Striving for high-quality computing

Following Ofsted’s recent subject research review into computing, STEM Learning’s primary specialist Rachel Jackson looks at the key findings and suggests how schools can address them

One of the key points raised is that primary teachers aren’t computing experts. This is hardly surprising given the number of subjects covered in primary schools.
    
Research carried out in 2017 suggests that only a very small minority have a computer science qualification as their highest qualification. This means that teachers may feel less confident in designing a curriculum and in knowing how to move children’s learning in computing. The Ofsted review states: ‘it is important that school leaders provide sufficient subject-specific professional development to enable teachers to design and teach a high-quality computing curriculum.’

Teacher Support

Our NCCE courses, aimed at either Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2, help teachers improve their subject knowledge and explore ways to teach computing effectively. They can be done either remotely or face-to-face locally at one of our Computing Hubs. If you’re looking to improve your knowledge in programming, then our Primary programming and algorithms course will improve your subject knowledge and provide you with effective strategies for teaching this aspect of computing at primary.
    
If you’re a computing subject lead, then a leadership course will upskill your understanding of computing and empower you to support colleagues back in school. Have a look at the leadership courses available in our learning pathway.

Not enough equipment

Following concerns about subject knowledge, the review refers to previous research which showed that teachers were concerned that the curriculum was too advanced for the available physical resources and budget.
    
This is something that is often heard when teachers are asked what prevents them from teaching effective computing lessons. If your school is struggling to teach computing because of a lack of equipment, then our Computing on a budget course provides lots of ideas for how to ensure children are provided with effective lessons.
    
You can also access a physical computing loan scheme from your local Computing Hub. This involves being able to borrow a class set of Crumble Controller or micro:bits to use in your school. Join us on a short course where you can learn the basics of either crumble or micro:bit.

Digital Literacy

The review states that ‘teachers should not make assumptions about pupils’ prior knowledge within digital literacy.’
    
Teachers may assume that children who interact regularly with technology are automatically good at computing. This is not always the case, as many may have experience with tablets or phones but are not experienced using laptops or PCs to create content.
    
This report explores the role of digital literacy within the curriculum. If you would like to explore how this may look in the classroom, then join us on one of our courses aimed at supporting teachers in KS1 and KS2. The sessions look at digital literacy, unpick what it is and how to ensure children progress in their understanding of how to engage with technology. Online safety, which is part of digital literacy, involves a whole school approach involving designated individuals. This short course supports schools in ensuring that they keep children safe whilst teaching computing and using technology.

Understanding Code

The review makes another key point: “Teachers might be tempted to expect pupils to write code at the very early stages of their programming education before they know what that code will do.”
    
Helping children understand code and what it does is very much part of the Teach Computing Curriculum resources. Ideas include predicting what a programme will do before it is run, adding different blocks to see how this changes what it does, or even looking at a mixed-up section of code and sequencing it so that it will run. These help children to understand what code is, before having to write code themselves.
    
We would never ask children to write a story without understanding how a story opens, introducing characters and setting, or without the knowledge of how to use basic punctuation and grammar. So why would we use a blank page when coding? Ideas such as these support children to further understand what a code is so they are not faced with the daunting task of having to write code before they understand what it does.

Subject-specific CPD

Another thread in this report is the importance of supporting teachers to teach computing effectively in schools. Teach Computing provides a high-quality computing curriculum designed by primary computing specialists, CPD on how to use this curriculum in your school and support for teachers whatever their computing level of computing confidence and expertise. Take a look at our primary pathways to find a course suitable for your needs.

 

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