Computing curriculum being introduced “on the cheap”

The government has been accused of bringing computing into the national curriculum “on the cheap”, with teachers suggesting they don’t have enough training or resources.

Computing curriculum being introduced

Curriculum changes in September will see children as young as five being taught computing and programming skills – meaning primary and secondary school teachers will need to be up to speed on the subject.

The government announced £500,000 in funds earlier this month to help train teachers in time for September. It’s also pushing teachers to free resources, such as the much-criticised Year of Code.

However, ICT teachers gathered at the Westminster Education Forum in London today said they and their colleagues had been left to fend for themselves, particularly at primary school level.

They’re in a panic about coding – they have very little time

Paul Neal, head of computing at Theale Green School in Berkshire, said that unlike other subjects there had been little support from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the education quango.

“I’m a little concerned that from this September [the new curriculum] is not going to have the effect it should without further funding from the government to help us, and some national resources rather than teachers groping around for various free resources, trying to put something together themselves,” he said.

Chana Kanzen, an ICT forum leader at the Institute of Professional Development for Jewish Schools, works with primary school teachers who have been designated ICT leaders from around 20 schools in London. She told PC Pro the forum attendees were predominantly young, female teachers who had been tasked with implementing the new computing curriculum simply because “they are good with a phone”.

“They’re in a panic about coding – they have very little time,” she said. “They’re not specialists in coding, and yet they’re expected to implement the new curriculum.”

Kanzen added that some schools she works with lack Wi-Fi, making teaching computing classes even more difficult.

Enough funding?

Educational director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Clive Beale, compared the teacher training funding to the Isle of Jersey, which has invested £6 million into implementing its new IT curriculum.

“As an ex-teacher I’m really worried it hasn’t been taken seriously, for what is a brand new subject,” he said. “Has the government taken it seriously enough [and] put resources into supporting the teachers – are we going to be ready to go?”

Asked by PC Pro whether the government had put aside enough money for teachers, the Department of Education’s lead for computing, John Myers, said it was “important” the government contributed.

“I think we recognise there’s good support that schools can access for free, but it’s important the government is contributing,” he said. “Clearly computing is one of the more significant changes in relation to the new curriculum.”

Myers added that the government had contributed a total of £3.5 million in funding. Aside from the £500,000 pot, Myers pointed to the £2 million for training 400 “master” teachers by 2015, who will provide support to local colleagues. There’s a further £1 million going into “barefoot projects” – 800 workshops around the UK designed to aid primary school teachers.

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