may think education should be all about preparing office fodder to do the bidding of their masters with minimal training, but it isn't. The job of education should be to equip kids with a toolkit to negotiate the world effectively, find something they want to do and succeed at it. That's what my school and Cambridge tried to do for me, though I wasn't terribly good, and I'm grateful to them.

              I graduated around the year the Intel 4004 became available. Not many years later I was working on stuff that didn't exist when I was at university, but at least I had enough foundation to know how to learn what I needed to know. The only thing I learned at university which I ever directly used in the real world, rather than as part of learning something else, was a little metallurgy which came in useful when I recognised the cause of a technical problem during an all hands to the pump emergency - sixteen years later.

              I guess that education probably meant that I was never forced to take a job working for Ledswinger - it sounds like hell.

        3. Guus Leeuw

          Re: Ledswinger

          Dear Leds Winger,

          Have you looked at the two course works the article is about?

          Software development requires "good memories for arcane detail". Otherwise you'll miss a null pointer dereference or you won't free up memory and all that nice juicy stuff.. Also logical maths is not something you can take leaps across... missing a part of the logical computation normally implies that a piece of code is missing, and you derive the wrong result.

          How would you propose to fix continuous examination? Just saying that we should do that is not quite good enough for a serious post about the subject... ;)



          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Guus Leeuw

            "Have you looked at the two course works the article is about?"

            Of course I have. Maybe the joys of Dutch (?) academia were similar to your life in coding, in my experience (coding defence systems) I can't think of anything that was similar. It's a bit Godwin-esque to mention Einstein, but I'd point out that school all but wrote him off because he didn't fit the academic model that school used to denote success. If being a good coder is reliant on the programmer remembering what he's done in acute detail, then its not a good omen. Working methodically within a design, keeping track of what you have done and need to do are (in my view) a much better way of working than hoping the coder got high grades in history at school and has a good memory

            How would I fix continuous assessment? There's a number of problems but the first and most significant one (in my view) is conflict of interest when teaching and marking are done by the same people. We don't let kids mark their own homework, and so as far as possible we shouldn't let schools do their own marking of any assessed work. They mark somebody else's, so there's no increase in cost or workload (other than some shipping of work around to schools doing the same syllabus). With appropriate technology even the admin of shipping the work around could be automated. Where the work is more applied than written, an external invigilator could supervise, much as happens for some current exams.

        4. the spectacularly refined chap

          Of course, because closed book memory tests are sooooo representative of useful skills in the real world. In practice these work strongly in favour of people with good memories for arcane detail who can write quickly. Those two skills are fairly unimportant in my business.

          Yes, they are. Computing is not a purely interpretive sector but has substantial creative aspect - deciding exactly how something is supposed to work or indeed what it is supposed to do at a level of detail beyond the headline "make an X..." Those aren't things that lend themselves to being looked up, or at least if they are you need to know that there is something to look up in the first place.

          Far too many times I've seen new programmers a year or so out of Uni make the most basic errors. Like spending an entire afternoon writing a 100 line block of code that (if you eventually got it working) exactly replicates a standard library function. Or the one with a first class degree from one of the better red bricks who had somehow missed layer 2 switching and was expecting to get meaningful data from packet sniffing.

          In both cases you could have avoided the issue in the first place by passing them an appropriate document or link at the outset and telling them "read that first". However, that didn't happen and they didn't go and find those references themselves: they didn't know enough to know that there was something they didn't know, and therefore they didn't know that there was something to look up. "Everything is on the Internet" is an excuse, not a justification for lack of study.

          Of course, there are always going to be details that you have to look up - the field is far too big to be able to carry around everything in your head. However there has to be a solid core of actual knowledge rather than Googling skills to put everything into context, suggest an initial approach to a given problem, and to spot any potential pitfalls along the way. GCSE level is pretty basic stuff, pretty much all of it is going to go into that foundational core. I've little problem with formula books or command summaries, but the idea they can bring in any explanatory material they like or look anything up on the Internet is doing them a massive disservice in the long run.

