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'Rising tide of panic' among teachers expected to teach computing curriculum, expert says

There is a “rising tide of panic” among teachers who are expected to deliver the new computing curriculum this September, an expert on computing from the Royal Society has said.

From the start of the next academic year, schools will be legally obliged to teach the new computing curriculum to all children aged 5 until at least the age of 14, but concerns have been mounting over the readiness of school staff to deliver the new subject.

And speaking at a conference in London on Wednesday, Mark Wakefield, a citizenship manager for IT giant IBM and member of the Royal Society’s Computing in School advisory group, said that there was growing unease among teachers on how they will teach the subject.

“There is a sense of a rising tide of panic [in regards to the new computing curriculum], which is creating major anxieties in terms of what knowledge and skills they will need,” Mr Wakefield told the Westminster Education Forum.

“Very few teachers will have been taught computer science at school and even fewer will have studied it as an undergraduate so there is no frame of reference. It’s really tough for teachers so we have to manage that and that is really, really important. This is a five to 10 year journey and now that we have a structure in place the Department for Education must give us and themselves some time.”

His comments were echoed by other delegates and speakers at the conference, who believe not enough support is being given to prepare teachers to deliver the curriculum.

Chana Kanzen, ICT forum leader at the Institute of Professional Development for Jewish Schools, who supports more than 20 primary school ICT leaders, said they often come to her forum “in tears” due to the pressure to prepare for the new curriculum.

“Most of them are between the ages of 20 and 30, and as ICT leaders they are often class teachers as well, so they have very little time to put in the training they need in order to learn how to code to then teach the teachers,” Ms Kanzen said.

“They are also expected to be technical advisers and support for the rest of the school as well. They are overworked, they are overstretched; they come to my forum once every half term, often in tears. There needs to be more investment [to train them] and support given.”

And Steve Daley, director of learning in computer science at the Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough, added that primary teachers he had spoken to were “really, really quite frightened by the subject”.

Over the last 12 months the DfE has announced a number of funding packages to help train teachers and recruit graduates to teach the subject, the most recent being a £500,000 pot to train teachers in software coding.

A further £1.1 million was announced by education minister Elizabeth Truss to be used in teacher training, while the bursary for computer science graduates to move into teaching has been increased to £25,000.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our new £500,000 match-funding scheme will mean teachers are trained by computing experts so they can inspire the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.

“We have also announced £1.1 million funding for the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) so that primary school teachers will be able to deliver the new curriculum. On top of this, we are providing £2 million to the BCS to develop a network of teaching excellence in computer science.

“We have also increased scholarships for graduates training in computing from £20,000 to £25,000 and bursaries have increased to £20,000 – up from £4,000 for those with a 2:1 and £9,000 for those with a first class degree.”

Read TES Connect's guide to computing in the new primary curriculum

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