Help from the heavyweight techies

In a speech at the annual BETT conference in London on 21 January 2015, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced five new projects to help prepare England’s primary school teachers for the new computing curriculum. The projects will see major tech companies – from firms including O2 and Google – placing experts in to top-tier universities like Queen Mary University of London, UCL and Oxford to provide the latest training.

The Department for Education (DfE) is match-funding all the projects as part of a £3.6 million package support to schools. 
Introducing children to computing and coding from an early age is all part of the government’s long-term plan to ensure young people have the first-class education they need to succeed and make sure Britain is a major player in innovation. The new computing curriculum began in September 2014 and sees pupils taught how to code and use a range of programming languages.

More than 4 million primary school children have already received lessons through the new curriculum, which puts much more emphasis on experience of programming and understanding the fundamental principles of computer science.

Tech firms connect with schools
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “We know a significant number of jobs in the future will be in the tech industry, which is why we are committed to supporting tech companies to connect with our schools – preparing young people to succeed in the global race.

Increasing the focus on subjects like computing is a key part of our plan for education – which is why we are investing in the latest training and support so our teachers are fully prepared to plan, teach and assess the new computing curriculum.
“I am delighted that once again top industry experts have taken an active role in helping develop these projects, and I look forward to seeing them pay dividends in our classroom.”
An initial batch of projects was announced in June 2014, when Microsoft and IBM were among the companies to offer training to more than 43,000 teachers in the first year of the new computing curriculum.
They included providing the British Computer Society (BCS) with more than £2 million to set up a network of 400 ‘master teachers’ to train teachers in other schools and provide resources for use in the classroom.
Another project saw £1.1 million provided to Computing at School – a community of teachers, IT professionals, academics and parents – to help train primary teachers already working in the classroom through online resources and school workshops.
The funding has introduced computing teacher training scholarships of £25,000 – backed by Microsoft, Google, IBM and Facebook – to encourage more of the very best graduates to become teachers.
What’s more, it increased bursaries for those wanting to become computing teachers.

Feedback from industry
Bill Mitchell, director of education for the BCS, said: “Thanks to Microsoft’s and the DfE’s matched funding the QuickStart Computing project will be able to provide CPD toolkits to 40,000 teachers by April, as well as providing free online access to the QuickStart resources for teachers everywhere. This will help teachers gain the know-how to design, develop and deliver the whole of the new computing curriculum so that it benefits all primary and secondary students, whatever their ability.
Professor Peter Millican, professor of philosophy at Hertford College, and faculties of philosophy and computer science, Oxford, said: “The DfE’s Computing Matched Fund, and the sponsorship it has attracted, is enabling us to support the new computing curriculum quickly and effectively, with software that encourages creativity and a web community that provides both teaching materials and a coursework platform, all free to teachers and students.
“Without the fund it would have taken several years to do what we are now doing within months, and it would have been impossible to achieve the same standards.”
Lauren Hyams, head of Code Club Pro, said: “We’re delighted to be supported by DfE and our industry partners, Google, ARM and Postcode Anywhere. By combining our volunteers’ expertise and enthusiasm with our experience running Code Clubs, we are able to give teachers the confidence and understanding they need to embrace the new curriculum and inspire our children to become digital makers.”

