After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society

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After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
After the reboot:
computing education
in UK schools
After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
                                                                    Executive summary                                                              6

                                                                    Recommendations                                                                8

                                                                    Introduction                                                                   12
                                                                    What is the school subject of computing?                                       16
                                                                    Computing education in the UK                                                  17
                                                                    Our evidence gathering                                                         19

                                                                    Chapter one – Computing for our pupils                                         21
                                                                    Introduction                                                                   22
                                                                    The demand for pupils with computing expertise                                 22
                                                                    Computing in primary and early secondary                                       24
                                                                    The computing curriculum                                                       25
                                                                    How young people have responded                                                29
                                                                    Opportunities for computing 14 – 19                                            29
                                                                    How well do computing qualifications work?                                     31
                                                                    Increasing 14 – 16 participation                                               31
                                                                    The qualification suite                                                        33
                                                                    Assessing computing appropriately                                              33
After the reboot: computing                                         Computer science – the difficult option?                                       33
education in UK schools
Issued: November 2017 DES4633                                       Conclusion                                                                     35
ISBN: 978-1-78252-297-3

                                                                    Chapter two – Widening access                                                  37
The text of this work is licensed under
the terms of the Creative Commons                                   Introduction                                                                   38
Attribution License which permits
                                                                    Computing in the UK is a male-dominated subject, and a male-dominated career   38
unrestricted use, provided the original
author and source are credited.                                     Can we improve the gender balance in computing?                                44
                                                                    Evaluating impact                                                              45
The license is available at:                                 Where you live matters                                                         45
                                                                    The impact of disadvantage                                                     47
Images are not covered by this license.
                                                                    The impact of ethnicity                                                        48
This report can be viewed online at
                                                                    Maximising opportunities for pupils with SEND                                  48
                                                                    Conclusion                                                                     49

Cover image
© Highwaystarz-Photography

                                          AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                       3
After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
Chapter three – The importance of confident, well-qualified computing teachers                     51    Chapter five – Improving computing education through research   87
    Introduction                                                                                       52    Introduction                                                    88
    Teachers in the computing classroom                                                                53    Research into computing education pedagogy                      88
    Teacher confidence                                                                                 54    Research into learning models and instructional techniques      90
    Who teaches computing?                                                                             55    Research into context                                           90
    What are the backgrounds of computing teachers?                                                    58    Research into programming languages                             90
    Are we recruiting enough new computing teachers?                                                   59    Research into student engagement                                90
    Some consequences of qualified teacher shortages                                                   64    Research into effective assessment techniques for computing      91
    Why is it difficult to recruit and retain new computing teachers?                                  64    The computing research base in the UK                           92
    The impact of reduced teaching time for computing                                                  64    A new strategy for computing education research                 92
    The roles and responsibilities of business and academia                                            65    A future research agenda                                        94
    Conclusion                                                                                         65    Subject-specific pedagogies and assessment                      95
                                                                                                             Computing for all                                               95
    Chapter four – Continued professional development, resources and the broader context               67
                                                                                                             Teacher education in computing                                  95
    Introduction                                                                                       68
                                                                                                             Understanding the impact of computing education over time       96
    Teachers need high-quality CPD                                                                     68
                                                                                                             Building research capacity                                      96
    Professional development aimed at improving pupil outcomes
                                                                                                             Conclusion                                                      97
    and underpinned by robust evidence                                                                 71
    Collaboration and expert challenge                                                                 72
                                                                                                             Appendices                                                      99
    Sustained professional development                                                                 73
                                                                                                             Working Group members                                           100
    Investing in a national infrastructure for computing CPD                                           75
                                                                                                             Royal Society staff                                             101
    Prioritisation by school leadership                                                                76
                                                                                                             Review panel                                                    101
    Helping teachers deliver the curriculum                                                            76
                                                                                                             Participants                                                    102
    Finding and choosing classroom resources                                                           77
                                                                                                             Commissioned research                                           102
    New assessment tools                                                                               77
                                                                                                             Data annex                                                      103
    Equity of access                                                                                   78
                                                                                                             Glossary		                                                      116
    Extracurricular computing                                                                          81
    Cross-curricular computing                                                                         85
    The physical classroom                                                                             86
    Conclusion                                                                                         86

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After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

