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16 May 2022

OFSTED Research Review Series: Computing - EYFS to Secondary

Stuart Ball profile image
Written by

Stuart Ball | Chief Content Editor - Computing at School

The national curriculum makes it clear that computing is mandatory at key stages 1 to 4 and that ‘a high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world’.

OFSTED's latest review explores the literature relating to the field of computing education. Its purpose is to identify factors that can contribute to high-quality school computing curriculums, assessment, pedagogy, and systems. Learning from this will be used this understanding to examine how computing is taught in England’s schools. 

Since there are a variety of ways that schools can construct and teach a high-quality computing curriculum, OFSTED  recognise it is important to understand that there is no single way of achieving high-quality computing education.

In-depth details of this latest review of research can be found here. (it's really worth a read)

Reception and Primary - Key Points

Although not statutory at EYFS, studies have demonstrated that young pupils are able to wrestle successfully with the core concepts of computing, including programming and robotics. That said, it is important that children experience teaching informed by expertise

All primary school pupils should learn computing, a 2017 report highlighted that primary-age pupils typically have 1 hour a week of computing education; however, this varies and there are a small number of primary schools where pupils receive no computing education at all

Three years after the new programmes of study for computing were introduced, research has found that teachers saw computing as the ‘future’ and felt that there was a clear rationale for teaching the knowledge and skills required.

But, Primary school teachers unfavourable of the new curriculum described the requirements as being too advanced for the available physical resources and budget, that staff lack the required skill-set and knowledge to teach the subject, and that the language used in the curriculum is overly-technical.

The research also highlighted that the main obstacle to teaching computing faced by teachers was a lack of technical subject knowledge. Studies show that many primary school teachers were concerned about their own personal subject knowledge and the resources available to teach the intended curriculum.

Secondary - Key Points

Research findings suggest that not all Secondary pupils are receiving sufficient curriculum time to learn the computing subject content set out in the national curriculum.

Despite a number of computing qualifications being available at Key Stage 4. it was highlighted teachers have concerns about the credibility of some non-GCSE qualifications and how well they cover the scope of subject content.

Analysis of 2018 examination data shows:-

  • the number of schools offering GCSE computer science had increased, with nearly 80% of Year 11 pupils in schools that offered a GCSE in computer science
  • state schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged pupils were less likely to offer a GCSE in computer science
  • 7.6% of pupils were in a school that did not offer key stage 4 computing qualifications

This data highlights that, although access to computing education is improving for most pupils, there are still inequities in provision.

A-level computing has also seen a sharp increase in the number of entries, which have more than doubled since 2016. However, the number of pupils entering A-level computing is still much lower than the numbers entering other subjects. Despite the increase in the number of pupils studying computer science, the total number studying computing qualifications at key stage 4 fell substantially. This is in large part due to the withdrawal of ICT GCSE in 2019.


Jo Hodge
31/05/2022 07:37

Thanks for sharing Stuart and I agree this report is an interesting read and would recommend it. I wonder what peoples thoughts are regarding the cross- curricular approach? I have found it to be very effective alongside discrete teaching. Most Primary schemes of work are linked to other areas of the curriculum in some way. Again it boils down to experience and expertise - it is still sad to see there are schools not delivering a full computing curriculum too with all of the excellent free resources available such as:
NCCE curriculum, Barefoot, Microbit, Digital Schoolhouse…
Not to mention the free online training for teachers too with bursaries: Courses - Teach Computing

The gender section is also saddening when you look at the percentages of girls studying Computing at GCSE and A Level - CAS has done a lot of work and research on this. I wonder how this divide can be bridged? Definitely food for thought…

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