Government needs inspiring IT teachers to address chronic lack of specialists

The Royal Society is urging the government to increase the number of specialist ICT teachers as the current ICT curriculum is scrapped.

This Article Covers

Technical skills

The Royal Society is urging the government to increase the number of specialist ICT teachers in the UK to support its decision to replace the ICT curriculum with one that focuses on the fundamentals of computer science.

Speaking at the BETT education IT trade show earlier this week, education minister Michael Gove announced  that the government is scrapping the teaching of the GCSE ICT curriculum in schools this September, with plans to replace the subject with the “rigorous” teaching of computer science and programming subjects

This has been welcomed by business and academia but challenges remain.  A report from the Royal Society, which is the UK’s national academy for science, highlights some challenges.

“Action is needed not only on the curriculum itself, but also to recruit and train many more inspiring teachers to reinvigorate pupils’ enthusiasm for computing,” says Professor Steve Furber, fellow of the Royal Society. 

“Thirty years ago I helped to design the BBC Micro, the first computer created to educate and inspire children of the potential of computer science. Yet today, when computers have become integral to every part of our lives, we see young people turned off by computing in schools.  We need a new generation of teachers to take up the challenge of enthusing future generations of young people,”

He says the Royal Society is heartened that the government plans to radically overhaul the National Curriculum programme,but other problems still need to be addressed.  

“The most significant factor affecting how well young people learn is the teacher in their classroom.  The majority of teachers [across subjects] are specialists, but ICT is an exception to the rule,” said Furber.

In its latest report, Shut down or Restart? The way forward for Computing in UK schools, the Royal Society analyses recent declines in numbers of young people studying computing at schools and the reasons for the declines.  

“Our study found some fantastic examples of teaching, but the fact remains that the majority of teachers are not specialists and we heard from young people that they often knew more than the teacher giving the lesson,” said Furber.

According to the report  there is a shortage of teachers with the right skills to support government plans. The Royal Society says only 35% of ICT teachers have relevant skills. This compares to 74% in mathematics, 76% in history, 80% in English and 88% in biology.

The report revealed a 60% decline in the numbers achieving A-level Computing since 2003, a 34% decline at ICT A Level over the same period, and a 57% decline in ICT GCSE.  It said a chronic lack of specialist teachers who can teach beyond basic digital literacy is a major contributor to these falling numbers.  

The report suggests that this might explain the finding that students’ ICT capability often outstrips their teacher’s subject knowledge. It recommends setting targets for the numbers of computer science and information technology specialist teachers, with bursaries provided to attract more suitably qualified graduates.

Kevin Streater, executive director for IT and telecoms at the Open University, says ICT has become “a very confused subject” and it is not clear what it is about.

It would be great to have computer science GCSE, A-Level and degree, he says.

Streater says IT teaching should be geared towards what the industry needs. For example competence in service management, cloud computing and big data requires a good foundation in computer science.

Open University teaches thousands of teaching students every year. Its online resources for teachers, such as Vital, include portals that give a general understanding of the use of technology, and teach how to use IT as part of other subject teaching, as well as specialist computer science teaching.

CW+

Features

Enjoy the benefits of CW+ membership, learn more and join.

Read more on IT technical skills

Join the conversation

3 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

There is a confusing range of views in the reporting of recent announcements.

The general gist seems to be that "The ICT Syllabus isn't exciting and additionally fails to include an element of computing", fair comment. Savvy teachers will make sure that what they teach hits the syllabus criteria AND is entertaing/interesting/etc.

Next up we read that there aren't enough "savvy" teachers to do this, again I'll take their word for it.

Then we are told:

"The report revealed a 60% decline in the numbers achieving A-level Computing since 2003, a 34% decline at ICT A Level over the same period, and a 57% decline in ICT GCSE. It said a chronic lack of specialist teachers who can teach beyond basic digital literacy is a major contributor to these falling numbers."

Is it really? Could it not just be that Schools are offering alternatives? If the ICT qualifications are so poor why are they worried if fewer people are doing them? As an alternative you can offer iPro (with manufacturer support), BTECs, OCR National, iMedia etc all of which give you an opportunity to choose more "interesting" topics (HTML, 3D Modelling, Computer Game production, Animation, etc), the very things Gove references.

It might help if the general media knew that Computing & ICT are different subjects and that GCSEs are just one of a range of level 2 Qualifications.

Cancel

I am very glad i visited this particular website.

Cancel

For the last few year, the 'A' Level ICT questions were too "application oriented", they were just like commonsese questions for a kid grow up in this digital age. Basically, any teacher can teach the ICT subjects! I think the new Computer Science curriculum should also teach the basic principle of Computer Science and highly integrated with the Decision Mathematics subjects.

Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchCIO

SearchSecurity

SearchNetworking

SearchDataCenter

SearchDataManagement

Close