To take into account
You needn't have studied IT before (some have, but they don't do better at A-level than those who haven't). Good grades at GCSE maths and English are more important, plus a desire to make the computer do what you want it to do. Hopefully you will have experimented with computers, perhaps at home if not at school.
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The college offers two separate subjects - ICT and Computing - at AS/A level. You can't do both; you need to choose in advance which one you want to do. Please check Computing or ICT to help you decide as this gives advice to those who think they might want to do Computing.
What is A-level Computing?
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This course is aimed at students who are keen on practical computer work and especially on problem-solving. You will gain a comprehensive knowledge of computer systems and programming skills. The course covers a wide range of computing applications, including data processing, control systems, artificial intelligence, the theory of relational databases, spreadsheets, DTP and networking, and hardware configurations. Although there is a substantial practical element to the course, there is also a thorough theoretical coverage.
Programming is taught using Pascal and Delphi languages (and others are available and briefly covered). If you've never come across these before, you may like to experiment with them before starting your AS-levels. Delphi is available at around £20 as a full registered version for AQA Computing students here at Greenhead College - a substantial saving on the usual student price, so don't buy this before starting the course. There are several sources on the internet of useful software tools. Delphi itself (but not the exact version we use) is available as a trial version at Turbo Pascal (version 5.5. an earlier version, but still useful, of the software we use- version 7), is available at
/>You may have to register yourself as a Borland user, but there should be no problems with this. A free alternative to Delphi is Lazarus, and its corresponding version of Pascal, called FreePascal. Both of these are "open-source" projects, i.e. they are non-commercial tools which are made freely available by their compilers, with the intention that other experts can then modify them (improve them) so that the programming world benefits by the combined expertise of many, rather than being tied to the commercial products of a few. At least one past Greenhead Computing student has become an expert contributor to this open-source pool, and many have learnt much from the tools available.
Having obtained programming tools, if you want to dabble before starting your AS-level courses, you will need to teach yourself a little about programming. Again the internet has many resources. A Google search on "programming Pascal introduction" will yield a plethora of sites. Try also books via the public library.
Another approach you may like to try if you have your own computer is to install linux as its operating system. The course includes a study of operating systems, networking and web-based programming, and will from next year include work in linux (the AQA exam syllabus is perhaps the most up-to-date of the computing syllabuses, and will be updated from 2003's exams), so this will be useful. Linux is good because it offers an alternative to MS Windows (good for comparative study) but most of all, the applications are basically free. A range of languages is available freely, including a version of Pascal. Embarcadero also produce a version of Delphi (called "Kylix") for Linux; you have to pay for the full versions, but again a free version is downloadable).
It is preferable for Computing students to have access to a computer at home. Many Computing students like to set up their own computer - this is not necessary, but is certainly good experience. On your home computer, for all subjects, you will need word-processing software (the college uses Microsoft Word, but the choice is yours. There is a distinct advantage in being able to bring work in on disk, or by using email, so that you can work both at home and in college on the same piece of work).
Computing courses offered at Greenhead
The College offers two types of A/AS level in this area-ICT and Computing. Both are about solving problems using computers. With ICT, you develop solutions using packages such as databases or spreadsheets. With Computing, you develop solutions by writing your own software - PROGRAMMING. You can't do both subjects together.
About the course
In each year there are two modules, one of which includes coursework. About half of class time is spent at the computers. AS / A-level Computing is not an extension of GCSE IT. It is a different subject, with a different approach, although IT techniques are used within it. As with any A level subject, it involves hard work and some perseverance, but it also brings its rewards. You can find out more about the details of the course content from the AQA website.
What can I do with an A-level in Computing?
Most, but not all Computing students go on to university after A-levels, and around half follow computer-related courses, such as computer science, artificial intelligence, games design, games programming, software engineering, systems analysis, informatics etc..., or joint courses such as business management with computing or IT. Whilst A-level computing is not a pre-requisite for these courses, it is useful.
Many Computing students also study maths and / or sciences, but Computing fits with any other A-level subject, especially if you're particularly interested in it.
About the department
A-level Computing is currently taught by two members of staff, Head of Department Dr. Geoffrey Lockwood, assisted by Mr Jay Patel the Head of ICT.
Born and bred in the Holme Valley, Dr. Lockwood was a pupil at Holme Valley Grammar School (now Honley High School) back in the sixties. He then spent three years at Cambridge (Christ's College), reading Natural Sciences, specialising eventually in Biochemistry. Three years as a postgraduate student at Aston University in Birmingham (Pharmacy Department) resulted in a PhD degree and several published papers on obscure aspects of photoluminescence of proteins.
He then spent two years doing cancer research at Sheffield University, switching eventually to setting up laser laboratories, both at Sheffield, and Queen's University, Belfast. This involved a great amount of computing.
Having pushed back the frontiers of science a minuscule amount, he then changed direction completely and entered the teaching profession. A year at Mirfield High School was followed by five years at Wheelwright Sixth Form College, Dewsbury, where he taught physics, maths and electronics. When Wheelwright College closed, he came to Greenhead College, firstly teaching physics and computing, but more recently because of expansion of numbers of students, computing only. He now has some twenty years' experience in teaching Computing.
Dr. Lockwood also runs a non-examined course (as part of the College's Enrichment programme) in Electronics, and he has an extensive interest in music.