Latest projects
A consortium led by Queen Mary University of London working closely with Hertford College, Oxford, will use £25,000 DfE funding and a further £25,000 matched funding from Google, the UCL led CHI+MED project, the faculty of philosophy at the University of Oxford and a private philanthropist to create a range of resources that will support teachers in promoting the development of computing-related thinking skills. These include 16,000 booklets for teachers on computing-related thinking across the curriculum and further development of the Turtle programming system, which makes text-based programming easier to teach so that it is fully available online.
Another project will be DigitalMe, supported by £50,000 from DfE and £50,000 in matched funding from O2 Telefonica. It will develop a set of badges designed to recognise and motivate improvement in teachers’ knowledge and classroom application of the computing curriculum. The system will encourage peer‑to‑peer training by recognising teachers who pass on their skills to other teachers. To claim badges, teachers will have to complete badge missions tasks and challenges contained within a badge and upload evidence of their skill development. There will be badges for each content area of the curriculum.
Our Lady’s Catholic High School has been supporting teachers nationwide since 2011 to introduce and develop outstanding computing in their schools. They will use £42,000 funding from DfE matched by the Rasberri Pi foundation, to extend the current offer to a wider geographical base of schools than they are supporting. In particular, they will be looking to support teachers in schools serving communities with the highest levels of social and economic disadvantage. Specific activities will include 18 two-day, nationwide, school-based events for 460 teachers and 8,000 pupils, opportunities for teachers to observe lessons delivered by outstanding computing teachers, 28 online public seminars and a national conference.
The Titan Partnership will use £15,500 DfE funding and a further £15,500 from other supporters to engage a minimum of 60 teachers (40 secondary and 20 primary) in a personalised computer science training programme. Participants will complete subject knowledge audits and will be trained in line with personalised action plans with SMART targets. The training will include modules on computational thinking and networking being developed by Newman University and Birmingham City University. Bi-monthly training sessions will be led by expert practitioners and further level 3 and level 7 accredited courses will also be offered by Birmingham City University and Newman University staff.
The Centre for Educational Consultancy and Development at Oxford Brookes University is developing online computing CPD for primary school teachers, with help from £15,000 from DfE and £15,000 from the University of Northampton and Turn IT On. This will include delivering training via a massive open online course (MOOC) and running a number of TeachMeet style events that will be recorded and uploaded into the online environment to provide case study examples of computing teaching in schools. These case studies will include video examples of teaching approaches, resources materials and lesson plans.

Barefoot Computing
In a separate development, the British Computer Society announced on 19 January an extension to the successful Barefoot computing project, funded by BT.
The project, which supports primary school teachers teaching the computing curriculum, was originally funded by DfE from September 2014 to March 2015, and the latest funding from BT will extend it to the end of this school year.
The Barefoot project supports primary school teachers to teach the new computing curriculum. The scheme provides cross-curricular computer science resources and training for primary school teachers with no previous computer science knowledge. The initiative is being supported through a programme of free in-school computing workshops for primary school teachers across England.
Almost 3,000 teachers from over 800 different schools in England have received training via the Barefoot Computing Project since its launch last summer.
Pat Hughes, project leader for Barefoot Computing said: “The announcement that BT is providing funding to extend the Barefoot project is great news. The scheme has proved to be popular so far. As well as training thousands of teachers there have been 6,000 registrations to the Barefoot website with 2,500 new teacher registrations in the last two months. Barefoot helps teachers understand ideas and concepts such as algorithms, abstraction and data structures, how they occur naturally in many other disciplines that they also teach, and how they can teach them to children starting from age 5.”
School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb said: “I am delighted that BT is extending the successful Barefoot project, providing innovative support for primary teachers on the new computing curriculum. This is an excellent example of industry working together with schools to support teachers – ensuring pupils leave school prepared for life in modern Britain.”
Clive Selley, CEO of BT Technology, Services and Operations said: “Computing is a very important skill for BT and through our engagement with schools we’ve seen that children really enjoy it and that it can have a profound impact on other STEM subjects. We’re proud to be partnering with Barefoot Computing and that the workshops BT and other volunteers across England have been involved have been such a success; it’s great to hear from teachers that the programme has boosted their confidence. The programme is due to end in March, but given its popularity to date, BT is pleased to announce it will be working with BCS and Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that it continues to run through the summer term.”
The Barefoot training workshops are run by volunteer professionals from the IT/computing and education sectors, these events introduce the new computing curriculum to teachers and explain the support available to them through Barefoot and other related projects.
Pat Hughes continued: “This programme of events will help equip teachers with the skills and knowledge needed to incorporate the computer science elements of the new computing curriculum into their lessons. By providing high quality cross-curricular computer science resources for primary school  teachers, supported by explanations of the key computing concepts, we are providing support for teachers who may have little previous knowledge of computer science. A lot of teachers are already introducing many of these concepts in to their classrooms without realising it and we want them to see that it’s not as complicated as they may think.”

Further information