28th August 2012 – It’s one year on from the Mac Taggart Lecture at Edinburgh where Google’s Eric Schmidt criticised the lack of Computer Science education in the UK, to give a sense of distance travelled with ICT reform and Computer Science at GCSE – and work done in relation to the NESTA-Next Gen report policy recommendations:
Next Gen Recommendation 1: Bring Computer Science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline
- Following the launch of the Next Gen Skills campaign in November, and the Government’s response to the NESTA-Next Gen report, a consultation on ICT reform was launched in January by Secretary of State Michael Gove proposing a new, flexible ICT curriculum – allowing space for Computer Science to be re-introduced at GCSE.
- Submissions from Next Gen Skills supporters argued that the ICT consultation should not inadvertently signal a retreat from ICT by secondary schools. The Government’s response in July 2012 stated that ICT would remain a Foundation subject, with a new Programme of Study from September 2014.
- Major examination bodies have developed or are developing new Computer Science GCSEs and qualifications, removing a historic barrier to take-up, and Computing at Schools (CAS) has been in touch with over 500 secondary schools interested in taking up the new subject at GCSE and resources developed by Naace and e-skills. The DfE is expected to publish a Draft Programme of Study for ICT early 2013, and we know some schools will start to teach Computer Science from September 2012 – starting to address a major deficit in learning which has resulted in only 3000 students taking A-level Computing this year in the country.
Next Gen Recommendation 2: Sign up the best teachers to teach Computer Science through Initial Teacher Training and ‘Golden Hellos’
- Building on the work by the Royal Society report, Next Gen Skills lobbied the Chancellor before the 2012 Budget to ask for resources to fund CPD and ITT with teachers. Next Gen Skills campaign supporters also made this a key ask in our submissions to the ICT consultation and in subsequent lobbying of the Department for Education through a Network of Excellence for Computer Science teachers. We are hopeful that a positive announcement will be made on this soon.
- Support for 100 Computer Science teachers via Teach First was announced by Google at the Science Museum in May and the CAS Network is developing apace – our aim would be to see a fully-fledged Network to support teachers and learning akin to support given to Computer science teachers nationally in other countries (e.g. the Machshava Centre in Israel).
- In June the Welsh Secretary for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews, committed £3m to support ‘digital leadership’ in Wales, including teacher training.
- In July Next Gen Skills launched its ‘Call to Action’ for MPs and local authorities to support schools in the take-up of Computer Science and hi tech skills, and we have followed this up with evidence to the Mayor of London’s Education Inquiry (June, to report October) and with other work in London and in the East of England region, Cambridge and the West Midlands.
Next Gen Recommendation 5: Include Art and Computer Science in the English Baccalaureate
- Following work by the Royal Academy of Engineering on existing courses, research is underway to ensure that Computer Science qualifications are rigorous enough, and allow for satisfactory pupil progression, to be included in the E-Bacc. Achieving this would be a significant advance, as it would further signal the importance of this subject to schools and encourage take-up.
- Representations on Art and Design and Technology are continuing to be made via the Creative Skillset Group to the DfE, and via other channels to ensure that new curriculum allows the blending of these subjects into the teaching of Computer Science or to stress their importance in fostering creativity and innovation.
As important is the progress by others to expand ‘informal’ or ‘collaborative’ learning via hack days and after school clubs, which we view as essential to learning at an early age and must be used in conjunction with classroom learning. Since January, a huge amount of work has been done by – amongst others – Young Rewired State (and their August hack Week), Apps for Good, Future Lab, Mozilla, NESTA’s ‘digital makers’ movement and new organisations such as Code Club (now at 130+ primaries). The launch of Raspberry Pi provides exciting (and inexpensive) opportunities for schools and for learners of all ages.
Still much work to do – but there has been much movement from where we were this time last year!