        5. Don Jefe

          The flaw(s) in continuous assessments can only be fixed by ditching continuous assessment. The 'memory skills' argument is incredibly stupid and, hilariously, perfectly highlights a substantial component in the failure of continuous assessment: Continuous assessment takes critical thinking round back and shoots it in the face.

          Unless you're in a wholly unstructured disclipline, like contemporary mixed media art, every skill you use is based on your memory of the principles of the skill and how you apply those memories. Everything, if you don't have it memorized it isn't learned. That shouldn't be difficult to understand, but, you know, continuous assessment. The heavily weighted exam teaches you those principles then piles more stuff on top, forcing you to either actually learn the principles involved or spend time looking back through previous material trying to recall where you think you saw it before.

          Continuous assessment doesn't give you a reason to learn principles. You are shown how to solve simple problems in isolated scenarios, not how to take various parts of foundation elements and mix them up to solve a problem. Continuous assessment is training, it is not educating. You leave school and enter the workforce ignorant of the core of your disclipline and trained in how to perform a task, not solve problems. That's great for people who are content as mindless drones, but it's absolutely terrible for advancing much of anything, including your career.

          The fact of the matter is that continuous assessment training is creating legions of interchangeable drones that aren't capable of much of anything. It's unfair to the trainee, but I'm not going to pay Engineer wages for people who can't think and have no idea why things work. If you come to me with post graduate credentials and can't do corporate accounting, conn a ship, build a bridge, express creativity, plan an invasion, communicate clearly and sell yourself on ability, not your training, I'm going to pay you teenager wages because that's all your worth.

          If I've got to have four people to replace one with a proper education I'm not going to be the one losing money. I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, going to South America, Asia and the Middle East to find proper engineers. And that's where continuous assessment is fucking you lot. Countries that haven't bought into the mass production of ignorant drones still turn out classically educated undergraduates who are worthwhile to hire. That's not going to change, they're exporting good education and that's what I need and that's what I'm going to have. So it's either start pushing back, don't be scared of pushing kids to learn and perform under pressure and get off your ponies, you don't know shit beyond what you were trained in, and it's sad.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "a mix of straight questions and of a simulated environment "

        You mean, just like City & Guilds was in the good old days?

        It's a good question. Because of IDEs, it's now possible to be able to write reasonable code in a number of languages without ever being able to do so on a blank sheet of paper. I commented to someone in education quite recently that I thought that teaching Java in school would not be a good idea because you can't really separate Java from Eclipse or Netbeans. The kind of noddy Java you can write using a text editor and a book is stuff for which you would never use it in the first place. Python and its very basic IDE IDLE are much more appropriate. How much programming theory can you really teach up to GCSE or A level?

        And isn't that the problem? Kids look up stuff they don't really understand and copy/paste to make it work...just look at and see university level students and people who are obviously in the business providing wrong or half baked answers to questions. It's fortunate that civil, mechanical and electrical engineers can't get away working like that.

        This is a case where I think we do need to have a prescriptive syllabus to teach principles,whatever gets grafted onto the side. Just keep Microsoft away from having any input into it.

        1. fajensen

          Re: "a mix of straight questions and of a simulated environment "

          It's fortunate that civil, mechanical and electrical engineers can't get away working like that.

          It's the same, they just use LinkedIn for their homework instead. The number of LinkedIn-questions that could be resolved merely by opening and reading a basic text on the subject concerned, is quite astonishing. It is no wonder that buildings collapse regularly in India and Pakistan.

      3. James 51

        Sounds a lot like work but without the tech support or access to any of the reference material that programmers normally use.

      4. Arion

        > Closed-book too, as it should be. Continuous assessment is a total joke.

        Can you please introduce me to your drug dealer. I want to try whatever it is you're smoking.

        I'm all in favour of a final exam, AS WELL AS continuous assessment, but skills learned for one particular point in time, are soon forgotten after that time has passed. Continuous assessment means that skills have to be both learned well at the start, and either remembered or re-learned for the exam. The need to know the material at two particular points in time, makes it much more likely to be retained in the longer term.

