Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

The drivers for the computing curriculum

Simon Humphreys from the subject association Computing at School talks about the new Computing curriculum.
[Teaching the computing curriculum] [Simon Humphreys] Computing at school started back in 2008, when we were looking at schools, education. And particularly then the move of children going on to A-levels and undergraduate admissions for computer science courses and realising there was a problem that the numbers were falling through the floor. And we thought there must be something that we can do. And identified, well perhaps, it’s to do with that computer science isn’t being taught as a discrete discipline in schools. [The drivers for the computing curriculum] In the early days, CAS recognised that there was a problem with what was being taught in schools. Or perhaps more specifically, the way in which it was being taught in schools.
There’s been an ICT subject on the curriculum at many schools. And both primary and secondary schools were delivering ICT that generally focuses much on, or more perhaps, on how to use the technology, rather than how the technology worked or to understand what was going on in the background of that. In the primary curriculum, there was always computer science there. It was versed as control or sequencing of instructions. But by and large it wasn’t taught as well as it perhaps could have been. It wasn’t given the attention that it might have needed.
And I think sometimes there was an issue that the members of staff who were responsible for delivering the curriculum, didn’t quite understand that bit as well as the digital literacy or the information technology that they were covering so well. And several years ago, the universities were crying out saying, we’ve got our admissions numbers are falling through the floor, what can we do? And the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing did a survey and realised that over the last decade, up to about 2010, numbers of students applying for higher education had fallen by 50%.
At just the same time that the industry would say, we’ve got vacancies, we need more students coming out of universities with the skill set that we need in terms of development and understanding the systems and being able to work in our industries. They weren’t able to find students from UK universities to fill those vacancies. And it all seemed a bit weird. At a time as well when digital devices, and computers, and telecommunications was beginning to explode. The internet was beginning to explode. Everybody is carrying around such devices. The children at schools were engaged with those devices.
And parents would be complaining to us, as teachers, I can’t get him off his Xbox, or his PlayStation, or he’s always latched into the computer. Yet the students would not want to go on to study this as a subject. [How Computing at School supports teachers of computing] As a teacher, if I was asked to suddenly cover a physics lesson– I had had physics lessons when I was at school, so I would have had some awareness of well, I sort of know what goes on in a physics lesson. But for the 100% of teachers out there, or more or less 100%, we didn’t have computer science lessons at school. So what does actually go on in a computer science lesson?
What is the pedagogy? What are the teaching styles? What are the content? What’s the subject knowledge? I’ve got no point of reference. So there are enormous challenges that will confront the teachers. And what Computing at School have been working on is setting up partnerships, and setting up networks. Working with universities, such as University of East Anglia, in trying to engage with the computer science professionals in those universities, the education professionals in those universities. And say, look we need to work together on this. There are teachers out there who need our collective support. You have a role to play here in supporting those teachers, by providing training, providing resources, such as this online teaching resource that we’re developing at UEA.
And in addition, trying to network together teachers in their locality, so they can share ideas, share resources. Provide qualification opportunities. Professional development opportunities where teachers can learn from each other in harness with the universities. [How the support network has developed] [Dave Gibbs] Recently CAS has developed a really strong network of regional centres. These are university led centres of expertise, often in computer science departments. They’re right across the country. They’re working with CAS master teachers. They’re offering a lot more support in the region. So it’s a lot closer to where teachers are. Which is great. These CAS master teachers– there’s new ones all the time. They’re joining in large numbers.
They are leading classroom practitioners who are happy to share and support other people. And they do this through CAS hubs. They do it through working with teachers in their school. Through building partnerships, clusters. A lot of these master teachers are partnering with us here in the national STEM learning centre to deliver intensive CPD and also support our online CPD. [Where we are now in teaching the subject of computing] I think teachers are now a lot more experienced in teaching computing. They’ve had several years to get their heads around it. They’re able to reflect on the things they’re doing. To reflect on their own practise. And to share ideas with others. So that’s really good. That helps people improve.
A lot these teachers are gaining recognition for this improvement through the BCS certificate for computer science teaching. It’s a really useful way of gaining a qualification where previously you didn’t have one. And it includes some action research in the classroom. This action research is contributing towards the growing amounts of research around pedagogy in computer science. A lot of that’s being shared through CAS. You can find lots of it on social media. There’s generally more awareness and more knowledge about what makes good computer science teaching. [The relevance of the computing curriculum] A kind of a unifying theme in this computing teaching is computational thinking. It’s a way of helping young people to become more effective problem solvers.
And it ties in really nicely with problem solving approaches right across STEM. I think this is an internationally recognised theme. A lot of the research now is international. I think that’s due really because there’s global recognition of the importance of digital creativity, not just digital consumption. Really it’s important for careers. It’s going to be hugely important for the economy. Not just in the tech sector, but wherever you end up working.

In this short film, Simon talks about how Computing at School (CAS) evolved as a grass roots organisation to help teachers improve the quality and quantity of computing taught in schools. He goes on to talk about the evolution of the computing curriculum which started in September 2014, giving a valuable insight into the context for the change from ICT to Computing.

Dave then covers more recent developments, including how teachers of computing can be supported by CAS and the wider network. Dave also provides context to the computing curriculum and its relevance as a subject.

Now that the curriculum has started to bed-in, what are your thoughts and reflections? Please add a comment to the discussion below
This article is from the free online

Teaching Computing

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now