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OMG! Only a third of schools teaching Computer Science?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by smarthappydigit, May 24, 2018.

  1. smarthappydigit

    smarthappydigit New commenter

    What a sad state Computer Science is in!

    I went to a very well attended meeting last night for computer science teachers, mainly for some 'training' (a waste of time, but the networking is always great and worth attending for) but it turned out to be more of a pressure release for angry and frustrated Computer Science teachers.

    Quite a few who were ICT teachers before as well as fully qualified computer specialists were venting how their school had cut back computer science from the next academic year so it was now only in KS3. A Level and GCSE had been dropped because of recruitment issues (one school had advertised for a HoD for nearly all of last year), lack of uptake because it is the hardest subject now, and because it is an expensive subject to put on and it's a great way to save cash. Oh and the NEA nightmare got a few mentions. One poor chap got very agitated about the role of CAS and far from helping to lead the subject in the right direction, was becoming a mouthpiece for all that is wrong about the subject. Some teachers are losing their jobs!

    The meeting did a quick guesstimate and we think that last year, only half of schools in our area offered computing GCSE but in September, it will be just a third!

    What a disaster. I am so glad I only have just six more weeks to go before I leave this cold soup of a subject and get ready to set off for my first international job.
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
  2. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I've always had reservations about CAS. One of the criticisms that ICT teachers had of Computing is that it's a niche subject for students who want to work in the software industry. The opposite is actually the case, of course - ICT was a niche subject for people destined for office-based jobs, whereas Computer Science is more of life skill, with its emphasis on problem-solving, algorithmic thinking and efficiency - but CAS did absolutely nothing to address this misconception. Why? Because it's run by the BCS, which is effectively the trade body for the software industry. It's a bit like putting ABTA in charge of the Geography curriculum.
    Dorsetdreams and SundaeTrifle like this.
  3. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    We have no ICT teacher - we've been trying to recruit one for a year.
  4. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    Luv it: It's a bit like putting ABTA in charge of the Geography curriculum.

    I'm starting to lose all respect and patience for the Royal Society, the BCS and similar.

    They seem to be so wide of the mark with everything Computer related, I'm wondering whether there is an institutional elitist problem at these organisations, a kind of Oxford / Cambridge mentality? Do they understand what your average secondary school actually is (I don't just mean a Grammar or Independent fee-paying school)? What percentage of people there are actually experienced teachers in state schools, with their large classes, a small but significant minority who cannot listen or behave, with resources that are run down, with support that is reduced, with teachers (assuming that you can get them) who are qualified but not in the subject, with exhausted teachers who cannot get training as part of the job, who are fed up doing a skilled job for less and less money every year and being accountable for children who won't put the effort in, with exam board specifications which are such a struggle to get through in the time allocated?

    It is sad to see that the path all the stake holders who got the GCSE / NEA into its current meltdown situation are still in place and doing exactly what they did before to correct the problem. I'd like to think things will get better but I know they won't.

    And I know teachers are being made redundant because it is definitely happening in my area, as the subject is shrunk in schools for all the reasons given before.
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
  5. moscowbore

    moscowbore Senior commenter

    I once went to a CAS meeting near the time ICT was transitioning to Computing. There was all sorts of grand talk about training and innovative curricula and the world will be a better place. When it got down to it, there was no substance. A few hobbyists with raspberry pis. The CAS folks were not teachers, they were BCS members with a geeky interest in programming. I left the meeting thinking that they did not have a clue about how to teach, well anything really.
    Teachers comments about the syllabus being unsuitable have been ignored, the NEA cheating was allowed to continue as this was the norm with ICT, lack of competent teachers meant that computing was being taught very badly resulting in switched off students and bad results and the government pointlessly spent more and more money on CAS.

    Computing as a subject is now in it's death throes. In it's current form, I think it should disappear.
  6. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    Are you down south?
  7. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I actually quite like the Computing National Curriculum - apart from the inclusion of e-safety (which doesn't require a specialist and should be in a PSHE-type subject), it's pretty-much exactly what I'd have done. There's a degree of interpretation required, but I find that my students struggle with it less than they struggle with some Maths topics.

    The problem is that it wasn't properly launched. In the old days we'd have all gone off the Shire Hall (or wherever) and had the new National Curriculum explained to us with some DfE PowerPoint slides, but for some reason the government decided to get rid of everyone at LA level before trying to launch the new National Curriculum for a new subject, leaving everyone with a different idea of what it is.
  8. -Maximilian-

    -Maximilian- New commenter

    ICT should have been enhanced and improved. The subject can be made very interesting to a range of students when you include multimedia, animation, graphics and game design. Unfortunately the CAS/BCS boffins got to Michael Gove and he cancelled it. Lots of girls liked ICT as well, which we have now lost. Then, as Jaques said, there was no training - my local CAS hub died after 6 months. To be honest, the CAS expectations of what to do at KS3 were completely unrealistic and quite dull except for those really interested. The new KS3 curriculum launched with one page and no levels of attainment. Compare this to the training and resources provided by the now defunct ICT Strategy. Personally, I mix ICT and CS at KS3. I teach CS GCSE as well, which I quite like, but I tend to find students are either good at at or poor at it - there are not many in the middle when it comes to designing code/writing algorithms. It’s quite a niche market. I am worried that we are going to harm the UK economy with the loss of ICT, schools dropping CS and also the cuts to ADT. Still, as long as the kids can regurgitate facts, we’ll be alright, eh?
    SundaeTrifle and binaryhex like this.
  9. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    CAS, BCS, the Royal Society and others have lost the plot and really are in denial about themselves. I think they see themselves as more closely related to Oxbridge than Scumsville High and effectively both by design and accident, exclude state teachers from their goings on. Have a good look these not-so-wise bodies - you'll be hard pressed to find a state school teacher from the aforesaid Scumsville High being a member of any of their committees.

