Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Computing in Schools

The Royal Society issued "Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools", 13 January 2012. This topic was discussed in "Open Submission to the National Curriculum Consultation" (by Pia Waugh for Senator Kate Lundy, 22 April 2010). In my National Broadband Network Submission, I suggesting making educational materials available free on-line, so we teach digital literacy (amongst other things) digitally. It should be possible to bootstrap this process: that is we train the course designers on-line to train the teachers who then teach it to the students.

Executive summary


This report is the outcome of a project initiated by the Royal Society in August 2010. The project was prompted by a high degree of concern, expressed in many quarters and documented in several earlier reports, about aspects of the current provision of education in Computing in UK schools. That such concern had been expressed by so many with such different perspectives – including in schools, in business and industry, and in universities – was indicative of a significant problem. The project was guided by an Advisory Group that brought together individuals and representatives with a wide range of professional interests and views, and it sought and achieved a good level of consensus

The main findings and recommendations of the project are set out below. First, however, a word is needed on terminology. In this report, the term ‘Computing’ is used with a very broad sense

Computing is concerned both with computers and computer systems – how they work and how they are designed, constructed, and used – and with the underlying science of information and computation

The influence of Computing in shaping the world in which we now live has been profound, and it is hard to imagine that Computing will become less important in the future. It is argued in this report that it is essential for all school pupils to gain some familiarity with aspects of Computing and for there to be opportunities for pupils to develop their aptitudes in the subject, for their individual benefit and for the future prosperity of the nation

Main findings

  1. The current delivery of Computing education in many UK schools is highly unsatisfactory. Although existing curricula for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are broad and allow scope for teachers to inspire pupils and help them develop interests in Computing, many pupils are not inspired by what they are taught and gain nothing beyond basic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database

    This is mainly because:

    1. The current national curriculum in ICT can be very broadly interpreted and may be reduced to the lowest level where non specialist teachers have to deliver it;
    2. there is a shortage of teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy;
    3. there is a lack of continuing professional development for teachers of Computing;
    4. features of school infrastructure inhibit effective teaching of Computing
  2. There is a need to improve understanding in schools of the nature and scope of Computing

    In particular there needs to be recognition that Computer Science is a rigorous academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of many pupils. The status of Computing in schools needs to be recognised and raised by government and senior management in schools

  3. Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school, including exposure to Computer Science as a rigorous academic discipline

  4. There is a need for qualifications in aspects of Computing that are accessible at school level but are not currently taught. There is also a need for existing inappropriate assessment methods to be updated

  5. There is a need for augmentation and coordination of current Enhancement and Enrichment activities to support the study of Computing

  6. Uptake of Computing A-level is hindered by lack of demand from higher education institutions


From: Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools", The Royal Society, 13 January 2012

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