UK gov outlines computer science teaching plans

UK gov outlines computer science teaching plans
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

October 19th 2012 at 10:08AM

New course replacing axed ICT curriculum to be introduced in schools from September 2013

The UK Government has outlined its plans to train up the first generation of computer science teachers as it prepares to introduce the course to the curriculum.

To begin in schools from September 2013, Education Secretary Michael Gove also announced that funding had ended for the current Information and Communications Technology teacher training courses in preparation for the new subject.

Experts in computer science, including the British Computer Society, Naace and the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education, have worked with education professionals to set out the requirements for subject knowledge that teachers will need.

Some key aspects teachers will be trained in are computer science concepts and various approaches such as algorithms, data representation and logic.

Around 500 teachers with existing ICT backgrounds will be trained up through a new network of “computer science teaching excellence”, partly funded by a £150,000 government grant.

As well as setting out the criteria for teacher training, a new £20,000 scholarship programme open to 50 graduates has been set up to help entice students into teaching careers. Any graduate with a 2.1 or first class degree will be eligible to apply for the computer science initial teacher training course.

The scheme has been set up by BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT – and is supported by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and IBM.

“Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject,” said Education Secretary Michael Gove.

“It is also vital to our success in the global race. If we want our country to produce the next Sir Tim Berners-Lee – creator of the Internet – we need the very best computer science teachers in our classrooms. They need to have the right skills and deep subject knowledge to help their pupils.”

Ian Livingstone added: “Having dedicated, high-calibre computer science teachers in schools will have a powerful effect. They will inspire and enable children to be creators of technology rather than being simply passive users of it.

“Whether it’s making games, fighting cyber-crime or designing the next jet propulsion engine, computer science is at the heart of everything in the digital world in which we live. It is essential knowledge for the 21st century.”

The move to scrap ICT in schools in favour of computer science was announced in January earlier this year, from which Gove suggested that children were “bored out of their minds” being taught how to use Word or Excel by “bored teachers”.

Next Gen Skills Review

The announcement came after a Next Gen Skills review, co-authored by Ian Livingstone, made 20 recommendations to remedy the so-called 'digital skills gap' affecting UK game development studios.

“This is a quantum shift in thinking that will be of great benefit to the country,” Livingstone told Develop at the time of the announcement.

“I’m amazed and delighted that change is happening so quickly. The problem with ICT is that children are bored to death by it. It’s largely office skills and the UK’s inadequate proxy for computer science. Children don’t need to spend a year learning Powerpoint!”

Next Gen Skills has welcomed the progress made toward teaching computer science in schools with the latest plans.

The statement highlighted research confirming the challenges that the UK faced with a shortage of hi-tech skills currently, and suggested that only 3,517 out of the 782,779 qualifications entered at A-level in 2011 were in computing.

Research noted also claimed that schools lacked enough qualified teachers for ICT and computer science, with two thirds of them judged not to have sufficient qualifications to teach ICT in schools today.

The organisation however praised plans from the department of education to allow schools to move away from the traditional programme of study for ICT in GSCE’s, and stated it gave schools the ability to change what they teach and to innovate, as well as making room for the fundamental principles of computer science to be taught in classrooms.

UKIE CEO Jo Twist also praised the new measures as a “key piece of the jigsaw” in turning around the state of education in hi-tech skills in English schools.

“We are pleased that the Government has responded to the striking evidence that pupils and educators don’t see the value or suitability in existing qualifications and that major change is needed if we are to repair the talent pipeline in hi tech skills,” said Twist.

“The ability to programme computers will be fundamental to the digital age, the UK won’t be able to compete unless policy makers reform how they teach ICT and computer science.  We welcome steps to address this failing in our education system – from schools through to universities – which needs to be urgently tackled.

“More schools need to be taking up computer science at GCSE and in order to do this we need to support the training of a new generation of computer science teachers. Next to curriculum reform, teachers are the key piece in the hi-tech skills jigsaw.”