Why we need to help our schools teach computer science.

by | Jul 26, 2017

A report in the guardian this week, predicts that 600,000 pupils in the UK are being taught by unqualified teachers.

Which on the surface sounds terrible. I do think teachers should be qualified, particularly in ensuring the safeguarding of children in their care and in understanding the skills required to adapt lessons to individual learning and to develop interesting activity that teach often complex things.

But I can also see the other side of this. The article goes on to describe that in courses such as computer science, the percentage of unqualified staff is higher than in more traditional subjects.

Well of course they are. Computer science is a complex subject, which has only been on the national curriculum since 2014 and with funding cuts and limited cpd training to help teachers cope with the new curriculum, it stands to reason that these courses are being delivered by professionals in the field of computing rather than professional teachers.

I did not do a computer science degree, but if I had my time over and took computing at university, I would want to use my skills to develop something world changing like, Google or AI rather than training to be a full time teacher and being expected to tick boxes, hit attainment targets and suck all the joy out of the subject I’m most passionate about. Nope. And I suspect most programmers leaving university these day feel the same.

I have a lot of respect for teachers, especially in the current climate with funding cuts and increased pressure to get results. But there’s a massive skills shortage in the UK tech industry – the reason computing was even added to the curriculum was to address this gap – so why would newly trained computer scientists choose to be a school teacher when they could likely walk into any tech company and get a job that they trained for?

Short answer: they wouldn’t!

Unfortunately, in the meantime, our school kids aren’t getting the education in computer science that they’ll need to survive in the future job market. Unless of course they are taught by tech professionals, instead of teachers.

Three years in from the new curriculum and, certainly in our locality, reports from parents and teachers suggest that many pupils only spend half an hour a week in the IT suite (if indeed the school has an IT suite). Furthermore, one of our Little Sandbox kids told us, all they actually do in ICT is “go on Microsoft word and type stuff.” With more and more jobs becoming automated, 30 minutes a week hardly seems sufficient to prepare today’s school kids for their future.

Expecting school teachers to become proficient in computer science in order to teach it confidently, is a big ask. But funding cuts means schools are more likely to ignore the subject entirely, than bring in outside help. Which is a huge shame because they’re holding their pupils back from learning skills that will be vital to their future.

So it’s a good job Little Sandbox is around to support the kids with a natural interest in technology. Maybe we could also assist the schools and help show teachers how they can teach this important subject to their kids too.

Little Sandbox is a tech club working with kids from age 6. For more information visit https://littlesandbox.co.uk