The Royal Society urges the government to increase computer education

The Royal Society urges the government to increase computer education”

More than half of schools fail to offer computer science GCSE, leaving young people without knowledge of programming, analysis has found.

A new report by the science group, titled After the reboot: computing education in schools, made six major recommendations - offer computer-based subjects more widely, improve the diversity of students taking the subject, make sure there are enough teachers, better resources and support, and increased research looking at computer education teaching.

The new English, Welsh and Northern Irish GCSE in computer science saw entries rise from 60,146 in 2016 to 65,205 in 2017. However, the report found that it was hard to find skilled teachers and therefore more money would have to be spent.

Dale Peters, an analyst at TechMarketView, commented: "Teachers are being asked to teach an unfamiliar subject and there are too few teachers with the requisite skills to teach the curriculum". 'We welcome the Royal Society's report, which shows that despite good progress in recent years there is still much more to do to ensure young people across the United Kingdom have access to computer science education, ' says Ronan Harris, managing director of advertising giant Google's United Kingdom arm.

"Since 2012, the department has pledged £5million to the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science programme, which has built a national network of almost 400 computer science specialists". "However, computing teachers have told us that they feel the government rushed in a new curriculum without giving them the support or money to deliver it", said Furber.

'The report paints a bleak picture in England, which meets only 68 percent of its computing teacher recruitment targets and where, as a result, one in two schools don't offer Computer Science at GCSE, a crucial stage of young people's education.

"However, our evidence shows that computing education across the United Kingdom is patchy and fragile".

But the outmoded GCSE in ICT, which the computer science GCSE will soon replace, still accounted for 55% of all computing qualification entries for 16-year-olds.

"Overhauling the fragile state of our computing education will require an ambitious, multipronged approach".

"Over the course of the year, we intend to enter a number of competitions and run a selection of clubs that will focus on different areas of Computer Science, including computer game design and using devices such as Crumbles and Micro:bits to develop our understanding of physical computing", she said.

Although computer subjects have grown in popularity, many teachers who lead the lessons have not studied the subject or worked in a computer-related role before.

Some ICT teachers who had always argued that it was a practical course, attractive to a far wider range of children, are now saying "I told you so".

Prof Furber's views were echoed by technology firms Microsoft and Google, who are both working to increase computer skills among schoolchildren.

The Department of Education said that more and more people are deciding to take the class due to the increase in jobs in the field.

"Microsoft is dramatically scaling up its digital skills programme in the UK and we believe now is the time for the Government to do the same", said Microsoft UK chief executive Cindy Rose.

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