Only a third of ICT teachers are specialists, warns report
The Government must recruit more specialist technology teachers if it is to stem the tide of dissatisfaction in UK ICT classrooms, according to a report from the Royal Society.
The news comes days after the Government said it would overhaul the way computing was taught in schools, but highlights the difficulties faced by educators as they try to make ICT both interesting and challenging.
According to the report – Shut down or Restart? The way forward for Computing in UK schools – only 35% of ICT teachers are specialists, compared to 74% of maths teachers and 88% of biology teachers.
The report set out to identify the reasons for a 60% decline in the numbers achieving A-level Computing since 2003 and said the lack of specialists was a contributing factor.
The most significant factor affecting how well young people learn is the teacher in their classroom
“Although we were heartened to hear that Michael Gove intends to radically overhaul the National Curriculum programme, we remain concerned that other problems still need to be addressed,” said Professor Steve Furber, fellow of the Royal Society and chair of the report.
“The most significant factor affecting how well young people learn is the teacher in their classroom. The majority of teachers are specialists, but ICT is an exception to the rule.”
“Action is needed not only on the curriculum itself, but also to recruit and train many more inspiring teachers to reinvigorate pupils’ enthusiasm for computing.”
The report arrives as the Department of Education is consulting with industry and academics on plans to remove the statutory programme of study in ICT, whilst keeping ICT a mandatory part of the National Curriculum at all levels.
The Royal Society wheeled out Google chairman Eric Schmidt to underline its point, with the company boss warning that the UK could fall behind its rivals if the teacher shortage isn’t addressed.
“The UK has an extraordinary computing heritage, but now risks falling behind,” Schmidt said. “The state of computing in schools lies at the heart of the problem. Too few UK students have the opportunity to study true computer science, resulting in a workforce that lacks key skills needed to help drive the UK’s economic growth.”