The Royal Society is commissioning a study, funded by Google and Microsoft, and led by Professor Stephen Furber FRS, to understand the challenges faced by teachers delivering computing and computer science and share best practice which can be adopted more widely. The research will establish the progress that has been made since the introduction of the new English computing curriculum in 2014, identify areas that still need to be addressed, and will be used as the basis of a wider action plan to transform computing in schools.
The proposals made in the action plan will help children and young people get excited about technology and provide them with creative, digital and computational thinking skills, crucial to securing their success in the world of work. The project will also equip teachers to teach young people the skills required to help solve tomorrow’s challenges and help inspire more children to take up digital careers in the future.
The partnership will provide teachers with high quality classroom resources, guidance, and continuing professional development programmes. It will also develop effective assessment tools for teachers and help equip schools to address the gender imbalance and inspire young girls to take up computing. The plan will also identify opportunities to help young people relate to digital careers through partnerships with businesses.
Professor Tom McLeish, Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee says, “As a subject with a rich and vital future, computer science not only needs high-quality teacher training and development, best practice in the classroom, and inspiring materials for pupils; it also needs solid, evidence-based research about what works. We are delighted that Google and Microsoft are supporting the research phase of this very important project. In a world where technology is increasingly embedded into our daily lives we need to ensure that the computer science curriculum equips young people to take advantage of the opportunities the digital world offers.”
Mike Warriner, UK Engineering Director at Google, says, “We have long said that coding is a really important skill for young people. Learning to code will be vital for the jobs of the future, it makes you better at problem solving and logical thinking, and most of all it is great fun. This is a great initiative from the Royal Society to discover new ways to engage the UK's teachers with computing and give them the skills they need to inspire the next generation of coders.”
Hugh Milward, Director, Corporate External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft UK, says, “Our collaboration with the Royal Society is part of our overarching YouthSpark programme which aims to increase access to computer science education and encourage young people to explore digital skills and careers. The UK economy will require 745,000 additional workers with digital skills by 2017, which is why quality computer science education in schools is vital. This project will help shape and inform computer science education best practice and support educators with rich materials to inspire the next generation in whatever career they choose.”
Whilst the full impact of the project will continue to be felt in classrooms for many years, pupils will start to benefit as soon as the findings of the launch study are made available to head teachers, teachers and school governors.
The UK is leading the way in computer science education across the globe and in 2014 a new computing curriculum for five to 16 year-olds was introduced in English schools, replacing ICT and establishing computer science and computational thinking as a foundation subject alongside mathematics and the sciences. England is the first country to formally recognise the importance of teaching children computing.
In 2012 the Royal Society’s report Shut Down or Restart? called for the status of computing in schools to be improved and for greater recognition of computer science as an academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of pupils.