    2. LarsG

      They reap what they sow, 12 years of Labour meddling in education and 4 years of inaction by the Conservatives coupled with intransigent teaching staff who are not up to standard.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        "They reap what they sow, 12 years of Labour meddling in education and 4 years of inaction by the Conservatives coupled with intransigent teaching staff who are not up to standard."

        Add in the previous 12 years of Conservative meddling and you may have a deal.

        PS: this article is about the exam board not the teachers.

        The tramp: classroom teacher for a tad under a third of a century.

      2. daldred

        Um, when was there four years of inaction by the Conservatives?

        The current Secretary of State for Education is infamous for meddling, usually at about three weeks notice.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shame there isn't some kind of contract where if you don't deliver the product you promised to the customer at the end of the work they get a lot of money...

  3. Forget It

    OCR - aren't they just photocopy of some other organisation?

    1. Jonesy

      Not one that I recognize.


  4. Jonesy


    "Controlled assessment work is carried out in the classroom under supervision – students can’t work on the project outside of the controlled environment, but there’s nothing to stop them looking things up on the web at home,"

    In my day that was called revision. How is it any different then the teachers virtually spoon-feeding the answers in other subjects** If a kid has had the nous to look it up on Google for themselves then Good on 'em.. prepares them for a real world Job in tech

    **Sweeping Generalization based on no evidence at all

  5. Major Ebaneezer Wanktrollop

    They just need to look at how Red Hat and Cisco deliver IT exams for RHCE and CCIE respectively. Not difficult for a Government to copy their model is it?

    1. The BigYin

      Yes. Because those aren't Microsoft.

      We'll have to wait for Microsoft Exam Room 2018 to be released before our government does shit about it.

    2. BlartVersenwaldIII

      Can't speak for a CCIE, but if it's anything like the RHCE exam I'm in complete agreement. RHCE is the only tech qualification I've done that I felt had any real-world bearing.

      For those who haven't done it, the RHCE basically amounts to being plonked down in front of a broken computer and being told "by the end of the exam, this computer should be able to do X, Y, and Z" where X might be fixing the broken bootloader, Y might be setting up NFS and iSCSI and Z might be something that wasn't even covered in the classroom and you'll be expected to figure out yourself either from the ancillary tricks they'd been teaching you or the man pages or other provided doco. It's as real-world as I think you can get in a 2hr (or is it 3hr?) exam.

      I've had a number of colleagues who'd read up a shitload on linux and installed CentOS at home (ask them to configure a server by $deadline and they'd be fine even without access to the internet) and expected to breeze through the RHCT/RHCE simply because they were too used to the multiple choice or knowledge regurgitation style of exams; three of them walked out, furious, after the first five minutes. As someone who learnt windows and linux by continually breaking and fixing them (usually accidentally), it was a breeze. If you ever wanted to see how someone handles some unforeseen disaster happening, I think the RHCE is a pretty good barometer. I wish there was something similar we could do for our windows guys - knowledge and confidence are essential, but worthless without the ability to hold it together and apply them in a potentially high-pressure environment.

      RedHat always liked to throw in a couple of curveballs into the test - aeons ago when I did my RHCT, I'd just booted GRUB into single user to reset the root password when the whole shell fell over. Some wag had come up with the idea of symlinking /bin/bash to /bin/gotcha. I actually laughed :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        how did you get around that?

        Did you change the init line to read:


        1. BlartVersenwaldIII

          Re: how did you get around that?

          I can't remember exactly, but I think I changed the default shell to /bin/gotcha, rebooted into a functional single user shell, and then repointed /bin/bash and left /bin/gotcha in as a symlink to that (in case owt else relied on it) and then changed the shell back to /bin/bash. Ugly but worked. If I'd have been working on a box with a stupid long POST I would have had to rethink that one.

