A computer science GCSE will debut in secondary schools across England from 2016, prime minister David Cameron has announced.
Bolstering the computing curriculum – which commenced in September 2014 and is focused on coding – the qualification will cover writing code and designing computer programs, as well as the ethical and legal impacts of digital technology.
In addition, the prime minister announced that a National College for Digital Skills is to be launched. The college will be a joint effort between government, education providers and industry. The higher vocational-education centre will open in London initially, before expanding to other areas.
Aiming to teach 5,000 students in the next five years, the college will offer a range of qualifications and apprenticeships. Working with the Tech Partnership, students will be supported by the likes of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deloitte, Gamesys, Henderson Global Investors, IBM, King, Oracle Academy and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Second wave of support for computing teachers
Teachers involved in the new computing curriculum will receive additional training and funding via a second wave of projects, thanks to technology employers.
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Five projects, which are part of a £500,000 match fund scheme, will see companies including O2 and Google working with schools and top-tier universities, such as Queen Mary University London, UCL and Oxford University, to provide resources and training for primary and secondary teachers.
Further, the Tech Partnership is to launch Tech Future Teachers, a scheme that enables teachers to shadow one of 150 digital employers for a day to gain industry insight to be shared with students.
New maths and science teachers
Some 17,500 maths and science teachers will also receive new training over the next five years in a bid to raise standards in schools and enable future generations to compete with their international counterparts.
The training scheme will cost £67m and will include a bursary offered to school leavers to support them with university fees in return for a commitment to become a teacher when they graduate with a maths or physics degree.
As many as 15,000 existing teachers will be retrained and 2,500 additional teachers in maths and physics will be recruited. Graduate teachers in these subjects with a first-class degree will be offered a £25,000 tax-free bursary.
The Department for Education has estimated around 500 extra specialist maths and physics teachers will be retrained every year in the next parliament.
As part of his announcement, David Cameron said mathematicians and scientists are vital if children are to compete for the best jobs.
"We commit to delivering more maths and science teachers,” he said. “This is all part of our long-term economic plan for Britain – making sure our children have the skills they need to thrive and get on. And by sticking to it, we will lift our children horizons and pull our country up in the world.”
The Hour of Code launched
Following the announcement, Cameron also launched The Hour of Code campaign with an event at Downing Street. The UK-wide campaign aims to reach six million people over the next seven days.
Pupils have 60 minutes to learn the basics of computer programming through tutorials, before programming their own Angry Bird game or creating a snowflake with Elsa from Disney film Frozen.
Businesses are also encouraging their workforces to take part in the campaign, with companies such as Condé Nast, Microsoft, Moo.com, The Guardian, BBC, ABRS, the Engine Group, Harper Collins, and Capgemini participating.
Head of Hour of Code UK Avid Larizadeh said it has become essential to understand the fundamentals of technology because of its role in so much of everyday life.
“The Hour of Code has been designed to provide an insight into the creative power of coding and computational thinking," he said.
“Regardless of age or gender, anyone from a 48-year-old prime minister to a six-year-old girl can learn the basics of computer science in a fun and engaging way.”
Four schools took part in the Hour of Code campaign at Downing Street, with 50 schoolchildren involved in the session.
The Downing Street Hour of Code event was organised by Apps for Good, Barclays and Free:Formers.