£60 million 'needed to train teachers in GCSE computer science'

Report highlights failures to recruit and train teachers, attract female pupils, and give opportunities to rural areas

Martin George

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A ten-fold increase in funding for computing is needed to put the subject on a par with physics and maths, a new report claims.

The Royal Society warns that, three years after a new computing curriculum was introduced in England, computing education remains “patchy and fragile” across the UK.

Today’s report, After the Reboot: Computing education in UK schools, says 30 per cent of GCSE-level pupils in England are at schools where the subject is not taught, and raises concerns about the government’s failure to hit teacher recruitment targets.

It says: "Computing education must enable young people to continue to keep up with the pace of technological change so that they can remain effective, well-informed and safe citizens.

"However, our evidence shows that computing education across the UK is patchy and fragile.

"Its future development and sustainability depend on swift and coordinated action by governments, industry, and non-profit organisations.

"Neglecting the opportunities to act would risk damaging both the education of future generations and our economic prosperity as a nation."

The authors say the existing £1.2 million budget to train existing primary and secondary teachers will not cover the costs of training the more than 8,000 secondary teachers who “need significant upskilling in order to successfully deliver GCSE computer science”.

Based on figures for comparable programmes in maths, they say £60 million is needed over the next five years.

The study raises concerns about the number of young women choosing the subject, with a 20 per cent uptake from girls at GCSE, and 9 per cent at A level.

And the authors also note a divide in the opportunities for pupils in urban and rural areas.

They say: “In rural hamlets and isolated dwellings, only 11.2 per cent of schools offered GCSE computer science, while 31.1 per cent of schools in urban city and town areas offered the subject.”

They add that geography also affects the extra support schools can access, with extracurricular activities and support from employers and universities tending to cluster in urban areas.

Professor Stephen Furber, a Royal Society fellow, said: "For pupils to thrive, we need knowledgeable, highly skilled teachers.

“However, computing teachers have told us that they feel the government rushed in a new curriculum without giving them the support or money to deliver it.

"The report paints a bleak picture in England, which meets only 68 per cent of its computing teacher recruitment targets and where, as a result, one in two schools don't offer Computer Science at GCSE, a crucial stage of young people's education."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to ensure our future workforce has the skills we need to drive the future productivity and economy of this country and that is why the government made computing a compulsory part of the national curriculum.  

“Computer science GCSE entries continue to rise more quickly than any other subject.

“Since 2012, the department has pledged £5 million to the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science programme, which has built a national network of nearly 400 computer science specialists schools can commission to provide bespoke training for their teachers.”

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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