          But thanks for the init=/bin/vi - never heard or even considered that one before, will give that a shot this eve :)

      2. Steven Raith

        BlartVersenwaldIII, that sounds like fun, but I think I'd like have to have access to google to help me with some of those.

        Much as though it's obviously verboten in an actual exam instance, 90% of the time you're trying to fix a system in the real world, you're going to want to fall back on documentation, other users experience, etc.

        There will be rare times when its not possible to get internet access, but in the real world, interpreting search results on technical queries could, arguably, be as important as any part of the preceding education process IMHO.

        Access to that sort of information is a tool, much like fstab or grep - how you use it shows your level of proficiency; you can work out peoples technical nouse by how they use internet search results to aid their troubleshooting process IME.

        Not really a specific comment on the article/thread, just something that came to mind. Be interested to see what others think.

        Steven R

        1. BlartVersenwaldIII

          Don't get me wrong, access to the internet is an invaluable tool and I would hate to live without it, but in at least half the "disaster" scenarios I've encountered, getting internet access was either impossible or would take long enough that having someone on hand that says "do this" is worth more than its weight in gold.

          The RHEL install (and indeed most linux installs) is packed to the gunwhales with documentation, many of it including examples of the task you might be being asked to implement. One of the items I failed in my RHCE was installing and configuring a certain apache module - only to find out later that the RH doco on the box itself contained the exact steps needed. Failure to RTFM on my part.

          But I especially agree on the "tool" aspect in that it's one of the many techniques that can and should be used in any troubleshooting process* - but I would counter that someone should also have a backup plan for when a certain tool gets removed. Internet, intranet, SAN, local discs... all are tools that can vanish at a moments notice and saying "but I don't have my X!" isn't going to stop management from screaming at you and your team to Just Fix It Damnit It Can't Be That Hard.

          Best thing the RHCE did IMHO was to deliberately push me out of my comfort zone.

          * On the flip-side of that, I've met a number of techs who have googled the error message and will treat the first hit on google as the One True Sacrosanct Answer That Will Solve All Your Problems. Sometimes its right and sometimes it's a colossal waste of time and resources; learning how to filter out all the bullshit answers is an even more valuable skill than knowing the right questions to ask IMHO.

          1. Steven Raith

            I must admit, I fail to use the MAN pages far too often - I had to set up a SAMBA shared to mount on a CentOS4 (yes, 4) server last year, and after struggling to find coherent docco that was relevant on the interwebs (most results were for much newer releases) I ended up firing up man for fstab and samba/SMB (or whatever the commands were on that version - I forget now as it was a one off job) and found what I needed in there. You know, an hour later...!

            But your footnote was *exactly* what I was getting at - googling cleverly is one thing. Interpreting those results and finding the relevant information is utterly, utterly key. One mans fix is another mans instigation of a major systems failure....

    3. Don Jefe

      Governments can't copy models used in commercial endeavors. Not because it's against the rules or anything, just that government isn't a business and if you treat it like one you end up where everybody in the West is at now: The crossroads of fucked and insanity.

      Running a government like a business is like trying to drive an F1 car with reins for a horse. Loads of fun while everybody is drunk, but pointlessly destructive and wasteful in the clear light of sobriety. They'd take the RedHat model and bend it to fit the needs of the government. Nobody would even notice that the model has been so comprehensively modified there was no point in even starting with the commercial model as a basis for the system.

      Look at the NHS, BBC, Ministry of Justice and Immigration IT fiascos. All great examples of what is, effectively, alchemy updated for the 21st Century. Attempting to change one thing into another but using bullshit as the reagent universal instead of Philosophers Stone. I couldn't recommend getting your hopes up that things will improve anytime soon.

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    GCSE Computing still a joke????

    I will have left school 10 years this summer, and the biggest regret I have (apart from not asking a particular girl out) in regards to my GCSE's was that I took ICT as a GCSE/GNVQ. I learnt absolutely NOTHING during that course, except how to make a PowerPoint presentation. I also recall during my GCSE's that OCR were trying to hit several barn doors with many banjo's and screwed up not only our GCSE year, but the subsequent years afterwards.

