Schools have made significant strides in developing computing as a subject. The number of students taking GCSE Computer Science has grown to just over 62,000, and primary teachers are reporting significant increases in their confidence to teach computing. However, introducing a new subject is challenging. The feedback from CAS Master Teachers, and from teachers getting to grips with the curriculum, is that a supportive school leadership team can make a significant difference.
To find out more about how school leaders can support computing staff, I spoke with a number of school leaders and their representatives about the challenges they face and how they have addressed them. All stressed the importance of a clear vision for computing and how it fits in to the school’s wider aspirations for all its students. Derek Peaple, Headteacher at Park House School, is clear that
"placing and protecting computing at the heart of the curriculum is essential to developing the next generation of creative, innovative and digitally confident young people."
Dr Saima Rana, Principal of Westminster Academy, agrees with this, bringing in the wider economic context. As a computer scientist herself she is "aware of the shortage of computer science and IT skills in the economy", stressing the point that, while industry and others have a part to play,
"this is something schools should take very seriously."
Where school leaders see the importance of computing for their students, they have taken practical steps to support their teachers, often adopting innovative approaches. As Sion Humphreys, a professional adviser to the National Association of Head Teachers, has said:
"Effective school leaders are creative people, they thrive on solving problems and will find creative solutions to the challenges."
In the case of Park House this has meant increasing the visibility of computing across the school. Derek Peaple again:
"It is essential that computing staff are represented on SLT, and therefore able to directly influence strategic decisions about learning, if we are to secure such a vision for the present – and future – of learning."
While vision-setting and providing visible support are clearly important, the introduction of computing is a significant change with implications for staffing, CPD and resourcing. These implications need managing and are linked to the school leader's strategic role. As Dr Richard Marshall, Principal of Royal Greenwich UTC, has said:
"In their strategic role, school leadership teams need to ensure that the change is properly implemented, monitored and evaluated."
Building on the advice from these school leaders, CAS, with support from a Microsoft Youthspark grant, has developed a pack to help all school leaders ensure that computing is well led in their school to the benefit of all their students. The pack has been sent to all secondary schools in England and can be downloaded from the CAS website. I encourage you to make your school’s leadership team aware of it.