Following the publication of the Royal Society report "After the Reboot" the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Budget significant funding to support the training of Computer Science teachers. One can only assume that the two events are indeed linked and the government has listened both to the Royal Society and others, including CAS and BCS, that more is needed to be done to ensure that all our young people have access to high quality computing education. The Chancellor's statement reads:
“The budget will ensure that every secondary school has a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher, by committing £84 million to up-skill 8,000 computer science teachers by the end of this parliament. The government will also work with industry to set up a new National Centre for Computing to produce material and support schools”
NB. The government is working on the assumption that there are 4000 teachers with sufficient qualifications and/or experience to deliver the current GCSE Computer Science. They are making funds available to support the training of another 8000 existing teachers bringing the total of teachers capable of teaching GCSE Computer Science to 12,000. Note we are very sure this is about training existing teachers and not magically producing new teachers, though recruitment issues were discussed in depth by the Royal Society.
It is too early to know how this will be delivered. We do know it will be subject, as before, to a procurement process with whichever government department will take responsibility for the delivery. We know that BCS, (thus CAS) will want to be part of that. This will not be possible to do alone and we are exploring options to build capacity and scale into our existing network with others such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation and STEM Learning.
All of this is clearly good news for schools, teachers and pupils and we have much to celebrate and be proud of what has been achieved through both CAS and the Network of Excellence (NoE). The Royal Society recommendation made it clear that, in their view, the pressing need is for a significant increase in funding to develop a “fully resourced national professional development programme building on the Network of Excellence”. Since we started the NoE we have been able to deliver over 5000 training events and provide in excess of 70,000 teacher hours of CPD. In the last year alone we have provided support to over 5000 schools. This is just fabulous! We’re committed to ensure we do not loose any of that success and momentum.
The up-skilling of teachers is the main priority and we hope that whatever new programme is put into place will heed the Royal Society when they say in their summary document, emphasis is mine:
"To truly transform computing education, teachers need unhindered access to a structured and ongoing programme of professional development"
We look forward to hearing more about the procurement process and how we, the wider CAS Community, might be able to contribute and play an active role in shaping how and what can be delivered for teachers. Education is a complex landscape and whilst the success and strength of an individual subject in a school lies firmly with the teacher and the Senior Leadership team of that school there are many external factors that can affect that success. The Royal Society is right to draw attention to these:
- The current qualifications framework for Computing. There needs to be a range of qualifications available at post-14 and post-16 levels to ensure the demand for computing skills (covering all aspects: Computer Science, Information Technology and digital literacy) are available for all. From what we hear from teachers the current crop of available qualifications is having a negative impact on the take-up of the subject. This needs to be addressed and soon.
- Insufficient applicants to the profession. There are not enough teachers of computing entering the profession. Between 2012 and 2017 the Government met only 68% of its recruitment target for new Computing teachers.
- All training and classroom delivery needs to be informed by the latest research. Most of the existing research into Computing education focuses on the challenges of higher education and there is a real need to increase the capacity for school-based research.
In addition, on of the major complaints we hear at ground level from the teachers is they really want and need further support but when they ask for permission to attend courses and other events they are not allowed by their leadership team to attend. This is happening even if the course is providing funds for cover staff. Hence the emphasis above on "unhindered" access to CPD. Teachers need to be given time to take on board new subject knowledge and new pedagogy through the support of experienced subject experts and classroom practitioners.
This will not be a quick fix. CAS and the NoE have made huge strides with slim resources in building a model for CPD which is a proven, cost-effective, tried and tested programme tackling, and tackling effectively, the needs of teachers. We know that more students are now studying GCSE Computer Science and more students are achieving higher GCSE grades B, A, or A* because of the NoE and tripling the number of trained computer science teachers to 12,000 should see a fully qualified GCSE computer science teacher in every secondary school, which means that every child, in every school will at last have access to this important subject.