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Computer Science extended to Year 11

Computer Science teacher Margot Phillipps, who is involved with the world’s foremost secondary school programming contest will lead a new Year 11 Computer Science option from 2017.

 The subject has up to now been taught just to Year 10.

Ten years ago, Margot Phillipps founded the New Zealand branch of the International Olympiad in Informatics, the foremost secondary school programming contest in the world. She is now Executive Director of the international organisation and has just returned from Kazan, Russia, where she accompanied the New Zealand team to the Olympiad.

Our Year 11 programme will teach students Computer Science and the programming language Python as well as sharpen their problem solving abilities.

Ms Phillipps says Computer Science is a uniquely rewarding subject. “It provides an intellectual challenge and it’s incredibly satisfying when you get a programme to work that solves the problem stated. As a teacher, it’s when a student gives a fist pump, the lights go on and they get a programme to work. I tell them no other subject will give them that amazing sense of satisfaction. The reward is internal, not external.”

There can be confusion around the differences between IT and Computer Science – IT emphasises the use of software while Computer Science is about the data structures and algorithms you might use in programming. Ms Phillipps says it’s critical for students to have an insight into programming.

“Understanding Computer Science is understanding greater things such as data and the privacy of data. Companies like Google and Facebook make decisions based around the specifications for programming. Every time you load an app on your phone, for example, you agree to 17 permissions before you can get the software. Most people don’t read them. Someone who’s studied Computer Science is more likely to think about those and the impact they can have.”

Principal Nathan Villars said: “We have an integrated compulsory programming curriculum from Year 1 through to Year 10 and the skill level is high enough to demand a senior course. There is now also significant demand from students and parents to have programming post Year 10 on offer. We are hugely excited about the initiative.”