KS3 Computing Assessment Framework

Since the disapplication of the ICT programme of study a couple of years ago, ‘KS3 assessment criteria’ or a variation thereof has been one of the most frequent search terms that lands people on my blog.  Whilst I tweaked and remixed the ICT criteria in 2012, a new program of study (and for a lot of us a brand new subject) has resulted in the need for a new assessment framework.  Here’s how my department and I have been going about it.

Start Points

Our three main touchstones for the process were as follows:

1. The new KS3 programme of study (and also the KS1/2 POS to see what we were picking up from primaries).

2. This rather superb Guide to Computing in the Secondary Curriculum from Computing at School (CAS).  Again, there is a primary version that I urge you to read.

3. Miles Berry‘s (yes, him again!) assessment framework available on the CAS resources hub.

If you’re getting the feeling that CAS is a valuable and knowledgable community and resource centre, then you’d be right!


My school will continue to use levels for 2014/15, so we used the traditional numbers, but any nomenclature would do just fine, white belt > yellow belt, stone age > bronze age (OK, maybe not that one) etc etc.

There were two key tenets for the process, they were:

There should be as much consistency across one level as possible – all the level 5 descriptors should involve a roughly similar complexity of thinking.

There should be a clear progression ladder in each topic – steps between levels should represent an increase in the complexity of thinking/comprehension but without enormous leaps in the complexity of what we are asking students to do/understand.


Rather than take Miles’ framework and implement it unedited, we felt that it was important for the whole department to have a say in the scaling process.  To do this, we used an afternoon of departmental INSET time on a physical cut & paste exercise, where we literally cut all the statements up, clustered  them into rough topics and then sorted them into order.  The strands we used were Digital Literacy, Computer Science, and ICT.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 20.05.48

To help us, we used Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, the SOLO taxonomy framework and good old fashioned professional argument.

Whilst we tried to standardise key words across levels, sometimes we agreed that understanding one concept was more complex than understanding another and so one was (for example) a six whilst the other was a five.

This sorting and arguing really helped us to clarify our understanding of the descriptors. In some cases we adapted, combined or re-wrote them to fit the two main criteria of our rationale. As a result, we now feel that we have a robust tool to help us plan individual units, feed back to pupils and help them progress toward the (very ambitious) statements outlined in the programme of study.  All staff have more of a shared understanding of the criteria and ownership of the framework.

Cut & Paste

The result

If you’ve skipped the earlier paragraphs, or even if you haven’t, please bear in mind that this is not a finished product.  Just like with my resources, I would strongly recommend that you examine, question, adapt and tweak for your own school. The process of creation of this V 1.0 has been just as valuable as the outcome.

For planning purposes, I’ve mapped the descriptors to various topics in this Google Spreadsheet. The letters are so that we can keep track of which descriptors we are marking against and update each pupil’s KS3 assessment overview document (which hasn’t been produced yet, but will be in a simpler format.

To access the document in Google Drive (it displays much better there) here’s the link.

I’m absolutely sure that this framework will adapt as we get to grips with the new curriculum in the classroom, but your feedback on V1 would be more than welcome.  Please comment with your views.


SSAT Computing Conference 2014

Thanks to everyone at #SSATComp14 for a warm welcome at my first conference presentation.  My workshop was about the Y7 binary converter scheme of work that I have been developing for teaching from Sep 2014.  I had an absolute blast, and here are my key learning points from the day:

1. Computing isn’t just programming, it’s a blend of ICT, digital citizenship and Computer Science.  This excellent document form Computing at School is a good reference point.

2. You won’t get it right first time – the new curriculum is there to be played with and tweaked. Think of it as a beta release.

3. What are your (up to) 10 key ideas about Computing – design your curriculum around those and you won’t go far wrong.

4. You are not alone, there are lots of other people in the same boat or a bit further down the line.  Some of these people are on twitter, where lots of valuable discussion take place.  If you are one of the people that I bullied persuaded to sign up on the day and you’re not too sure where to start, then just follow Miles Berry (@mberry).  He’s like the Kevin Bacon of the Computing curriculum – he’s connected to everyone. Look at who he interacts with, follow a few of them and you can’t go far wrong!  See my resources page for my stuff and a list of my recommendations for resources made by others.  Once you see what others are doing it will fire your creativity and get you thinking about where you could take it.

5. Own your curriculum. Yes, I share my resources, a lot of which have been adapted from other people’s. I wouldn’t recommend that you use my resources out of the box, tweak and adapt for your school and your pupils.  You know them best after all.

6. Don’t think that every lesson has to involve computers – it’s about solving human problems and sometimes simulations and abstractions can get in the way of that.

7. Big data is ace! Nuff said.

For those who were there (or not), here are my slides, and a link to all of the resources from the scheme of work.  Any WWW/EBI comments about the session or the resources would be more than welcome.





Differentiation and Programming

The most successful ICT lessons I’ve taught over the past 10 years have all shared a couple of attributes.  The first is the idea of ‘freedom within a framework’ – clear success criteria but pupils have a measure of control over the output (topic/theme is the first example that comes to mind) which helps to motivate them.

