The Roehampton Annual Computing Report has sparked renewed interest in the effectiveness of computing education in English schools. It points to data that shows significant issues, including: not enough girls opting to study Computer Science at GCSE (CS) and A Level; a slowing of the overall growth in the numbers of students opting to take CS at GCSE; and the exclusivity of the qualifications.
The reasons why these issues exist are debatable, and the report does little to offer explanations to settle at answers. However, we can all agree on the fact that these issues must be addressed if we are to ensure that every child in every school is well equipped to live and work in the digital world.
We know that this is something that the government is also wholeheartedly committed to. The £100m investment into computing education in the UK is set to create a step change, as the new National Centre for Computing Education launches in the autumn term.
The National Centre aims to improve the expertise of computing teachers, from Primary through to Key Stage 5, so that they can teach the new knowledge-based computing curriculum as well as the new computer science content included at GCSE and A Level.
As a result, it is hoped that there will be increases in social mobility, numbers of pupils studying computer science at GCSE and A Level, and uptake of computer science amongst girls and in disadvantaged areas. This will be crucial if we are going to ensure that every pupil has the opportunities to make the most of their talents and abilities.
The £84m programme in England (the remaining £16m will be split between the devolved nations) will run over four years and include the National Centre for Computing Education; a network of 40 school-based computing hubs;a training programme to provide 8,000 computing teachers with the skills to teach GCSE computer science effectively; an A-Level support programme for computer science students and teachers; and a pilot programme to identify effective approaches to improving the gender balance in computing , and so increasing girls’ participation in computer science at GCSE and A Level.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity - an amazing opportunity - to shape the present and future of computing education.
That’s why it’s important that we work together: school leaders, teachers, policy-makers, employers and academics. I urge every one of you to play your part in assisting this opportunity to make a very real difference – so that every child in every school has an outstanding computing education that equips them to thrive in the digital world.