BETT 2016 Guest Post: Computing At School – delivering success through CPD

Continuing our series of guest blog posts from Microsoft in Education partners ahead of BETT 2016, this next contribution comes to us courtesy of Computing At School (CAS), and explores how academic institutions can help their teachers to become more confident in delivering the computing curriculum. With a strong focus on STEM, there is much to learn from visiting CAS at BETT 2016. They can be found in the Microsoft Partner Village (stand C300), which is next to the main Microsoft in Education stand (E310).


Is Computing in school going to succeed or not?

Computer science is at the heart of the new computing curriculum and is for most schools a brand new and intellectually challenging academic discipline, and one that most teachers have had no experience of teaching before this academic year. What are the chances of schools making this new subject a long term success that benefits all students?


The schools that do best are those where teachers feel confident and enthusiastic about computing. Various surveys over the last year show teacher confidence in delivering computing in the classroom is steadily improving thanks to a range of grassroots support, including from employers and universities as well as schoolteachers themselves, but less than half of secondary teachers currently have the level of confidence they should have. Locally tailored face to face CPD (Continuous Professional Development) seems to benefit teachers the most, but in our latest survey the majority of teachers said they received less than 5 hours of CPD in 2015. Face to face CPD is an effective way of improving not only teachers’ confidence, but we’ve seen it has a long term impact on learning in the classroom. Teachers receiving CPD through the DfE funded Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science (known as the NoE) reported their confidence increasing an average of 88% over this last term.

Here are some of the really good things going on in the schools we talk to:

  • The school development plan includes computing as a core subject, just like maths and English, which means it has strategic support from the senior leadership team.
  • The curriculum is enriched through taking part in competitions and attending student focused events (e.g. TeenTech, Lego Mindstorm, Kodu or Minecraft activities).
  • Breakfast and after school clubs (e.g. Code Club) include stimulating computing activities, which are interesting to girls and boys.
  • Local employers are invited to come in and give talks on computing in their companies.
  • Secondary schools bring in year 5/6 classes from their feeder primaries to given them an afternoon of computing each term.
  • Schools have made contact with the local university computer science department and have undergraduates spending time in the classroom to support teachers.

These examples are all from schools that have joined the NoE to find out about good practice and how to get help in adopting it in their own school.

One piece of hard data we have for progress at Key Stage 4 is given by looking at GCSE Computer Science. The number of students taking GCSE Computer Science has more than doubled this year to just over 34,000. That’s really encouraging. At the same time that’s about 28% of the number of students taking Physics GCSE, which shows how far there is still to go in terms of GCSE take up. Ideally we’d like to see the number of students taking GCSE Computer Science double again next year. Our view is that will only happen if we make sure teachers are getting the right professional development to make GCSE Computer Science a success.

Computing matters to the future of the UK, but much more importantly it’s about giving every child the essential thinking skills they need to succeed in our digital, connected society. So it matters that every school is doing all it can to give their children the best computing education possible. My advice to schools is make sure your teachers join the Computing At School group (CAS), which is free to all primary and secondary teachers and IT professionals. CAS runs the NoE, so through CAS it’s easy to get access to good practice from other schools, find out what free help your local universities can offer, access the free resources employers have funded, and most importantly talk to the other 20,000 CAS members about what’s going on in their schools.

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