Wales took a major step forwards for Computer Science on 22nd June with the announcement by Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education and Skills, at Technocamps at Swansea University that the government would be investing £3m in supporting digital leadership. The announcement has put Wales at the forefront of change in the United Kingdom – meeting a key demand of the Computer Science community to create an infrastructure to support and train teachers.
- The National Digital Learning Council “to provide expert guidance on the use of digital technology in teaching and learning in Wales”
- A bilingual learning platform – provisionally called Hwb – for learners and teachers to “share resources, knowledge and experience”
- A National Digital Collection – a “repository for thousands of curriculum and good practice resources for teachers and learners to upload”
- Encouraging the use of iTunes U – designed to create and share courses
- Establishing “digital leaders” from across Wales
In our ICT reform submission to the (English) Department for Education we argued that the embedding of rigorous new Computer Science curricula in schools requires that resources be identified to build a new teaching infrastructure by training current – and new – teachers. There needs to be recognition that we are introducing a new subject and that unlike other GCSE subjects we will need to train or re-train a new generation of teachers.
Given the gap between the potential removal of Information and Communications Technology Programme of Study in September 2012 and the introduction of the new National Curriculum, we are keen that no momentum is lost with regard to the crucial area of teaching and teaching support. Teacher training requires the active recruitment of ICT and Computer Science specialists – right from primary into secondary school.
In other countries the ‘teacher issue’ is seen as both fundamental and extremely problematic, given the status of the subject as a new discipline and the propensity for teachers to be self-taught. We believe the issue of appropriate qualifications and Continuing Professional Development for Information and Communications Technology and Computer Science teachers to be extremely important – the Royal Society has concluded that there is a shortage of teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy: only 35% of ICT teachers hold a relevant post-A-level qualification in the subject.
Next Gen Skills believes it is vital that new Computer Science teachers are also equipped with a strong grounding in Computer Science during their training if they do not have existing qualifications in Computer Science. In his speech to BETT, the Secretary of State supported additional Continuing Professional Development for teachers in Information and Communications Technology and Computer Science to ensure educators receive the best possible Initial Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Development in the use of educational technology. He also pledged to work with the Teacher Development Agency to develop teacher training courses in the coming year so that all teachers get the knowledge and experience they need to use technology confidently.
Now that Wales has shown the way, what practical action is planned in England either regionally or nationally? Since January little further has been said about this support. Next Gen Skills will shortly be pressing MPs, London Government and local authorities to develop their support for Computer Science training during the curriculum changes. Surely this is an area for action by the Department for Education.