For techies, teaching isn’t necessarily an obvious career path: hence a massive shortage!
Although I was finishing up an MEng in Computer Science at the time of application, I was aware that having technical knowledge was one thing, but being able to teach it really was another. Personally, the greatest advantage of being awarded the BCS scholarship was the real confidence boost from the start that independent professionals thought I had the potential to succeed- even with my limited school observation experience (1 day in a UK state school). Other benefits include that the funding is usually a little more than the government bursaries available, and the BCS membership (which allows access to workshops on cutting edge issues within the computing industry). You also get invites to teaching specific workshops with forefront leaders.
The application itself is a good experience in itself, and is a bit of a warm up for future teaching job applications. Check the deadline, but it is generally fine to apply once you have finished with UCAS applications. In fact, you can use your UCAS personal statement and referee details to help with the scholarship application. The most challenging part for me was the school interview where I had to deliver a practical GCSE coursework lesson on online databases using specific applications that I was not familiar with. Whilst this was stressful at the time, having this experience prior to the PGCE start gave me a taste of what it is like to have to quickly learn new concepts and present them in a digestible way to a class I had never seen. This enabled me to get some sleep in in my first week of teaching where I was confronted with seven new classes!
For anyone wondering if PGCE computing is for them, here are some reasons that I think it is the most exciting subject to teach. Firstly, the students gain technical knowledge- of which some students may just turn into future superstar developers. Secondly, students appreciate computers and their applications as something more than just a black box- practically useful in any activity that involves interacting with technology. Finally, they develop a sense of computational thinking that gives them the toolkit for thinking both logically and critically- fundamentally useful life skills in any situation! This final reason is the part that motivates me, and it is also focussed on in the new National Curriculum.
A top tip is that most of it is actually teachable without the computer, which can help simplify concepts. By the end of my PGCE I was teaching over half my lessons in this ‘unplugged’ style. Overall, even though things will inevitably go astray from lesson plans, knowing that you’ve contributed vital technical and transferrable skills to your students’ futures is the really satisfying part at the end of every lesson.
As the Computing National Curriculum was only introduced in 2014, and new GCSE syllabuses are coming out this year, most Computing departments are still restructuring how and what they teach. Unlike other subjects which may have established routines and content, my experience is that for Computing, even PGCE students have the opportunity to write and execute schemes of work. Further, as Computing has replaced the ICT National Curriculum, many departments do not actually have staff with a Computing background. Therefore, whilst PGCE Computing students are studying to be teachers, any Computing background you have (academically or professionally) will be a fantastic resource that other department members can draw upon. This is an exciting time to be involved! Taking on responsibility meant that I was lucky enough to be offered a job without interview by one of my placement schools.
My advice is that anyone applying for a PGCE in Computing should also be applying for the BCS scholarship. It’s an extra bit of support: financially, mentally and on the CV. Definitely worth a shot and Computing departments nationwide need you more than you might think!