Newsnight report on Computing in schools, 10 Oct 2011

  • Jeremy Scott

    This was the main report on Newsnight [England, Wales & NI] after Scotland left for Newsnight Scotland; however, you can catch the report at or (skip to 29:58 for the report).

    Whilst it focuses on the situation south of the border, many of the points are relevant up here (and Kirsty Wark makes a brief mention of CfE). What does everyone think?


    This is the video Jeremy is talking about. Great viewing and we must remember that the picture is slightly different in Scotland. My feel is that ICT is not something Computing teachers should be spending a lot of time on and I’ve made this clear on my blog.

    Jeremy Scott

    “My feel is that ICT is not something Computing teachers should be spending a lot of time on and I’ve made this clear on my blog”

    I agree with Charlie and this is the message that’s coming through loud and clear on the visits I’ve made in the last few weeks. Our subject is clearly at a turning point, finally moving away from ICT towards Computer Science.

    Personally, I feel this is the right move, as ICT is running out of steam in terms of being the core of what we teach. Students are getting turned off, just at a time when there are so many exciting developments in the industry which are touching everyone’s lives. There’s also a growing recognition that computational thinking is a discipline that’s essential to the [re]development of our economy and we need to seize the moment.

    We therefore need to do what Business Education and CDT did back in the 1990s and reinvent ourselves as a subject. They saw the writing on the wall and did a fantastic job in transforming themselves, and we need to do the same. It meant that many Business Education and Technical teachers had to work outside their comfort zone, learning new skills and creating new courses. However, we’re in a better position, since we’ll finally be teaching the subject we studied ourselves. In saying this, I recognise that it’s a constantly moving target and there are real issues of CPD which have to be addressed in our field.

    Business Education & CDT teachers also got organised and we need to do the same. That means working through a body such as CAS (Scotland) – formerly SIoCE – and aligning ourselves with other STEM subjects in schools. The British Computer Society (through CAS) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh are eager to help and there are representatives from industry and academia working with them to make this happen.

    In saying this, I recognise that we’ll still have a role to play in delivering ICT, just as every department has, and that we’ll still be seen as the experts in this field. This is a strength we can play to in our dealings with head teachers when timetabling and staffing issues are discussed.

    There’s everything to play for…and, I admit, everything to lose. Computing as a subject needs not only to survive but to thrive. People who say that we’ll just become a minority subject are being too gloomy. The traditional STEM subjects could easily have fallen prey to the same old argument of “I need to know know how to use X, but I don’t need to know how it works”, but they haven’t. We shouldn’t fear this argument either – but we need to sell ourselves as a serious STEM subject. We’re also the only subject that can deliver computational thinking, increasingly recognised as an essential, transferable skill in the digital age.

    Darren Brown

    I agree with all of this and I am delighted it is being highlighted.


    I am trying to support primary schools and secondary colleagues to build ICT use naturally into lessons where appropriate.  All the teachers so far have been honest that their own ICT skills are not good enough so ICT is not happening across the curriculum or in primary anywhere near as wide covering as it should.  CPD failing.  For being such an important  and overarching area ICT is just given a passing nod by government, inspectors, authorities and headteachers.  If there is a computer in a classroom then that seems to be a tick in a box for ICT being done.


    Computing is also being failed by CPD.  In Highland there are only a few younger teachers who have studied Computer Science with most moving from other subjects.  Given initial training but not supported with time, training or funding (I would include hardware/software in here) to keep pushing to teach new areas.  Of course now we are being seen as obscelete and many are being moved back to teach their original subjects or retiring and not being replaced.


    Within this forum group’s work and for the new courses there is a need to consider more support for all colleagues teaching ICT as well as all of us in Computing to get to grips with the latest developments.  I am quite happy to admit that there are many areas of the latest programming environments and software I am clueless about.


    There is also a real need from someone on very high to ask authorities how they are making sure they cover ICT and in particular Computing Science like they are supposed to be.  They need to be held accountable.


    On a similar note, if you haven’t already, you may be interested to hear of a survey currently under way in 31 European countries.


    Here’s an extract from the website (
    For the first time, teachers and students in schools throughout Europe are being systematically surveyed on their use and views on technology for learning.


    Technology is increasingly used in schools, is a ‘must-have’ for young people, and its contribution to educational, social and economic goals is recognised in national and European policies, It is therefore important to have a clear understanding of the extent of its provision and use in schools across Europe. That is why the views of head teachers, teachers and students are being collected, through online questionnaires (also a first), for the European Survey of Schools: ICT and Education (ESSIE).


    ESSIE aims to provide answers to questions such as:


    • How do young people’s experiences of ICT compare in and out of school? Do they vary between countries?

    • How many classrooms are really online, equipped with interactive whiteboards, and laptops? How many teachers are at ease in them? What do they do, and what are the outcomes for learners?

    • What are the school and teacher factors associated with different patterns of ICT use? Can explanatory models be identified to inspire policy recommendations to support the development of 21st century teaching and learning methods and curricula?


    ESSIE aims to benchmark progress in ICT availability and use in 31 countries (the 27 countries of the European Union, plus Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Turkey). Some 1 200 primary and secondary schools have been selected in each country and head teachers of these schools should expect emails about the survey in their in-box this month. European Schoolnet’s Executive Director Marc Durando said: “We hope for a high response rate to ensure that the findings are based on a solid evidence base. All information obtained will be used solely for the survey and no individual will be identifiable.”


    In each country a national coordinator nominated by the ministry of education is working on ESSIE. The National Co-ordinators will be working with ESSIE schools to help them complete the survey. We recognise that schools are busy places and every effort is being made to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible.

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