                        Executive summary
                        Data and digital technologies promise                         However, a majority of teachers are teaching                  Though many of the great pioneers of computing                 qualifications at age 16 and there is a risk that
                        revolutionary transformational changes across                 an unfamiliar school subject without adequate                 were women, across the UK computer science                     there will be a drastic drop in the number of
                        the full range of industry sectors and spheres                support. Moreover, they may be the only teacher               is an overwhelmingly male-dominated subject                    pupils studying computing as ICT is phased
                        of life. This unprecedented digital revolution                in their school with this task. Governments must              and workforce. At GCSE, there is a 20% uptake                  out7. The qualification landscape needs urgent
                        will impact everyone. It will have extraordinary              address a severe and growing shortage of                      from girls, while Scotland also had a 20%                      attention to ensure the broadest range of pupils
                        implications on the range of skills that today’s              computing teachers. From 2012 to 2017, England                female uptake at National 5 in 2017. At A level,               become equipped with relevant digital skills.
                        young people will require in every aspect of their            met only 68% of its recruitment target1. Since                there is only a 9% uptake from girls, and this
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Understanding the pedagogies and assessment
                        lives. Computing education must enable young                  2005, Scotland has also seen a 25% decrease in                has not changed for many years. Scotland
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   methodologies that underpin computing
                        people to continue to keep up with the pace of                the number of computing teachers2.                            has a similar picture with 14% female uptake at
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   education helps teachers improve pupil
                        technological change so that they can remain                                                                                Advanced Highers. Although Information and
                                                                                      In our survey, 44% of secondary school teachers                                                                              outcomes. Our literature reviews show that a
                        effective, well-informed and safe citizens.                                                                                 Communication Technology (ICT) qualifications
                                                                                      only felt confident teaching the earlier stages of                                                                           majority of the research in computing education
                                                                                                                                                    fared better, they still only had 36% female
                        However, our evidence shows that computing                    the curriculum where there is less of a computer                                                                             relates to higher education and the volume of
                                                                                                                                                    uptake at A level5.
                        education across the UK is patchy and fragile. Its            science focus. Despite this lack of confidence,                                                                              education research in computing is much smaller
                        future development and sustainability depend                  26% of the secondary school teachers we                       Making computing education compulsory will                     than in subjects such as physics or mathematics.
                        on swift and coordinated action by governments,               surveyed indicated that they had not undertaken               not automatically lead to a higher proportion
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   With the emergence of computing in schools,
                        industry, and non-profit organisations. Neglecting            any computing-related professional development                of young women choosing to study the subject
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and organisations such as the Education
                        the opportunities to act would risk damaging                  activities in the past year3.                                 once it becomes optional at 14. Compulsory
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Endowment Foundation seeking to grow the
                        both the education of future generations and                                                                                mathematics and physics to age 16 has not
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   evidence base in attainment in education, there
                        our economic prosperity as a nation.                          To truly transform computing education, teachers              significantly improved the gender balance in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   is an ideal opportunity for the UK to conduct
                                                                                      need unhindered access to a structured                        these subjects in post-16 education or higher
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   research to develop computing pedagogies
                        There is much to celebrate and there are many                 and ongoing programme of professional                         education. In order to meet the current and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and assessment. However, the capacity of the
                        pockets of excellence. The broad subject of                   development. The programme must support                       future skills needs in the UK, governments,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   current research base is limited and needs
                        computing – covering the three vital areas of                 teachers in all schools across the country. The               employers and schools must prioritise changing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   further support if the UK is to lead the world in
                        computer science, digital literacy and information            existing university-based Computing At School                 the gender balance in computing. This is a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   computing education research for schools.
                        technology (IT) – has become mandatory in                     Network of Excellence has been successful                     challenge that requires people to take innovative
                        English schools from ages 5 to 16. In Scotland,               with minimal resources through a model built on               approaches and draw on lessons learned in                      The Society’s 2012 report, Shut down or restart?
                        we have seen the implementation of the                        enthusiastic volunteers developing a mutually                 other disciplines.                                             The way forward for computing in UK schools,
                        Significant Aspects of Learning, a framework                  supportive community of practice. However,                                                                                   found that the delivery of computing education
                                                                                                                                                    Today, 70% of students in England attend
                        where computing is broken down into distinct                  the current level of resourcing and approach                                                                                 in many UK schools was highly unsatisfactory8.
                                                                                                                                                    schools offering GCSE computer science, which
                        areas of knowledge. In Wales, the Digital                     to execution is not sufficient to meet the                                                                                   The recommendations we made then paved the
                                                                                                                                                    is a positive development. However, although
                        Competence Framework is bringing computing                    challenges we have identified. A fully resourced                                                                             way for schools to introduce computing into the
                                                                                                                                                    the overall number of entries continues to grow,
                        in schools to the forefront, while Northern Ireland           national professional development programme                                                                                  curriculum; but this was only the first step. This
                                                                                                                                                    only a disappointing 11% of all students take
                        has continued to deliver a comprehensive                      building on the Network of Excellence requires                                                                               new report provides a snapshot of the changes
                                                                                                                                                    GCSE computer science6. Moreover, the range
                        computing framework. From ages 5 to 14, pupils                a tenfold increase in funding from government                                                                                that have taken place since 2012 and examines
                                                                                                                                                    of qualifications on offer does not reflect the
                        typically have one hour per week of computing                 and industry. This would provide computing                                                                                   the impact of these changes across the UK. We
                                                                                                                                                    full breadth of computing. It should be possible
                        lessons, and some schools take opportunities to               teachers with a comparable level of support                                                                                  have identified a number of urgent challenges
                                                                                                                                                    to study computer science or information
                        teach computing within other subjects.                        to mathematics and the sciences4.                                                                                            that governments, industry and school leaders
                                                                                                                                                    technology (or both). GCSE ICT makes up 55%
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   need to address in order to safeguard our future
                                                                                                                                                    of the total entry numbers of all computing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   efficacy in the digital world.
                        1.   House of Commons Education Committee 2017. Recruitment and retention of teachers: Fifth Report of Session 2016 – 17.
                        2.   Computing At School Scotland. 2016. Computing Science Teachers in Scotland 2016.                                       5.   JCQ. 2017. Examination results: A, AS and AEA results, Summer [2017].
                        3.   Pye Tait. 2017. After the Reboot: The State of Computing Education in UK Schools and Colleges.                              See (accessed 125 August 2017).