    Exam boards, politicians, and the lazy arsed teachers who don't edit their teaching resources because they don't think they have time or they simply can't be bothered: it's children's futures at stake, and it's the education you're emparting to them that will make or break them. You empower them, inspire them to go out and get more from the world. But who the hell can get excited about the prospect of a career using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint?

    Oh, and Michael Gove: You're an arse.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

      It's because they are applying the business strategy of "just pump-up the numbers" to a diverse, and hard to acquire competence in, set of skills. PowerPoint/Word etc are basic office admin skills. They have little-to-nothing to do with actual computing.

      Having done manys a computing course, nothing pissed me off more than busting my ass to deliver projects on time, only for the slackers to get an extension. And another. And another. And then to be given the answer just so they'd pass.

      Numbers make the college look good, quality be damned.

      I say; fail the bastards!

    2. Paul 25

      Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????


      I'm somewhat older than you but I made the mistake of doing the A-Level computing course, total waste of time. I'd have been much better off taking double maths or english.

      However blaming the teachers is a bit unfair*, successive governments have made the school curriculum ever more proscriptive, leaving little room for teachers to teach what they think is interesting. Of course that doesn't stop those same governments from blaming teachers for "failing to inspire" while trying to teach such an insipid syllabus.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

        I did the last O Level in computing back in 1987. Looking back at it it wasn't actually that bad, we had to do some programming as course work and I think we sat a couple of exam papers. Only trouble was my comp didn't have much in the way of computing kit or computing teachers, this meant that we weren't taught all of the syllabus so weren't entered for all the exam papers so the highest mark I could get was a D which I managed to do

      2. Eruditus

        Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

        The current A-Level computing (AQA) was designed with input from universities such as Warwick and is far more relevant than the course you will have sat in the distant past. Have a quick look at the specification then see if you still feel it's a waste of time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

          "The current A-Level computing (AQA)"

          My complaint about the AQA course is that it's far too broad for the amount of time available at A level, and doesn't take into account the limitations of teachers. 5 languages are allowed 2 of which are proprietary. (Guess whose?). Why not limit things to Pascal and Python? I realise I probably don't know what I'm talking about, but it looks to me like the academic input was "!et's have a bit of everything", I look at the syllabus and think "Well, that covers everything I've ever done in my entire career, and a few bits over."

          A level maths and physics don't have this diffuseness.

          1. DanDanDan

            Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

            "A level maths and physics don't have this diffuseness."

            Uh... yes they do. Pick and choose which modules you'd like to do in maths/physics. In maths, there was a choice of stats, decision and discrete (i.e. algorithms, linear programming and graph theory), mechanics or numerical analysis. In physics, there was a choice of quantum, relativity or... something else that I don't remember. In addition to certain core modules (in maths, this was things like calculus and geometry and in physics this was things like mechanics).

            Computing is (or rather should be) quite a tricky subject in actuality. Taking account of the limitations of teachers is just pandering to a lack of teaching ability. They should be hiring decent computer-literate people, not asking the maths teacher to teach a bit of computing on the side, in addition to their already full schedule. Computing is being treated like PE and we'll end up struggling as a result in the future, in a tech-oriented world in which we really could thrive.

      3. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

        "However blaming the teachers is a bit unfair*, successive governments have made the school curriculum ever more proscriptive, leaving little room for teachers to teach what they think is interesting. Of course that doesn't stop those same governments from blaming teachers for "failing to inspire" while trying to teach such an insipid syllabus."

        You're right about the government, but teachers are still a problem. For a year I was a tutor at a college teaching IT. I was a newbie, wasn't qualified in teaching but I had real world experience in computing and qualifications to back it up. For the most part I was told what to teach as "it was part of the syllabus", so I didn't question it.

