Interview by Greg Pearson, Microsoft Learning UK Lead - originally posted to Microsoft UK Schools Blog.
In late May, I met with Gareth Baldwin (Head of ICT at Pontypridd High School) and his team. Gareth was telling me about the success they are seeing with the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certifications for his students. Earlier this week, I caught up with him again to see how their GCSE ICT results have fared and to dig a little deeper in to this on-going success.
The first thing Gareth shared with me is the drastic change in the GCSE ICT results from 2011-2012, since they have introduced the MOS courses to students:
- 2011: 62.9% A* - C
- 2012: 100% A* - C
What Are They Doing?
Pontypridd are currently delivering the WJEC ICT GCSE with about 60 pupils. On top of this, they have introduced the MOS certification via an ITQ with OCR, working with Microsoft's MOS partner in the UK, Prodigy Learning. This has enabled students to work towards additional GCSE equivalent grades e.g. B or BB depending on how many MOS exams they have taken.
Which Students Are Doing This?
It is interesting to see how Pontypridd have offered MOS to both high achievers as well as those who fall on the borderline of not achieving 5 GCSEs at A* - C. For talented students who have say achieved their maths and/or science a year earlier, doing additional MOS certifications have allowed them to gain additional B grades as well as putting the extra timetable space to good use. For those who were on the borderline with low expectations, students were then able to achieve grades through a different, but still challenging, route.
Why Do Students Like MOS?
Gareth was very clear on his feedback from students on why they want to add MOS to their current GCSE studies:
- Skills and Recognition:Students are proud to have the Microsoft Office Specialist badge on their CV's, they understand this is an internationally recognised brand.
- Supporting Other Studies: By doing the MOS certification, in some instances they were able to study faster and in their own time, which gave them more time at the back end of their studies to put to other subjects.
- Camaraderie & Community: Both students and staff have been doing the MOS exams. As Gareth says, "we would not ask the students to do anything that we were not prepared to do ourselves." This competitive edge of teachers versus student fostered a positive spirit of community and shared success, for both students and teachers.
Who Else Values MOS?
There are also some unexpected benefits that Pontypridd have found since introducing MOS to the school:
- Parents: They also have recognised and commented on the value of the Microsoft branding that their children can take to the jobs market or in to further education, especially in the current economic climate. Parents want to become involved in taking the examinations as well, so Pontypridd hope to enhance their provision by offering the courses to the community.
- Employers: Employers have visited the school through their Education & Business Partnership (EBP) programme. They specifically commented on the benefits of MOS and that the students will be coming out of school with a qualification that is recognised in industry. Those students would not need additional investment initially to get them work-ready.
MOS v Traditional ICT GCSE
In summary, Gareth talked about the key benefits for introducing MOS in to the traditional ICT curriculum, especially given some of the negative PR that some ICT courses have received in recent months. "MOS is a skills based qualification. It relates to the modern ICT skills agenda for business versus task or feature based qualifications. Take databases for example, learning the skills of querying, searching and sorting data in Access is much more engaging for students and relative to industry than simple data entry."