Stem firms to run UK National Centre for Computing Education

A number of British firms well-versed in science, technology, engineering and maths will act as a consortium to deliver a National Centre for Computing Education

A consortium of firms in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sector will work together to lead a UK National Centre for Computing Education.

The centre will work with schools across the UK to help train teachers to better deliver Stem subjects, as well as encourage more uptake of computer science at GCSE and A-Level.

Stem Learning, the British Computing Society and the Raspberry Pi Foundation will make up the consortium responsible for developing and providing the centre, along with the help of £84m from the government.

Minister for school standards, Nick Gibb, said it is important in the UK for teachers to be able to deliver the computing curriculum, and that young people are given a high-quality computing education, because of the contribution digital makes to the UK economy.

“The new computer science GCSE has more challenging content such as computer programming and coding,” he said. “The National Centre for Computing Education, led by some of the UK’s leading tech experts, will give teachers the subject knowledge and support they need to teach pupils the new computing curriculum. This is part of this government’s drive to raise academic standards so pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our outward-looking and dynamic economy.”

Plans for the centre were announced in May 2018, with a focus on achieving the government’s target of training up to 8,000 computing teachers.

The government’s funding will support several initiatives alongside the National Centre for Computing Education, such as a teacher training programme which will give teachers the skills they need to teach GCSE computer science, and a programme to support students taking AS and A-Level computer science.

Since many teachers have said they do not feel like they are fully capable of teaching concepts such as coding, despite the growing need for digital skills, the government announced the centre would be working with 40 schools across England to deliver support to teachers delivering the computing curriculum.

As well as the consortium, Google has offered £1m of support for the project, and the centre will work alongside the University of Cambridge to deliver training resources to primary and secondary school teachers.

The centre will start working with schools across England later this year, improving teaching and driving up participation in computer science at GCSE and A-Level.

By developing “computing hubs” led by this network of 40 schools, the centre hopes to virtually provide resources for teachers, communities for those needing support and an intensive training programme for secondary teachers who don’t have computer science qualifications higher than A-Level.

The centre’s website says the initiatives aims to give “every child in every school in England a world-leading computing education” through access to resources, free teacher training courses, local communities for face-to-face support and face-to-face CPD learning through these local community hubs.

The computing curriculum was originally introduced in 2014 to ensure all children of school age were exposed to concepts such as computational thinking and basic digital skills, but some believe there is too much focus on coding and not enough support for teachers delivering this subject.

Philip Colligan, chief executive of consortium member Raspberry Pi, said: “This level of investment is unprecedented anywhere in the world for teacher training in the field of computing and computer science. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way that computing and computer science is taught.”

But many believe an overhaul of the education system, allowing a high-level delivery of digital and technical skills education for young people, cannot be done in short amounts of time because the UK’s education system as a whole is inflexible.

Read more about Stem education

  • Recruitment firm links up with social enterprise to give young people experience in applying and interviewing for Stem roles.
  • The number of students taking and achieving grades in A-levels related to science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) is on the rise this year, giving the industry hope for the future.

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