        Part of the course for the kids (16 to 19 year olds - little bastards) was a "web design" unit. This, i thought, was brilliant. This was my bread and butter, something I excelled in and had/still do make a living from it. My mentor gave me all the relevant papers etc to give to the students, which I did - and I did it without reading which I accept was my own fault, a schoolboy error if you will. For the 2 hour lesson, I spent 30 minutes explaining the basics of HTML, CSS and very basic layout ideas. I then said carry out the tasks in the paper as it goes to their coursework.

        About 20 minutes in to it, a student raises their hand and asks me how do they insert a table in Dreamweaver. I was a bit confused as to why he asked, but I told him how to do it. He seemed happy enough with the answer. Then another 10 minutes elapsed and another student asked how to turn the borders off of the table. I asked them why they were so bothered about tables and they pointed to the document, and I quote as near verbatim as I can: "All websites today are built using tables to give them structure..."

        Hang the f**k on here, that's wrong. This wasn't done in industry, and I was farily certain that there was a usability issue there as well. So I leave the room and speak to the mentor and I said the paper is wrong. She looked at it and said "No it's not". In the nicest way possible I told her it was, no one has used a table for anything more than displaying data since about 2001, it's not industry practice and if these kids went to get a job in it (which I know 2 of them tried to do after the course) they'd be laughed at. She tried to shut me down with the old "It's in the syllabus", but I pointed out that no where did it tell them to use tables. It then transpired that she hadn't a clue how to do web design and that the document she gave me she had wrote about 10 years ago and hadn't changed it.

        At this point I walked back in to the class, let them finish their work, and went straight to my line manager with a letter of resignation. There was more to it than this one instance, a lot of the tutors at this particular college all followed that train of thought, which in fairness to them comes from non-techie teachers saying it's a good technique to recycle past resources. You can do that in maths and english but you can't with IT.

        These people though are endemic in education and need to be rooted out.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GCSE Computing still a joke????

      Well, at least if you learnt how to make a Powerpoint presentation you were ahead of all the executives who think they know how to do it.

  7. Caaaptaaaain kick arse

    Ironic though...

    Punished for not re-inventing wheels at school.

    Re-invent wheels at work and you get punished.

    Perhaps a GCSE in "finding it on Google" is needed.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: Ironic though...

      > Perhaps a GCSE in "finding it on Google" is needed.

      Being able to do a web search, sift out the cruft and find the nugget of useful information/guidance is an important skill.

      Almost every coder I know spends part of their day trawling blogs/updating wikis etc.

      1. AceRimmer

        Re: Ironic though...

        Its called research

  8. Eruditus

    In response to Several posters.

    I think you might be a little confused here... you took ICT (PowerPoint & Word) whereas the students in question are taught a course in computer science coving networks, databases, data representation, logic and programming.

    The OCR have really messed up here, but they were also the first exam board to get computer science back on the curriculum. The controlled assessments in question involve:

    a) Research into a computing topic (AppDeveloper, JavaScript, Encryption)

    b) Solving a series of programming tasks in a language of their choice.

    Since some companies have started selling solutions to these problems (something endemic in all established subjects that involve controlled assessment) they have decided the only solution is to void 40 hours of work for thousands of students in the UK.

    The only valid solution is a timed programming exam sat at the computers in the manner of A-Level AQA computing.

    1. qwarty

      Re: In response to Several posters.

      I agree.

      Rather disconcerting to observe the number of commentators who don't understand the difference between ICT and Computing GCSE but don't let that minor fact stop them sharing their wisdom with us.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In response to Several posters.

      "The only valid solution is a timed programming exam sat at the computers in the manner of A-Level AQA computing."

      When I first worked in support we had to write all sorts of utility programs and OS enhancements. The spec was usually just a verbal from our team manager. He once said that he really ought to fire me because I was so slow in producing the required function. However he also said that his problem was - that when my code was finished - it did the job.

      I had a long career out of sticking the corners back on software, and hardware, produced by dedicated developers who had failed to envisage the testing and contingency handling it needed.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I looked at becoming a GCSE assessor for OCR a few years back (they were looking for people in industry to mark papers, etc and to input in to the future of GCSE IT) Anyway I downloaded some past papers and the standard was so low it was an embarrassment. The questions were so basic that anyone with just a rudimentary grasp of IT and a bit of common sense would do pretty well without even studying the subject!

