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Computing

The Computing Department teaches all year groups at Merchiston from First Form upwards. In Shell and Fifth Form we offer GCSE Computer Science and iGCSE Information and Communication Technology, both from Edexcel.

Our A-Level cohort is offered Computer Science, and follows the AQA specification. In the Fourth Form, pupils are given the chance to undertake an SQA Level 4 qualification in Cybersecurity.

Staff

James Bisset

James Bisset

Director of ICT Services
MA, MSc
Mr Bisset is responsible for ICT policy at Merchiston, and oversees the running of all systems. In addition to teaching ICT and Computing, he assists with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, and accompanies boys on expeditions.

Chris Brown

Technical Support Officer
Daniel Loftus

Daniel Loftus

Head of Design Technology & Engineering, Teacher of Electronics, and Computing
BSc

Mr Loftus has been teaching Design and Technology since 2012 and joined Merchiston in 2013. He also teaches Electronics in the Fourth Form, and Computing. His other responsibilities include looking after DT&E prep sessions, football coaching, and he is a resident tutor in Evans House.

Alister MacNeill

Network and ICT Technical Support Officer
Jenny Moran

Jenny Moran

Teacher of Mathematics and Computing
BSc

Miss Moran joined the Computing & Mathematics Departments in 2017. Having previously taught in Dublin and the United Arab Emirates, she brings a wealth of experience in Maths, Computing and IT. She has been involved extensively in co-curricular activities such as a Computing Clubs and Athletics, as well as developing the e-Learning environment in her previous school. She is passionate about running and working with charities.

Clare Nugent

Clare Nugent

Teacher of Design & Technology and Computing
BSc(Hons), MEd, PhD

Dr Nugent joined Merchiston in 2013 as Pringle Housemother and part-time teacher of Product Design, later joining the DT&E department full-time. She also teaches Electronics and is a Tutor in the Junior School. Her other responsibilities include assisting with the Golf Academy and the Senior Pipe Band.

David Thomson

David Thomson

Head of Academic ICT & Computer Science
MA

Mr Thomson joined the Department in August 2015, having previously taught in Doncaster. He teaches Computing and ICT throughout the School, and is involved with running the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. He is a tutor in the Middle Years

Facilities

The Robertson Building has two dedicated classrooms for the teaching of ICT and Computing. The “Resource Area” has facilities for other departments’ to use with their classes, and classrooms can also be booked when available. This enables us to share our facilities with other departments, allowing pupils at Merchiston to access electronic materials which require a desktop PC.

 The classrooms are equipped with Windows 10 PCs, a data projector and an interactive Smartboard. A wide range of general purpose and curricular software is installed, including several commercially applicable programming tools.

Curriculum

J4, J5 - Classes are taught in the Pringle Centre by their class teacher using the mobile laptop suite and iPads. The topics covered are linked to work being undertaken by the class in other curricular areas.

I Form - In First Form, boys receive short courses in several key areas of both Computing and Information technology. They are taught these skills through projects, which complement the work they may be doing in other subjects. This enables effective use of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software across the school curriculum. They also cover an introduction to computer programming through a visual programming tool called Scratch. Topics covered over the whole session include:

  • Understanding what an algorithm is
  • Using logic to predict the behaviour of simple programs
  • Introduce concepts of sequence, selection and repetition
  • Using Word Processing and Presentation technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content
  • Using the Internet to research various topics, including their ESB projects

II Form - In this year the boys learn to develop a greater understanding of how computers work at a technical level. They also develop the ability to create meaningful websites, incorporating content appropriate for their intended user-base. They also learn how to manipulate graphics files which can be added to their websites. They will develop in the following areas:

  • Design a website to meet a given brief
  • Identify the needs of the intended users of a website
  • Use WYSIWYG editors to create a website
  • Use HTML tags to create additional functionality
  • Understand how computer systems operate
  • Understand input, processing, storage and output devices
  • Manipulate bitmap images through cropping, cloning, layers, selection

III Form - The Third Form will take part in a rotation with D&T and Electronics, with each set studying each of the subjects for a full term before moving on. The topics covered will build on the skills acquired in the earlier years, and introduce for the first time the skills of writing programs using a procedural language (Python). They cover computer systems in greater depth, looking at how data is stored using binary, as well as the fetch-decode-execute cycle for processing instructions. Real-world systems are broken down into inputs (sensors) and outputs (actuators). They finish their cycle building circuits controlled by the Raspberry Pi computer.

IV Form - This course is divided into two components. In the first term we give pupils experience of Python programming to prepare those who may take Computing Science at GCSE, and to allow all pupils to see if Computing may be right for them. The other two terms are spent studying for an SQA Level 4 qualification in Cybersecurity. The following topics are covered:

  • Use of variables to store data
  • Getting input from a keyboard
  • Making decisions using If Statements
  • Repeating instructions using loops
  • Motivations behind hacking and other cybercrime
  • Common weaknesses in digital devices
  • Protecting a digital device from intrusion

Shell & V Form - IGCSE ICT

This course explores and studies ICT in a variety of contexts: home, community, business, industry, recreation and education. The course enables development of ICT-based solutions to analyse and solve problems through the use of:

  • Database design and construction
  • Data modelling through spreadsheets
  • Website design and web authoring
  • Graphics editing software
  • Presentations and Word Processing

The course also covers the use of IT systems, including common digital devices, operating online, networks and communication, and online goods and services.

GCSE Computer Science

This course provides an in-depth understanding of how computer technology works. It offers an insight into what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and includes computer programming, which many students find absorbing. Although programming is an important element of computer science, the underlying principles of logic, decomposition, algorithms, data representation and communication are even more fundamental and durable. The course builds a body of knowledge, a set of techniques/methods for solving problems, as well as practical programming skills and an understanding of how the underlying technologies function. The GCSE has two assessment components - Principles of Computer Science, and Application of Computational Thinking. Both papers are weighted at 50%.

VI Form

A Level Computer Science

This course is uniquely demanding in terms of its combination of academic challenge and practical engagement. It is a subject where students must apply the academic principles learned in the classroom to real-world systems. It is an intensely creative subject, combining the art of invention with the science of problem solving through the elegant use of algorithms and mathematical logic. Computer Science teaches a unique set of skills which can be applied to a wide variety of academic fields and which are highly sought-after in numerous areas of employment.

The aims of this qualification are to enable learners to develop:

  • An understanding and ability to apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including: abstraction, decomposition, logic, algorithms and data representation
  • The ability to analyse problems in computational terms through the practical experience of solving such problems, including writing complex programs to do so
  • The capacity to think creatively, innovatively, analytically, logically and critically
  • The capacity to see relationships between different aspects of computer science, combining multiple disciplines into a cohesive set of skills
  • The mathematical skills required to analyse “big data” efficiently and accurately

Activities

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.

Merchiston

Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

Science News

Scottish Climate Week

During Scottish Climate Week, our students have been contributing to Seagrass Ocean Rescue