As part of the Government's mission to ensure Britain competes and thrives in the global race, Education Secretary Michael Gove today set out plans to boost the teaching of Computer Science by training up the first generation of outstanding new teachers in this vital subject.
This comes as the Government announces the end of funding for the current outdated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) teacher training courses, to make way for new Computer Science courses from September 2013.
Top graduates will be enticed into a career in teaching with a new prestigious £20,000 scholarship programme set up with BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and supported by industry experts such as Microsoft, Facebook, BT and IBM.
Industry experts, working with education professionals, have also for the first time ever set out the requirements for the subject knowledge and attributes all new Computer Science teachers should have before they start their training. This includes being able to demonstrate an understanding of key Computer Science concepts and approaches such as algorithms, data representation and logic.
This is all part of the Government’s drive to recruit and train a new cadre of teachers with the expertise and enthusiasm to drive improvement in the quality of Computer Science teaching in schools.
A recent Royal Society report looking at computing education in UK schools found teaching was ‘highly unsatisfactory’. It said that many pupils were not inspired by what they were being taught and gained nothing beyond basic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said:
Computer Science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.
If we want our country to produce the next Sir Tim Berners-Lee – creator of the Web – we need the very best Computer Science teachers in our classrooms. They need to have the right skills and deep subject knowledge to help their pupils.
Around 50 scholarships worth £20,000 each will be available in the first year. Any graduate with a 2.1 or first class degree will be eligible to apply for the scholarship to do a Computer Science Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course.
Working with experts in the industry and in teaching practice, BCS will award scholarships to candidates with exceptional subject knowledge, enthusiasm for the study of Computer Science as well as an outstanding potential to teach. BCS’s relationship with the scholars will continue into their teaching careers to develop a cadre of outstanding Computer Science teachers who are part of a community across schools, universities and industry.
Bill Mitchell, Director of BCS Academy of Computing, said:
The UK needs far more technology creators and entrepreneurs if we are to stay competitive in the global economy. That means students need to be taught not just how software and hardware works, but also how to create new digital technology for themselves.
The best way to do that is to have outstanding computer science teachers in as many schools as possible, which is why these new initiatives are so important.
Ian Livingstone, Life President of Eidos and Chair of Next Gen Skills, said:
Having dedicated, high-calibre computer science teachers in schools will have a powerful effect. They will inspire and enable children to be creators of technology rather than being simply passive users of it. Whether it’s making games, fighting cyber-crime or designing the next jet propulsion engine, computer science is at the heart of everything in the digital world in which we live. It is essential knowledge for the 21st century.
The BCS scholarship comes as part of the Government’s teacher training strategy, Training our next generation of outstanding teachers. It follows on from the success of the physics scholarship with the Institute of Physics, a recent announcement of a new scholarship with the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The plans announced today also include:
- Allowing top universities and schools to provide new Computer Science teacher training courses from September 2013, whilst ending Government funding for the current Information and Communications Technology (ICT) courses. This follow on from the Government’s announcement earlier this year freeing up the ICT curriculum to allow schools to focus more strongly on Computer Science.
- New, tough requirements for the subject knowledge and attributes all new Computer Science teachers should have. This includes being able to demonstrate an understanding of key Computer Science concepts and approaches such as algorithms, data representation and logic.
This has been designed by a panel of experts including representatives from the grassroots Computing at School Working Group along with professional associations such as the British Computer Society (BCS), Naace and the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education (ITTE).
- Training up around 500 teachers in Computer Science through a new ‘Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence’. Part funded through a £150,000 Government grant, over the next year existing teachers with an ICT background will be trained to better teach Computer Science. Around half of these will be expert teachers who will share their skills and knowledge with other teachers across the country and help support professional development for their colleagues.
The network will help forge long-term links between schools, top universities involved in Computer Science and employers. Around 540 schools have already registered interest in the network and top university Computer Science departments including those at Cambridge, Imperial and Manchester and employers such as Microsoft, BT and IBM have also signed up.
Professor Chris Bishop, Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft Research, said:
Microsoft is passionate about improving the way that we teach technology in schools, but also how we use technology to teach. As founding members of the Computing at School working group, we’ve been working to inspire both teachers and young people about the importance of computer science for a number of years.
Scholarships such as those announced today will be vital in ensuring that the UK maintains a healthy pipeline of computer science talent, which can only be a positive thing for this country’s future prosperity.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy for UK & Ireland, said:
Facebook welcomes the scholarship programme for teachers announced by the Government today. It is a positive step to help get high quality computer science teachers in schools, and therefore ensure more young people gain the right skills to join and lead our digital industries.
We get excited by how the work of Facebook engineers and outside developers is transforming the way millions of people communicate, so we can't wait to share our passion and expertise in this area to inspire the next generation.
Simon Peyton-Jones, Chair of the Computing at School Working Group (CAS) and Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, said:
We need to attract outstanding new computer science teachers, and we must support our existing ICT teachers as they start to teach the subject. CAS fully supports today’s announcements, which give unmistakeable Government support to both these challenges. We look forward to playing our part, and working with Government to make a substantial and lasting improvement to our children’s education in the vital subject.