The second is the very tricky concept of ‘challenge and support’.  This is especially difficult in mixed ability groups where there are potentially no upper or lower ability cutoffs.  I’ve found that whilst I have become quite adept (I think) at supporting the lower end, it is sometimes more difficult for me to plan in the flexibility to allow those students who can to go deeper and further without limiting them or starving them of advice whilst I get others up to speed.  At one hour a week. Phew!

I make heavy use of video tutorials in lesson, (my favourite recording tool is Screencast-O-Matic) as they allow pupils to access my teaching at the relevant point in the lesson for them.  It also stops me from doing a demo at the start, then repeating the demo 30+ times during the lesson as pupils forget/didn’t listen.  They can also pause, rewind and even mute me if they want!

However, the problem with video is embedding the challenge. If you are showing them what to do, what are they thinking? Are they working problems out for themselves or just copying from the screen?  And yet the support has to be there if pupils need it.

So, to scaffold the challenge, here’s the method that I’m adopting when posing coding problems in Scratch:

Step 1 – Show them the pseudo-code

Firstly, learners get the pseudo-code and try to create their code blocks based on it.  If they can’t then they move to step 2.

Step 2 – Code blocks not joined together

Step 2 shows learners a screenshot of all the blocks needed for this piece of code.  However, they are not arranged, so the pupil has to work out how to combine them.

Step 3 – Blocks joined together.

Learners should be encouraged to move away from steps 3 & 4 as soon as they feel able (or a bit before) as it involves less thinking.  However, the support does need to be there, particularly for trickier bits of code.

Step 4 – The video

Usually used when learning how to use Scratch, this shows pupils where the blocks can be found in the program and gives them a voice over to explain the context of the problem.

Worked Example

In this example, we are trying to code a binary to denary converter.   The program needs to ask the user to input at binary number one digit at a time and record their answers to different variables.  This example covers the introduction to the program and the question covering the first digit of the binary number.


when the green flag is clicked

say “Hello! You are going to convert binary to denary.”

wait 2 seconds

say “Please type 1 or 0 for the next few questions.”

say “Is there a one in your binary number? Press 1 for yes or 0 for no” 

wait for answer

set variable ‘Ones‘ to answer

Deconstructed Blocks

Deconstructed Blocks

Constructed Blocks

Arranged Blocks

The video

Finally, the help video – made with Screencast-O-Matic

I’ve just started to adopt this approach with some classes, and I’m finding that they really enjoy the challenge and try to work with as little support as possible.  They are also preparing themselves for more text based coding by engaging with the pseudo-code.  It’s going to take a considerable effort to retro-fit this into my existing Scratch units, but I feel that it will be well worth the work.  How are you going about creating a learning scaffold for your pupils, please leave me a comment to let me know.

This post is directly inspired by the great work done by Phil Bagge (@baggiepr) and the Computing department at Bourne Grammar including Marc Scott (@Coding2Learn). Thanks for sharing gents!

Safer Internet Day 2014


Happy Safer Internet Day everyone!

As part of our work around the day, I run a session for parents about E Safety issues.  You can access the slide deck from the session by following the links below.  Please share under Creative Commons Non-Commercial, Share Alike.

Powerpoint version.

PDF version.

For more advice and useful links, please visit my E Safety page.


On the night,, I was asked if there were any parental controls that let you filter for any device connected to your wireless connection.  I wasn’t aware of any, but this article from Feb 5th 2014 indicates that the big Internet companies have reached an agreement with the Government to put them in place.  It’s also a great guide to parental controls in general.

Teaching Computing – But I Can’t Program!

With the imminent arrival of the new computing curriculum, there are LOADS of resources out there to enable our learners to code.  Here are some of the best that I’ve come across, and what key stage I recommend using them at.

Before You Start

Just before that however, if you’re only going to click on 2 links in this post, then make it these two:

Computing At School – Join it. There are loads of CAS members contributing resources and educating teachers (including myself) all over the country. A goldmine.

Primary ICTITT – A site set up by ‘a small group of teachers and teacher educators convened by the DfE’s Teaching Agency and chaired by Bob Harrison’  with resources linked to the requirements of the POS


KS1 – Bee-Bot app – iPad – works just like the physical bee bots. Simple patterns programmed and executed.

KS1 – Daisy the Dinosaur – iPad – Simple introduction to programming covering loops, events and sequences. Drag and drop.

KS1 – How to train your robot – No languages, no computers. A great ‘physical programming’ activity.

KS2 – Hopscotch –  iPad – Visual programming with simple drag & drop blocks. Starts to introduce interactivity, loops & variables.  Nice tutorials too.

KS2/3 –  Python – A text based programming language that lots of schools are adopting for GCSE Computer Science.  To get learners started early, here are some fantastic Python tutorials from the wonderful Phil Bagge @BaggiePR. Click here for the tutorials.

KS2/3 Scratch – My favourite and the spark for some of the best lessons I’ve ever taught!  Drag & drop code that fits together. You can code anything from a simple animation to complex games.  Start by downloading version 1.4 to your computer, then iIntroduce pupils to the Scratch 2.0 online community in Y5/6 and watch them fly. Find some project ideas on my Youtube channel.