                        4.   For example, the Maths Mastery Programme was introduced in 2012 to provide a professional development network          6.   GOV.UK. 2017. Find and compare schools in England. See (accessed 10 July 2017).
                             for mathematics teachers (See, accessed 11 October 2017.), the Stimulating          7.   JCQ. 2017. See (accessed 24 August 2017).
                             Physics Network supports physics teachers through an extensive CPD programme (See http://www.stimulatingphysics.
                             org, accessed 11 October 2017.) and STEM Learning provides CPD support for science teachers. (See https://www.         8.   The Royal Society. 2012. Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools.
                   , accessed 11 October 2017.)                                                                                     See (accessed 15 February 2017).

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After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
RECOMMENDATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                                                        RECOMMENDATIONS

                      COMPUTING FOR ALL                       IMPROVING GENDER BALANCE                              TEACHER SUPPLY
                      To realise the ambition of recent       To improve gender balance                             To ensure there is a strong supply of computing teachers entering the profession.
                      curriculum and qualification reforms.   in computing.

                      RECOMMENDATION 1                        RECOMMENDATION 3                                      RECOMMENDATION 5                                            RECOMMENDATION 7

                      In England, school governors            Research projects on pedagogy                         Governments should introduce                                Higher education providers
                      and Ofsted should monitor               and curriculum development                            quality-assured computing                                   need to promote careers in
                      whether and how schools are             in computing should also                              conversion courses for existing                             computing education to a wide
                      teaching computing to all pupils.       investigate how to improve                            teachers, equivalent to those                               range of students.
                                                              female participation.                                 in physics and mathematics.
                      RECOMMENDATION 2                                                                              Individual teachers or schools                              RECOMMENDATION 8

                      Ofqual and the government               RECOMMENDATION 4                                      should not have to contribute                               Industry and academia should
                      should work urgently with the           Government and industry-funded                        to the costs of this training.                              support and encourage braided9
                      learned societies in computing,         interventions must prioritise                                                                                     careers for staff who want to teach
                      awarding bodies, and other              and evaluate their impact on                          RECOMMENDATION 6                                            as well as work in another setting.
                      stakeholder groups, to ensure           improving the gender balance                          Governments should work with
                      that the range of qualifications        of computing.                                         higher education providers and
                      includes pathways suitable for                                                                the British Computer Society
                      all pupils, with an immediate                                                                 to develop and accredit pre-
                      focus on information technology                                                               service subject content courses
                      qualifications at Key Stage 4.                                                                to enable more people from a
                                                                                                                    wider variety of backgrounds to
                      The learned societies in                                                                      become computing teachers.
                      computing should establish an
                      curriculum committee, to provide                                                              Existing initiatives to support
                      government with ongoing advice                                                                and develop computing degree
                      on the content, qualifications,                                                               courses with qualified teaching
                      pedagogy, and assessment                                                                      status should be continued and,
                      methods for computing.                                                                        if successful, expanded.

