One of the best parts of home education is the flexibility that we have around providing a suitable education. That flexibility means that learning can be adapted to the individual child and family, but also suited to their interests.

The changes to the Cambridge International iGCSE Computer Science specification have led to many conversations in the Home Education community about the feasibility of still sitting in a single year. Before reading this blog, I’d like to make an impassioned plea to you to read this and answer each question objectively. Some of the answers are not always comfortable (even for me), and it’s worth spending some time considering these before making that leap.

Have you already studied Computer Science?

If you have found yourself suddenly on your home education journey late in year 10 or at the start of year 11 and want to continue studying Computer Science, then switching exam boards may be the right move for you. With a year of study already under your belt (even if this was interrupted or not what you’d hoped for), then the chances are that you’ve covered the foundations.

Jumping into Computer Science and hoping to retain the wide syllabus in a year without previous study is a really big ask. For anyone… but not impossible. I say this as someone who started a Computer Science degree having never programmed before. Would I recommend that to anyone else? Absolutely not. It was not a fun experience until the lightbulb went on, and it took a lot of hard work and stubborness to get there.

Are you a confident programmer?

If you’ve been programming for a while using a text based language like Python, C#, or even JavaScript then you’ve likely already been working with many of the concepts that you’ll cover in the iGCSE programming paper. Although the programming paper is only 50% of the specification, far longer is spent on programming as it takes time to learn and build confidence.

Much like any other type of language, practice is the key to confidence and if you’re already a confident programmer then you’ll likely be able to cope well with a condensed course.

Do you have the time? (120 hours)

For a condensed 1 year course, this will likely be across just 30 weeks if you aren’t working through holidays (which is generally the case with a Distance Learning Provider or DLP). On average, this will mean dedicating 4 or more hours every week to just Computer Science.

If you do fall behind due to illness or a holiday, this makes it much harder to catch up.

Why do you want to condense the course?

Reasons for wanting to condense a course will vary, but if your reason isn’t “because I need to” it’s worth considering the impact of this decision on your final grade. On average, those who don’t rush a subject will generally do better and in particular, in Computer Science there is a trend for “pass” grades to be generally more difficult to reach. This tends to be due to the time needed for the more practical elements of programming and computational thinking which are often not seen in other subjects.

From my own experience of teaching and tutoring Computer Science since 2009, the subject remains one with a higher percentage of students who do really well and when they don’t, they really don’t. This certainly seems to be a theory backed up by year on year data shown above.

Where will you be on the graph?

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