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Why should we teach Computer Science? With Stephen Trask Rss

Posted on: October 18th 2019

Computing in schools remains an ever-evolving area of the curriculum. As we move into a more technologically adept climate, Computer Science is no longer an esoteric discipline. With the growing changes in the use of ICT, it is important that we follow suit and make sure our pupils are learning to respond to this confidently in our schools. Dedicated ICT Teachers are needed more than ever to facilitate this new wave of technological  learning. 

Stephen TraskWe spoke to our Computer Science Consultant, Stephen Trask about the future of Computer Science in schools. Stephen started teaching IT on Acorn Archimedes machines, saving work on 5 1/4 floppy disks, long before the Internet was something you would use on a regular basis. He has taught in comprehensives, independent and international schools, in addition to spells as a database programmer, website developer and team leader in the telecoms industry.  As an avid contributor to the computer sci community, he tweets and writes for platforms such as HackerNoon, Medium and CodeLikeAGirl, and is a Subject Genius for Computing for the TES. He has worked previously as a corporate trainer and has led CPD sessions on programming and virtual platforms for West Sussex County Council.  He has also trained inspection teams in Malaysia on the use of cloud technology and whole school insets in Abu Dhabi relating to studying skills and growth mindset. He now supports the assessment and delivery of Computer Science across Harris Federation and to all our Academies across London.

Computer Science! What has changed in our schools? 

Computer Science is becoming increasingly more relevant in this day and age. It is difficult to think of an area of the curriculum that has been subjected to such continuous change as computing. There have been a handful of recent events that have changed the picture somewhat.  Firstly, the GCSE Computer Science qualification is on the rise.  JCQ figures reveal that entries rose in 2019 by 7.2%, to 80, 027 entries.  Entries for females increased by 14% - this needs to continue until we have parity with boys, but it is certainly encouraging.  A-level entries increased from 10, 286 in 2018, to 11, 124 – again showing an increase in female candidates.  

Secondly, Ofsted’s entire approach to judging schools has shifted towards embracing richness of the curriculum, breadth of study and depth.  This should have a particularly positive impact on KS3; whereas previously schools took the difficult decision to offer computing on perhaps a rotational basis in KS3, or drop it from certain cohorts altogether, it is now very much expected to be there should Ofsted visit.  As a foundation subject, computing is statutory – as much as this poses questions regarding training and recruitment/retention, schools are still expected to deliver it.  

You touched on training and recruiting for Computer Science. What is in place to support aspiring Computer Science Teachers? 

A large swathe of ring-fenced initiatives seems to have come to fruition in recent months. Organisations such as STEM Learning Ltd. are establishing Computing Hubs to support schools via teacher CPD. The National Centre for Computing Education offers courses such as the Computer Science Accelerator program – funded courses whose aim is to improve the delivery of computing in education.  Computing At School have developed some excellent resources and communities to support teachers.   

This is a welcome turnaround for teachers who need CPD or just a community space in which to bounce ideas around. At Harris Federation, we now have a Computer Science Consultant support service to visit schools, assist with planning, delivery and assessment, and ensure that the teachers and students have the best possible experiences.  

So where do we stand Stephen?  

There is a growing understanding of the importance of Computer Science in the air; GCSE and A level entries are on the rise; CPD opportunities are plentiful; and teachers working for the Harris Federation receive bespoke consultant support. Such a scenario would have been unthinkable only a few years ago; right now, we seem to be on an upward curve, and the future looks rosy indeed.

Developing our people

The future of Computer Science in education is brightly lit by the dedicated teachers and subject specialists we work with. As it continues to become a key academic discipline, teachers who take up the role as coveted ICT Teacher are met with opportunity to shape the academic curriculum as to better suit the tech advances of the 21st century.

We have a current cohort of nearly 200 trainees in our School Direct programmes. All of which contribute to our mission, shaping exceptional teachers, supporting academic journey and facilitating a love of learning. Teacher training is a key component to equipping the ICT teachers of today with the tools to facilitate learning that is both current and engaging with our evolving tech climate. As strong supporters of career and subject specialism development, the introduction of computer science consultancy means drawing out a growing talent pool of computer science and IT specialists to support its delivery in our schools. 

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