KS2/3 – Kodu – 3d Drag and drop programming by Microsoft. Loads of resources available and can also be downloaded for XBox.  @mattbritland (website) & @GeekyNicki (website) are the two Tweeters I look to for advice about this one.

KS3Greenfoot – A half visual, half textual JavaScript coding tool.  I was introduced to this by the rather awesome Neil Brown (@TwistedSQ)from the University of Kent at a computing INSET day that I organised.  I haven’t had a proper chance to play with it yet, but it is bubbling away at the top of my list and looks like a great bridge between Scratch and purely textual languages.  For the moment, here is the project that we worked on on the INSET day and the YouTube channel from the University of Kent.

KS3/4Code Avengers – HTML, CSS and JavaScript with a superhero theme.  I did the HTML project with a mixed ability Y9 group and they loved it. Pupils could instantly see the effect of the changes to the code in the preview window, which worked really well.There were even boys competing to earn the most points in a lesson!  It seems a lot less ‘dry’ than some of the other online programming tutorials around.

I would probably use the HTML at KS3 and the JavaScript at top end KS3 & KS4 at the moment with a view to moving it further down the year groups as they get more coding experience in earlier years.

KS3/4W3Schools – A great site with really comprehensive web coding tutorials covering everything from HTML & CSS to SQL & PHP. Very nice indeed.

KS3/4 – Python

There seem to be more & more online python courses around all the time.  The ones I have used are:

LearnStreet –  Simple interface and chunked lessons. Projects need some experience to jump into.  Nice class creation and pupil/progress tracking metrics. Also does Java & Ruby.

Code Academy – Similar in format to LearnStreet. Simple interface and points for achievements. Covers Python, JavaScript, JQuery, HTML/CSS etc.

Anther great Python resource is:

Invent with Python – free pdf textbooks covering game programming, games with graphics and hacking secret ciphers.

Teachers – Python School is aimed at skilling up teachers for teaching computing to KS3/KS4/A Level.

KS3 ICT/Computing Resources – A ShaREvolution

I’m a huge believer in sharing good practise and working with other teachers to develop quality lesson plans and resources.  This probably stems from my preference to wander the corridors searching for some poor lucky soul with whom to chat about and refine ideas.  The idea that I can share a questioning framework before school that can be used instantly by teachers around the world is not only exciting, but an incredibly powerful argument for the teaching of digital literacy & citizenship.

I’ve been sharing my resources with various ICT teachers around the world for a while using DropBox, but @MrLockyer has turned it into something bigger. He has become Lord of the Dropbox and organised several collaborative spaces for sharing resources.  I’m a member of the #KS34ICTDropbox and #SLTdropbox, but here is a full list on Stephen’s blog.  If you aren’t a Dropbox member, you can sign up here (I get a few extra mb of storage if you use this link, so if you don’t want to do it that way, use this one instead).

Anyway, to avoid instantly filling everyone’s storage limit on Dropbox, I’ve created a simple document that links to all of my schemes of work, projects and assessment materials for Years 7,8 and 9.  Please feel free to plunder, but with Creative Commons Non Commercial and Attribution restrictions.  Enjoy, sign up to share your own stuff, and let me know how you get on.

EDIT – With the advent of the new Computing curriculum, I have adapted and reworked lots of the content in my KS3 SOW.  Links to the latest resources can be found on the Computing Resources page of my site.


Homework and Problem Solving

I’m going to try a new type of homework with Y7 for their Scratch programming topic.

It’s been made possible by the new online beta version of Scratch, which is ace.

I’ve created some buggy projects based on the things they will be learning, their homework will be to attempt a fix on at least one per homework.

Now, this raises some interesting questions:

1. Can they do it?

I hope so,we’ll do the sign up in lessons, and I’ve put this video on YouTube and the school website to show them how if they forget.

2. What if they don’t have Internet access at home?

Well, it’s 2 weeks between homeworks, and I’m rarely out of my room at lunchtimes.

3. What if they don’t get it right?

We’ll run a points score across the unit with massive* prizes. Points will be awarded for successful and unsuccessful attempts, provided there is a reasoned explanation of why it didn’t work or what was attempted.

4. How will I know they’ve done it?

Aha! Their parents will have to sign something to say that they have had a go.

5. How will OFSTED know they’ve done it?

My initial response is ‘who cares’? As we all know, if it isn’t put on a plate and make screamingly obvious for OFSTED, it doesn’t exist. However, I have an idea. So, I’ve gone astoundingly high tech and produced an A5 homework booklet for the recording of attempts, solutions and parental signatures.  They can print screen, write up or just draw the blocks of code. This will then live in their folders as lovely evidence.  Parents get a bit more info about what we’re up to in ICT, homework completion is monitored in the least painless way that I can think of and it’s a highly visible way of demonstrating ‘regular & rigorous’ (IMHO) homework.

Scratch homework booklet

6. What happens when if they lose the booklet?

Not sure yet, I’ve had more printed and will use my sanctions appropriately.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.