Computer programming exams may be taken using pen and paper because of concerns about the number of school computers that do not work.
The exam regulator Ofqual today launched a consultation on a proposal that GCSE computer science is assessed entirely by exams in the future.
It follows evidence of malpractice in a non-exam assessment that was designed to test candidates’ programming skills, which was due to form 20 per cent of their overall grade.
It was discovered that detailed solutions to the tasks has been posted online, and as a short-term measure Ofqual announced that pupils taking the exam in 2018, 2019 and 2020 would be assessed by exam alone, although they would still have to complete coursework.
Now, Ofqual has set out its longer-term plans for the subject, which would see programming continue to be assessed by exam alone.
It said: “The alternatives would place an unjustifiable and unsustainable burden on teachers, and could be vulnerable to malpractice.”
Ofqual said it wanted to give exam boards “discretion over the form of exam assessment they offer”.
Citing a Tes story about a third of school computers being ineffective, the consultation says: “We do not wish for our long-term approach to place additional pressures on centres’ IT infrastructure, or to exclude students from taking a GCSE in the subject because their school or college could not support the assessment.”
The consultation adds: “Granting exam boards greater discretion over the form of assessment they offer will enable them to take into account the varying IT resources within schools and colleges.
“The exam boards might take different approaches, catering for different levels of resource within centres.”
The consultation says exam boards would be able to decide whether, in their exams, they “deliver the assessments on paper or on-screen – and if on-screen, whether online”.
They could also decide whether to set a single task-based assessment, and whether to use pre-release materials to “give students advance notice of the context to a task/problem that will be set in the examination and/or allow students before the exams to work on a program/code about which they are then examined”.