Computing At School Scotland have been hard at work advising a number of people regarding what we feel are the biggest problems in CS education in Scotland currently. We recently prepared a briefing paper for an MSP and felt it would be of interest to others.
The five key structural issues endangering CS education that we identified are as follows:
- Numbers of teachers: We have reached a crisis with the number of Computing Science teachers in our school system.12% of secondary schools have closed their computing departments and have no active Computing Science teachers. We need Head Teachers and Local Authorities to realise the value of Computing Science. Schools speak of extreme difficulty in recruiting Computing Science teachers and finding subject-specific cover, even in the Central Belt. We need to retain our existing teachers and increase the numbers of teachers in the system.
- Teacher training and workforce replenishment: there are not enough quality candidates for PGDE courses and targets are being missed. The replenishment rate for Computing Science is the lowest of all STEM subjects. We would welcome more flexible, open and part-time PGDE courses to attract more applicants from the IT industry, and PGDE courses in more areas of Scotland. Recruitment and incentivisation programmes are required to train more teachers.
- Over-crowded Computing Science classes: Computing Science is not on the SNCT list of practical subjects. In the last couple of years we have learned of an increasing number of Computing Science teachers being told to teach classes of up to 33 in rooms designed for 20. In addition to health and safety concerns, the educational experience of those young people is hugely deteriorated. We are greatly concerned that more Head Teachers will learn of this ‘trick’ and will try this in desperation to resolve a staffing crisis in their school.
- Amount of Computing Science taught at S1-3: Computing Science has the lowest amount of time in the timetable than any other subject in the majority of Scottish schools. We recommend that schools increase the class time committed to Computing Science in S1-S3 for all pupils, which will both engage students in the subject and develop deeply the necessary thinking skills required for National qualifications.
- Development of Computing Science in Primary and Early Years: The professional learning needs of the primary and early years sectors for Computing Science needs to be addressed.
Couldn’t agree more with all the points you have made. I also have e-mailed both the former and current Education Minister about the situation and have been very unhappy with the replies I received. The Education Minister and First Minister need to stop talking to Directors of Education and Head Teachers and start talking to the classroom teachers to find out what is really going on and THEN talk to Directors of Education and Head Teachers to tell them what changes the government insist on being made to increase the time allocated to teaching Computing Science in S1-S3.
Also, have a son-in-law who is a computer programmer who would love to train as a computing teacher, but with a family to support needs to be able to do this part-time in Dundee. Why is a city with 2 universities with excellent computing departments, not offering this option?
I believe Dundee University are hoping to have a part time PGDE for Computing starting September 2016, which will be great news if it gets approved.
That will be brilliant if that happens. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that and tell my son-in-law to do the same.