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Make IT Better: Exam body warns disadvantaged pupils face exclusion from IT

16 Jan 2013

UK award body OCR has spoken of the difficulties examination boards and qualifications providers face when designing computing courses for schoolchildren.

In particular, there can be difficulties when children's access to the latest tablets and smartphones varies so widely according to their social economic backgrounds.

In an exclusive interview with V3, OCR executives said they believe its courses manage to strike the right balance, but their design takes a lot of consideration and research.

OCR Qualifications Manager Philip Bryant"The qualifications need to depend on what schools can provide. What we need to do is ensure no school child is disadvantaged," said Philip Bryant, OCR qualifications manager for ICT and technology.

However Bryant said the difficulty is that to ensure ICT appears a "cool" subject, computing qualifications need to allow pupils to use the technology they are growing up with, such as tablets and smartphones.

Although not all pupils will grow up with access to the latest technology, said Bryant, the OCR courses are designed to be flexible to suit all circumstances.

"There is still a bit of a way to go in creating these qualifications but the OCR approach is to ensure there is no rsingle solution [in the course work and exams]. This allows students and teachers to use the technology that is right for them."

Meanwhile OCR curriculum leader for ICT, Alison Pearce, said the OCR body carefully designs courses so that technology and resources are not a factor in students' ability to perform well.

"We ensure that qualifications are not just about the technology available but about ideas and innovation. So rather people may say technology and resources are holding them back, but its lack of opportunity to be creative."

OCR is currently working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation because of its low cost. For the GCSE computing course, OCR is in the process of developing an option that will be focused on the use of Raspberry Pi.

This option will be available for teachers to use from September this year.

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