    It is a worry though how many teachers' jobs in Computer Science will disappear in the next year or two. This is going to make matters even worse in schools for everyone. I expect the Grammar schools and fee-paying ones will be okay though. CAS etc can continue to work closely with them and release statements regularly, saying how well the subject is doing.
    -Maximilian- likes this.
  10. smarthappydigit

    smarthappydigit New commenter

    There are some really hard working ICT and CS teachers in my area. Even my mentor from a few years back who is in another school close by has told me that she thinks her department will lose at least one but more likely two teachers to redundancy and expects At Risk notices any time now.

    The resources on the CAS site are great and I will continue to use them. But I strongly agree that it is looking more and more like an elitist organisation. They don't seem to understand their own role in what is happening. They are not basing their advice on what is found in most ordinary schools. I suspect that many of them involved in organising advice to pass on to the DfE are from Oxford, Cambridge or similar. I suspect there might be a bit of bum licking and holding back criticism going on because they want to get their grubby little hands on some of the 100 million training money. I could be wrong.

    What is true, because it is a matter of record, is that you can see from the attendance of their minutes that perhaps 1 in 20 attendees are from an actual state school, academy and such like. I also note that because of recent criticism, they have started to make it far harder to find out who is attending their meetings. When an organisation starts making things less than transparent, you know they are feeling guilty and are hiding something!

    All this is very bad for the future of computing in schools. Still China here we come. 5 weeks of actual teaching to go.
  11. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    I suspect there might be a bit of bum licking and holding back criticism going on because they want to get their grubby little hands on some of the 100 million training money. I could be wrong.

    Very interesting. I also wondered if CAS / BCS would be applying to offer to run this training center. If so, it explains why they are not willing to upset anyone at the moment. Instead of doing the right thing by schools, teachers and students, they are keeping their mouths firmly shut and a big happy smile on their faces in the hope of a very large monetary reward and bonuses all round.

    Sleezy, and a MAJOR conflict of interest if they are doing this. It feels like teachers are working in Putin's Russia sometimes.
    Shedman likes this.
  12. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    This story sounds very familiar. I would imagine computer science is quite a creative subject at least with regards to programming and programme design. Yet another creative subject being squeezed out of the curriculum and which in many schools will just consist of the E-bacc subjects with just the merest hint of Art, Music and RE. God spare our children from such a depressing gradgrind experience.
    ridleyrumpus likes this.
  13. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    Couldn't agree more.

    The skills gained from learning logical thinking, problem solving and clarity of thought are indispensable to any person.

    Nevermind that students begin to realise, whilst coding, that grammar really IS important if you wish to be understood.
  14. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    I'm not fan of the EBacc, etc., but surely the most important skills pupils should learn whilst at school are to read and write, to be numerate, and to have a decent level of computer literacy. I'd put the latter above science.
  15. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    Don't diss Science ;)

    Science is important, if taught well, in teaching the students how to analyse data and make a decisions based on evidence, not on a gut feeling. That skill will be invaluable for the rest of their lives.

    (Though what with what is happening on both sides of the pond I have to question whether the "Scientific Method" has been instilled correctly in the past.)
  16. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Computer literacy is being able to use a computer. It isn't really necessary to be able to programme one. Just in the same way that driving a car does not mean you have to be a mechanic. If Computer science was an interesting subject there would be plenty of people qualified to teach it, The fact that there are not many teachers seems to show how niche a subject it really is.
  17. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Surely it just shows that qualified people can earn far more "doing" it than teaching it. Unlike, say, history.
  18. primenumbers

    primenumbers New commenter

    Is it still the case that universities are far more interested in how much Maths the students have done rather than if they know anything about programming?
  19. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    Generally, yes. There was a push to try to get Universities to ask for Computer Science A Level when the new one came in a few years ago. Unfortunately, because there are so few good Computer Science teachers around, universities have had to undo the bad teaching of Computer Science undergraduates who arrived with A Level Computer Science. They have now reverted back to encouraging GCSE students to do A Level Maths, Further Maths or a proper science subject like Chemistry and avoid Computing altogether at school.

    Sadly, I think this is the right thing to do. The A Level course is at a first year undergraduate level and a very hard A Level to do if you are just 16, probably the hardest A Level going now. Teachers without a Computer Science degree themselves (which is most of them) really can't teach this well.
  20. border_walker

    border_walker Established commenter

    But it is often useful to be able to program one!
    Stiltskin likes this.

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