As Computer Science Teachers, it’s likely that we understand the importance of allowing young people the opportunity to study the new curriculum, but can we say the same for everyone else?
How many of us have any say in our school over what subjects are offered, or how much time is allocated to each? Too often we’re seeing Computing being sidelined, or worse, removed due to misconceptions over the subject and its importance.
The new National Curriculum for Computing was introduced to address the UK’s digital skills shortage, revitalise the view of computing in schools and engage and enthuse the next generation of computer scientists. The recent report from the Royal Society, ‘After the Reboot’ assessed the impact of the new computing curriculum introduced in schools in September 2014, and the results were not as positive as expected. The number of students opting for the new Computer Science GCSE and A-Levels is lower than previous figures for ICT. In addition, the gender gap has widened.
Despite the government's best efforts, students are being turned off when it comes to engaging with computer science. In ‘Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools’, the image of computing was not a positive one, with pupil’s reporting that they found the subject ‘boring and repetitive’. Following the introduction of the new curriculum, the Wellcome Trust surveyed 4000 students to see if their perceptions of the subject had changed. The top reason cited for not choosing Computing at GCSE was a lack of interest in the subject.
As of 2017, 54% of UK schools were not even offering Computer Science as a GCSE option. With motivation for the subject low, student numbers declining and the digital skills gap increasing, a solution must be found to enthuse students and increase engagement with computing.
It falls to us as Computing Teachers to show our schools that Computing is not only a vital skill, but that it is something students can enjoy and engage with. This can be a difficult task, with Computing often given a low timetable allocation, and being delivered by teachers who may be transferring from ICT or another subject, and lacking confidence.
A really effective and easy way to get started is with the after-school club.
Due to the issues in industry, many organisations have developed initiatives to help promote computing to young people, and by using these resources to our advantage, we can re-enthuse the students in our schools with minimal effort.
Many of these initiatives provide pre-written resources, support for non-specialists delivering content, and prioritise learner-led approaches to take the pressure away from the facilitator. By offering a club for just one-hour a week, and taking advantage of external events to provide more advanced experiences, we can show our schools that Computing is not only an amazing and engaging subject, but that it is something that should be valued highly, and not pushed to the side.
During the CAS Conference 2018, I’ll be covering a wide range of initiatives that you can quickly and easily implement in your school right away, including example promotional material and further info for you to take away with you.