Monmouth school for boys computingComputing is integral to our daily lives and one of the fastest growing career sectors. We seek to equip students as creators, not consumers, developing computational thinking skills so students become analytical thinkers and problem solvers able to compose solutions and software, not just use it. Minecraft reigns in junior lunch clubs.

Lyndsay Hope is a long-time working member of computing at school and we host the CAS Wye Borders hub. As a centre for Young Rewired State we host the annual regional YRS Festival of Code, and fielded finalists Team cudl in 2014 and Buoy in 2015.  We run monthly YRS Hyperlocal meetings for students from the area to get together and build coded solutions.

Through Monmouth Science Initiative, we deliver robotics and coding workshops to students from partner schools.  The school’s Folding@Home team, Monmouth_School_UK allows students to get involved in a global distributed computing project, while supporting Stanford University’s charitable research projects into cures for many illnesses.

Below is a video which shows the result of a collaborative project, between boys of all ages at the school, which allows you to take a walk around the school site courtesy of Minecraft!


At GCSE students can choose to take WJEC GCSE Computer Science.  The Computer Science GCSEs are part of a new raft of qualifications, and students study theoretical and practical programming topics.  There are units on hardware and software, data and algorithms, programming solutions, networking and the internet, and legal and ethical aspects. 

A controlled assessment project of 15 hours gives students the opportunity to investigate a problem, then design, build and test a solution: this is done using Python.  In an online programming examination, student program solutions to questions in Java using Greenfoot. Finally, there is a theory paper involving short answer questions on binary, algorithms and other theoretical aspects.

Students learn founding principals of computing in class, and with speakers and trips, eg Raspberry Pi Bootcamps, reinforce its connection to life outside the classroom.  Students are encouraged to pursue projects outside the classroom too, eg building servers, making apps and games.

A Level Computer Science

Why study computer science?

Ian Livingstone Life president, Eidos:  “We simply cannot hire enough computer scientists and this seems madness at a time of such high youth unemployment… Companies like Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline depend on great programmers as much as games developers and visual effects companies do.”
It is projected that there will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than students by 2020; 71% of all STEM career openings will be in computer science related fields, but only 8% of STEM graduates are computer scientists.
If you like solving problems, e.g. Sudoku and logic puzzles, are good at lateral thinking, are creative, and like making things that actually do something you will enjoy computer science. It is about the logical problem solving and design and implementation of computer systems and software.
Computer science is a swiftly moving field that unites many disciplines, eg maths, programming, psychology and engineering. It opens an array of career paths and appears individually or jointly in a range of courses, e.g. computer science & games technology, computer science and web technologies and computer science with artificial intelligence.
GCSE computer science is not a prerequisite for A level computer science; a good grade at GCSE maths is necessary though. Students should also be passionate and curious, and happy to build and code outside class too.  A level maths is not essential to take computer science but students who also take A level mathematics will find elements of this course easier to grasp. Students considering taking computer science at university should also consider A level maths.
In the past 5 years, four of our students have gained awards for achieving A level grades in the top 50 in the UK and many have attained places at top universities, or gone straight to industry eg GCHQ or Renishaw. Students have interned and now work with companies like Google, SkyScanner, QinetiQ, and 3M.
Mark Zuckerberg , Founder, Facebook:  “Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren’t enough people who are trained and have these skills today.”

Computer science A level is currently taught to sixth form girls and boys at Monmouth School for Boys.

Head of Department: Ms L A Hope

Course content

Board: AQA   A level Syllabus Code: 7517

Fundamentals of programming   Consequences of uses of computing
Fundamentals of data structures Fundamentals of communication and networking
Fundamentals of algorithms Fundamentals of databases
Theory of computation Big Data
Fundamentals of data representation Fundamentals of functional programming
Fundamentals of computer systems Systematic approach to problem solving
Fundamentals of computer organisation and architecture Non-exam assessment – the computing practical project
Method of assessment

Paper 1   (40% of A level).
2½ hour on-screen exam with short and extended answer questions testing topics from sections 1 to 4 above, and programming and problem solving skills based on a pre-released skeleton program.

Paper 2     (40% of A level).
2½ hour written exam with short and extended answer questions testing topics from sections 5 to 12 above.

Non-exam assessment     (20% of A level).
A project systematically exploring a problem and developing a fully programmed solution. This allows students to choose an area of interest, explore it in greater depth, extending their programming skills and deepening their understanding of computer science.

The exam board’s statistics show our students do well, particularly in the practical programming exams where they consistently score above national average.  In the last two years students have been placed in the top 50 in the UK for A Level Computing and so won Netcraft awards.

Beyond Monmouth School for Boys

Around 50% of our A Level Computing students go on to study Computer Science.  In recent years students have gone to Cambridge, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Durham universities to pursue Computer Science. However students have also taken apprenticeship routes for example into GCHQ and Renishaw.  Others still have taken combined courses like Computing with French, Computer Science and Philosophy, or Games Development. 

Computing is a swift-moving, broad and creative subject opening the doors to diverse careers in industry, commerce, research and government.  It supports many other fields, eg Engineering, biotechnology and finance.  The latest Association of Graduate Recruiters survey states IT posts are among the most numerous graduate jobs with some of the highest starting salaries, while (‘the world’s leading career network’), says ‘graduates with degrees in mathematical sciences and informatics are likely to obtain jobs with higher starting salaries than graduates in other disciplines.’