The Computing at School (CAS) community is a supportive network of like-minded Computing teachers who meet up with others in the same boat, swap resources and learn from each other. Beverly Clarke is the newly appointed National Community Manager for CAS. She is an experienced teacher and trainer and she talked to Claire Penketh, Senior Press Officer at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, about what she hopes to bring to her new role.
The CAS Communities, as those who have been members for a while will know, were formerly called CAS Hubs. The name change was prompted by the recently launched National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), which is setting up 40 Computing Hubs as part of an ambitious initiative to upskill 8,000 Computing teachers across England.
But that doesn't mean CAS is superseded – in fact, the idea is very much for it to sustain a vibrant local network that feeds into, and is supported by, the new NCCE network.
Through the NCCE, teachers can access tailored, accredited CPD (continuous professional development), including through the CAS Communities, which provide a 'safe place' for teachers to work together as they share in each other's professional development and understanding of the subject. Beverly Clarke, the new National Community Manager for CAS, says the purpose of her role is to "breathe new life into the CAS Communities." Once she's developed her short-, medium- and long-term plans, she has several aims: "I want to show teachers the benefits of CAS. It's networking and knowing there is someone you can call if you have any questions, no matter how small, and you can attend your local meetings and find out more.
"Perhaps there is a topic that you are not particularly confident about – go along to your local meeting and try it out.
"It's somewhere you can say you need help. It's also somewhere that you can find out more about the education community, current research and just general news and policies that could influence and affect you and your students."
Beverly also wants to see more people joining up from across a wide spectrum of society: "I'd like to see more Primary school teachers and younger teachers getting involved with CAS – we need to reflect the different communities we see in the classroom and we need to show that computing is for everyone and that it's reaching out to all genders, ages and ethnicities."
Beverly became a teacher after she was made redundant from the corporate IT world. She had two young children at the time, and she felt a need to "give back and find something that fitted in with family life." Her teaching career began eighteen years ago at an F.E. college, where she taught for seven years, before running a Computing department in a Secondary school.
Retraining to be a teacher was, she says, one of the hardest things she has ever done, but also the most rewarding: "The first six months were extremely challenging. I was dealing with student behaviour, parental expectation, and managing the work load.
"I thought if it doesn't break you it makes you stronger – and it definitely made me stronger."
What helped her was having excellent organisational skills and sticking to her decisions: "I realised I wasn't the loudest person on the planet, and I concluded that didn't matter. What was important was fairness and consistency and believing in what you were doing. It allowed me to get the best out of my students."
Beverly's approach paid off and her students did well. Her department ended up having national profile, which included her students being featured in a Department for Education video and being profiled in the forerunner to "Hello World" magazine, "Switched ON"
It was CAS that gave Beverly a route into her current role of training teachers: "I got involved with CAS and running a Community and I just experimented by giving snippets of training. Also, when I first started teaching, I had already lectured to adults in the evening."
After leaving teaching she then worked as an education consultant and managed the CAS South West region. CAS National Coordinator, Simon Humphreys, knows Beverly well: "I am delighted that Beverly has joined the team here at CAS Central. Having been a classroom teacher, head of department, CAS Hub leader (when we still called them hubs), and CAS Master-Teacher, closely involved with the CAS South West Regional Centre, and a CAS Board member, there is nothing that Beverly does not know about CAS! I know she will bring her experience and her passion, coupled with her quiet authority, to shape the future direction of our community."
So, how does it feel now to be a trainer of teachers? Beverly says it suits her: "I guess I like talking, I'm quite friendly, gregarious and like networking. "While running my Computing department, I also undertook the National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership (NPQSL).
"I had to develop skills to deliver whole-school inset sessions and so, again, my confidence developed as far as planning sessions for adults, anticipating the types of questions they ask and understanding what they wanted from the training.
"This can be quite different to teaching younger students, because they are expected to be in the classroom. But with teachers, you have to understand what their motivations are."
How to motivate students – and how to shape their perceptions about the uses and applications of computer science – provide two of the themes covered in Beverly's BCS book "Computer Science Teacher – insight into the Computing classroom". For more information and to order a copy, go here .