A report from the Royal Society has revealed that more than half of secondary schools in England did not offer GCSE computer science last year.

Now the society says the government must increase spending on computer education tenfold to ensure youngsters will be able to ‘unlock the potential of new technologies’. They calculate that around £61 million will be needed over the next five years.

Otherwise, they warn that a generation of young people are at risk of being locked out of a future technology jobs boom.

And without greater investment in tech education, the UK could be left behind and lose out on generating its own technology success stories.

Lack of skilled computer science teachers

One of the big issues for schools is the chronic lack of skilled computer science teachers, the report says.

The report was put together by Professor Steven Furber, who also created the ARM processor and the BBC Micro.

He said: “The rate that technology is transforming the workplace means we are living in a world where primary schoolchildren will be working in tech-based roles that do not exist yet so it’s essential that future generations can apply digital skills with confidence.

“We need the government to significantly invest more to help train and support 8,000 secondary school computing teachers to ensure that pupils have the knowledge and skills needed for the future.

“The overhauling of the fragile state of computing education will require a multipronged and ambitious approach.”

New curriculum introducing coding lessons for children

Despite a new curriculum introducing coding lessons for children at primary school in 2014, the report warns that this is not enough.

The society’s report highlights: “For pupils to thrive, we need highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers.

“However, computing teachers tell us they feel government has rushed in a new curriculum without giving support or money for delivering it.”

The report also paints a bleak picture of the situation in England’s schools were just 68% of the computing teacher recruitment targets have been met which has led to 54% of schools not offering computer science at GCSE.

More children are applying for computer science as a GCSE subject

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that more children are applying for computer science as a GCSE subject and added: “We want to ensure the workforce in future has the skills for driving future productivity in the country’s economy – it’s why the government has made computing a compulsory element of the national curriculum.

“Recently, we saw an increase in entries for Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and the number of girls taking the subjects at A-level has grown by 70% since 2010.

“Computer science GCSEs entries are continuing to rise quicker than any other subject.”

The Department for Education points out that more than £5 million has been pledged since 2012 for the network of teaching excellence in computer science programme which has seen a network of 400 computer science specialists being established that schools can commission for providing bespoke training to teachers.

 

MORE INFORMATION

The full Royal Society report on computing education can be read on their website.