  10. DropBear


    ...even way before the days of Internet I could never understand what is the point of restricting examination to memorised-only "knowledge". In the real world, there is nothing preventing anyone getting their hands on whatever support material they deem helpful in order to achieve what they need to - and you better believe no amount of literature would help anyway in a finite amount of time if one is well and truly unacquainted with the subject at hand. Not to mention there's not a shred to be learned in school of the actually important stuff that one only gets to learn later, the hard way.

    Mine is the one with the Pink Floyd CD in the pocket...

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Indeed...

      Getting their hands on knowledge? You're supposed to have the knowledge when you leave school. If you don't start learning until you graduate you're doing it wrong.

      My Interns try to make the same argument, that 'the information is out there, why should I need to know it'. They're wrong, but that's part of being an Intern. Unless you're dealing with very simple problems and working in an isolated environment you need everybody to have the same understanding of the fundamentals of your disclipline. Everybody understands what's going on from the get-go, and they can then provide useful input that reflects their perspective on the relevant principles involved.

      That's what makes a good team. Everybody is on the same page so when a novel solution is presented it can be communicated in a way that allows other team members to consider it with a new perspective then add additional input of their own. Otherwise you end up mixing incompatible things and the output just fucking sucks. You can't combine LEGO with Duplo, Erector, PlayMobile and Lincoln Logs and expect to get anything that won't not require a priest to exorcise the abomination you've created.

      If you don't know the basics you're fucked. Limited to a lifetime of tactical roles with no opportunity to have your voice heard. If you've got to go Google everything before you know what you're talking about you can do that in the pit with the Interns. You sure as hell won't be doing that when decisions are being made. If you're satisfied being an interchangeable drone then great! Don't bother trying to actually learn and understand things. Don't bother trying to be a productive problem solver and let the people who actually understand what's going on make decisions and run your life.

  11. Ben Hodson

    There is nothing wrong in copying good well written code to complete a programming task. It is why we have libraries and templates. Reusing code is an important skill.

    BUT - telling good code from bad code is a pre-requisite for code reuse.

    Grading programming expertise is hard to do by single exam as you need time to take a problem and code a solution that compiles/runs. But you CAN measure someone's ability to break a problem down to a solvable position. A far more important skill than knowing where the ";"s go.

    So give them a problem in an exam and get a solution design out of them. Write a parser for calculating reverse polish notation, design a set of objects for a given task etc.

  12. ElNumbre

    Real World Practice

    At least its prepping them for the real world of IT, where hours are spent on proposals, bids and strategy, only for it to become, at best shelfware and at worst disappear into a black hole with nary a thank you.

  13. Oh Homer

    Initialism overload

    Apparently OCR is a compound initialism that stands for Oxford, Cambridge and RSA, and RSA in turn rather inaccurately stands for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. So really the whole thing should be OCRSAMC, to which my response would be OMFGWALOB.

    Brought to you by Oxford, Cambridge and the Royal whatsit, proud ambassadors of the English language, an' shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Initialism overload


      Thanks for an acronym that I actually understand. (assuming that's an acronym)

      1. Oh Homer
        Thumb Up

        Re: Initialism overload

        Yes, I instinctively know that you got it. :D

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    We're obviously happy to have fixed that




  15. a cynic writes...

    That nearly gave me a heart attack

    That's the one my lad has just spent two years on. However the final decision is in:

    They're replacing the tasks with the new ones available 15th September but anyone who has already started on the existing tasks can submit the work providing their teachers give their names to the exam board by the end of September.

    1. Paul Webb

      Re: That nearly gave me a heart attack

      Amazing what you can do if you think before you act.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bet they are sorry now.

    When I read the updated bit then re-checked the sub-heading I nearly wet myself.

  17. Stretch

    Don't learn the nubs.

    Nuff said.

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