£2 million funding granted to skill up computer science teachers

Government funding to help BCS train 400 teachers in preparation for new computer science curriculum

More than £2m in government funding will be given to the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, to ensure computer science teachers have the necessary skills, ready for the new curriculum.

The BCS aims to recruit 400 “master teachers” in computer science over the next two years. Each teacher will then pass on their knowledge to 40 schools, to enable 16,000 primary and secondary schools to teach the new computing curriculum and the new computer science GCSE.

Previously taught as ICT, computer science will be included as a science option for the English Baccalaureate from January 2014.

The announcement for teacher training funding was made at an event co-hosted by Facebook and the Gates Foundation.  

Making the announcement education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “Computer science is a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. The new computing curriculum will mean pupils have a real understanding of how digital technologies work - allowing them to create new technologies rather than being passive consumers of them.

“This brings exciting challenges for computing teachers - we are raising our expectations of the subject knowledge they should have, including how computers work, programming and coding.”

Truss talked of the importance of creating a generation of children being taught to write computer animations and designing apps, instead of learning how to fill in spreadsheets.

Bill Mitchell, director of BCS Academy of Computing, part of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, noted that since children from the age of five will soon be taught computer science through the new curriculum, there is a need to ensure teachers can teach both computer science and programming elements.

“Our plan now is to work in partnership with the Computing At School group (CAS), universities and schools to extend the network into a national infrastructure that can provide CPD [continual professional development] opportunities for 16,000 teachers over the next two years,” he said.

Ian Livingstone, chair of Next Gen Skills, said: “This is a very important step to fast forward the teaching of essential skills for the digital world in which today’s children live, to enable them to create technology rather than being simply passive users of it. Digital manufacturing and services are becoming main drivers of the UK economy.

“The Department for Education (DfE) has already announced that it is offering scholarships and bursaries to recruit and train talented new teachers and have prepared others through subject knowledge enhancement courses.”

Steve Beswick, director of education, Microsoft, stressed: “We need our children to learn the foundations of computational thinking at school so that they have the knowledge and skills they need to build successful careers here in the UK.

“This belief is integral to our Get On programme which aims to help 300,000 young people get inspired, get skilled and get a job. We will continue to work with DfE and teachers to help schools deliver the new computing curriculum.”

Simon Peyton-Jones, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, and chair of the CAS working group, agreed by saying: “The challenge is enormous and the timescale is short; I hope this grant will be the spark that ignites a broad partnership of schools, universities, employers and professional bodies to inspire, support and encourage our teachers as they move forward.”

ICT students not getting what they need due to lack of teaching training, survey finds

Both students and teachers are keen to go digital, but the necessary teacher skills are lacking in European schools a survey has revealed.

According to the report only one-in-four nine year olds studies at a "highly digitally-equipped school" and 20% of secondary students have never or almost never used a computer in their school lessons.

Scandinavian and Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland and Denmark) came out on top in terms of having the best ICT equipment while students in Poland, Romania, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia are the most likely to not possess the right equipment.

The survey found that teachers are generally confident about the use of ICT for learning, however ICT training is rarely compulsory. The survey found that most teachers devote private time to learn ICT skills necessary for teaching.

Undertaken by the European Schoolnet and the University of Liège, the European survey of ICT in schools was published by the European Commission (EC).

Neelie Kroes, EC vice-president for the Digital Agenda, said: "ICT skills and training must be available to all students and teachers, not just a lucky few.

“We want our young people exposed to ICTs in school from the very beginning, and we want teachers who are confident to share their knowledge.”

Androulla Vassiliou, commissioner for education, culture, multi-lingualism and youth, said Europe needs to invest more in the development and use of ICTs in schools: “Europe will only resume sustained growth by producing highly skilled ICT graduates and workers who can contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship."

Marc Durando, European Schoolnet’s executive director, suggested: “Policy makers and school heads should focus on concrete measures at school level to support the use and integration of ICTs in the classroom and invest in capacity building through new training models such as online communities and blended learning."

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