£84 Million To Bring Code Into Classrooms
The UK Government’s Department for Education has announced an investment of £84 million to improve the teaching of computing and drive pupil participation in computer science with the launch of the National Centre for Computing Education.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the British Computing Society, and STEM Learning will make up the consortium responsible for developing and providing the centre which will work with the University of Cambridge. Google will also support the project with a further £1million.
Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards explained:
This new 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 that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our outward looking and dynamic economy.
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.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation:
This level of investment in computing education is unprecedented anywhere in the world. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we teach computing and computer science.
To recap the background to this initiative, in 2011 a report from the Royal Society with the title Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools stated
The current delivery of Computing education in many UK schools is highly unsatisfactory.
As we reported in Teach Code In School – Before It’s Too Late! the report identified a self-perpetuating situation in which the lack of teachers with the required skills had reduced the existing ICT (Information Communications Technology) to nothing more than digital literacy. In response 2013 the UK government announced:
‘Harmful’ ICT curriculum set to be dropped to make way for rigorous computer science
announcing a new computer science curriculum that would, and did, come into effect across all levels of education from September 2014 and introduced a new GCSE in Computer Science.
Last November a report from the Royal Society, After the reboot: computing education in UK schools, warned that three years after a new computing curriculum was introduced in England, computing education remained “patchy and fragile” across the UK, revealing that more than 30% of GCSE-level pupils in England attended schools where the subject is not taught. It also raised concerns about the government’s failure to hit teacher recruitment targets. This report was quickly followed by a commitment that the government would invest £100 million in computing education across the UK and now, a year later, the National Centre for Computing Education has launched.
Its fledgling website states:
Our aim is for every child in every school in England to have a world-leading computing education.
We provide resources, training and support for teaching Computing in primary and secondary schools and colleges from Key Stage 1 through to A Level.
The Centre will operate virtually through a national network of up to 40 school-led computing hubs to provide training and resources to primary and secondary schools, and an intensive training program for secondary teachers without a post A-Level qualification in computer science. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, all of its online resources and courses will be completely free for anyone to use. Face-to-face training will be available at no cost to teachers in priority schools, and at very low cost to teachers in other schools.
Given that Computer Science has become popular in the classroom thanks to initiatives such as Hour of Code and among pre-college students in recognition of its career potential, investing this much in Computer Education will hopefully allow Computer Science to break out of the vicious circle in which it has been trapped for too long.