21 March 2022
The importance of CS extra-curricular activities at Post 16
When I started at my current school, I had to put together the GCSE and A-Level long term and medium term plan as well as resource it with appropriate, engaging and challenging learning activities. A lot of my time went into that as I wanted a CS curriculum suitable for all students and easy to implement for non-specialists within my department. By the end of the academic year, we ended up with the right SoWs to maximise learning. However, without enrichment, we didn’t have a comprehensive and holistic offer really!.
The main obstacle for extra-curricular opportunities is lack of time, resources or budget, however, there are many things we can do to address these obstacles. As a department we looked into this very carefully as we did not want to bite more that we could chew. The whole team (I wanted ownership and commitment by all members) came up with the following ideas over a two week period:
- Coding taster sessions for A-Level students not doing Computer Science
- Coding enrichment sessions specifically for girls in year 10-12
- University Ambassadors visiting and doing masterclasses on their specialisms
- Join and invite STEM Ambassadors
- Visits to local universities (Faculties of Maths/Computing)
- Hackathon in the Summer
- Physical computing (Local computing hubs can facilitate Raspberry Pi devices, etc)
- Promote local and national computing competitions (Eg; Bebras Computing Challenge)
- Liaise with RAF or other external agencies for STEM experiences (Bursaries available)
- Year 12 running workshops for year 11 pupils
These further experiences are paramount to learners, especially in deprived areas, in order to close the gap for vulnerable students and ensure the UK has the workforce needed for the future. The good news is that UCAS data published in 2021 shows that acceptances to computer science courses in 2020 are almost 50% higher than a decade earlier (up from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020). Data released in 2021 also shows the popularity of A level computer science has increased by 12%, with the share of female students increasing slightly to 15% of the total. However, more work is needed to encourage applications to computer science courses from girls and students from less affluent areas. It took our school 6-8 months to incorporate 6 of these ideas that required little time or resources and were free. The outcome was very encouraging; 50% of students chose GCSE CS as an option and 47% of those were girls. At A-Level, the numbers tripled with girls opting for the first time. It was very encouraging!
There is one of the enrichment experiences mentioned that was highly effective, engaging and at no cost; This is the University Ambassadors Programme by the university Of Birmingham. Students in year 12 commented on how they brought the curriculum more alive with varied learning activities linked to instil curiosity and pursue a CS career. One of the student ambassadors said at the end of the experience: "My experience of teaching at The Khalsa Academy Wolverhampton has been wonderful; the teaching staff and pupils have been welcoming. The teachers in the department have cultivated very comfortable environments in which to teach. They've helped me progress and understand more about T&L; I'm grateful to have had the opportunities to work with students at a forward-looking school and to help inspire students to go further into the field of computer science."
I am including here some related links in order to guide your choices in terms of extra-curricular activities:
- NCCE article on more students choosing computer Science: https://tinyurl.com/bdekcycc
- UK Brebras Computational Thinking competition: https://www.bebras.uk
- ‘Computer Science For Fun’ activities for clubs (STEM): https://tinyurl.com/mr2erhy7
- STEM Ambassador programme: https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors
- Local Computing Hubs: https://teachcomputing.org/hubs
What do you do for upper school and sixth form enrichment at your school?