Donegal ETB’s Donegal Town school, the Abbey Vocational School, will introduce Computer Science as a Leaving Certificate subject in September 2018, one of forty schools in Ireland chosen by the Department of Education and Skills to do so as part of the Government’s overall commitment to embedding digital technology in teaching and learning. Computer Science for Leaving Certificate focuses on how programming and computational thinking can be applied to the solution of problems and how computing technology impacts the world around us. Students will learn:
- Computational thinking;
- How to analyse problems in computational terms;
- Programming languages and how to read, write, test and modify computer programmes;
- Creative design;
- Design computational artifacts such as web pages, digital animations, simulations, games, apps and robotic systems;
- The ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of Computer Science, and how it impacts the social and economic development of society.
The Abbey VS has recognised the importance of 21st century learning and taken various measures to develop this area, having developed an E-Learning road map which aims to embed digital technology into teaching and learning practices; it has a very active ICT Committee through which many ICT developmental strategies are progressed; staff have undergone comprehensive training in Google classroom and other Google apps and have been further supported by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) through in school support from one of its past pupils Siobhan O Sullivan, a PDST ICT advisor. A new policy enables students to use their mobile phones as an ICT teaching and learning tool in classes where teachers find it beneficial for them to do so. The curriculum has also been developed with the introduction of Coding as a Short Course for the new Junior Cycle and the creation of an additional computer classroom this year, kitted out with chrome books to allow further access to ICT equipment; further trolleys of chrome books have also been purchased to enhance accessibility to ICT.
Mr Gavin Gorman who is the current ICT teacher in the school will be teaching this subject and is delighted to be presented with this opportunity, “the time is right for this initiative and the students will be prepared for the job market of today as well as being further equipped for the demands of the modern world ahead of them.”
This will be the first Leaving Cert exam to take place through online assessment. The students will complete 70% of the subject through the June examination, which will be done online. The other 30% of marks will be available for a practical project. This will be done over a six-week period in schools and submitted online. This subject will teach students flexible, solution-oriented thinking, problem solving skills and critical thinking which can be applied to all avenues of life.
The school’s Board of Management has welcomed this initiative. Chairperson Geoffrey Browne stated, “I welcome the recent announcement by the Minister for Education and Skills that the Abbey Vocational School has been selected as one of the pilot schools for the introduction of Computer Science as a Senior Cycle subject from September 2018. The selection of the AVS is acknowledgement of the excellent computing and technology teaching practices within the AVS and also of the commitment it has shown and continues to show in fulfilling the computing needs and desires of the young people of south Donegal.”
Dr Martin Gormley, Director of Schools with Donegal ETB, congratulated the school management and staff on their foresight in applying and being successful with getting approval to offer Computer Science at Leaving Certificate. Dr Gormley commented, “the addition of Computer Science to the curriculum for the Leaving Certificate in the Abbey VS will build on the existing work in the school with the Coding Initiative at Junior Cycle and will provide the students with an enhanced choice of subjects for their Leaving Certificate. The management and staff are delighted to receive the approval and are already making the necessary plans for the successful introduction of the subject.”