                                                                                                                    9.   A braided career describes someone who is working in two sectors simultaneously. For example, working part-time
                                                                                                                         in an academic position and part-time in an industry position.

8                                                             AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                                                      9
After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
RECOMMENDATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                                    RECOMMENDATIONS

                       EXISTING TEACHER CONFIDENCE                                                                           EVIDENCE-INFORMED EDUCATION POLICY AND PRACTICE
                       To support in-service teachers, with and without expertise in computing.                              To improve the availability of computing education research in the UK.

                       RECOMMENDATION 9                                 RECOMMENDATION 10                                    RECOMMENDATION 11                                     RECOMMENDATION 12

                       Governments and industry                         Industry and non-profit                              Education research funders,                           The Economic and Social
                       need to play an active role in                   organisations need to work with                      researchers, teachers and                             Research Council (ESRC) and
                       improving continuing professional                and through the British Computer                     policymakers should develop a                         other funders of education
                       development (CPD) for computing                  Society and STEM Learning                            strategic plan that achieves:                         research should work to address
                       teachers, as exemplified by                      to provide a coherent offer of                                                                             the research priorities identified
                       the Network of Excellence.                       teaching support to teachers                         • the establishment of the                           in this report.
                       Investment in a national network                 and schools.                                            long-term research agenda
                       needs at least a tenfold increase                                                                        for computing education in
                       to expand the reach, and to have                                                                         schools;
                       rigorous evaluation measures
                       in place to strengthen the offer                                                                      • a
                                                                                                                                commitment to this
                       of such networks. Importantly                                                                           programme by a number of
                       financial support should be made                                                                        stakeholders;
                       available to schools to release
                       staff to attend professional                                                                          • the development of UK
                       development opportunities.                                                                               capacity to conduct the
                                                                                                                                research; and

                                                                                                                             • the effective sharing of
                                                                                                                                knowledge between
                                                                                                                                researchers, teachers and
                                                                                                                                teacher trainers.

10                                                                     AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                          11
After the reboot: computing education in UK schools - Royal Society
INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 INTRODUCTION

                    Introduction                                                                                                          TABLE 1 (continued)

                                                                                                                                           Partly achieved and a source for concern

                                                                                                                                           Recommendation 2
                    In 2012, the Royal Society published Shut down                  During the past 18 months, the Society has             The Government should set targets for the             In England, the Government set new targets
                    or restart? The way forward for computing in                    reviewed the impact on computing education             number of computer science and information            and funded bursaries for computing teachers.
                    UK schools – a review of computing education                    of policy changes made since 2012. This                technology specialist teachers, and monitor           Recruitment levels have missed set targets,
                    in the UK10. Despite the near ubiquity of                       report explores how governments, industry,             recruitment against these targets in order to         so this remains an area of major concern.
                    technology, the Society found that there was                    schools and others can build on these                  allow all schools to deliver a rigorous curriculum.
                    a dwindling interest in computing in schools                    changes to ensure that the promise of our                                                                  In Scotland, 17% of schools have no computing
                    and identified a number of actions to address                   original recommendations is realised. Table 1          Education Scotland should ensure that the           specialist to deliver the experiences and
                    this issue.                                                     summarises the progress made against those             declared entitlement of all learners to third-level outcomes for the subject.
                                                                                    recommendations.                                       outcomes in computing science is implemented
                                                                                                                                           in all schools for all learners using appropriately
                                                                                                                                           qualified teachers.
                    TABLE 1
                                                                                                                                           Recommendation 6
                    Review of the recommendations made in Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing                              The Department for Education should remedy            The English national curriculum introduced
                    in UK schools.                                                                                                         the current situation, where good schools are         computing as a new subject and
                                                                                                                                           dis-incentivised from teaching computer science,      removed ICT. The Government reformed
                     Achieved                                                                                                              by reforming and rebranding the current ICT           qualifications, with new computer science
                                                                                                                                           curriculum in England. Schemes of work should         qualifications replacing old ICT and
                     Recommendation 1
                                                                                                                                           be established for ages 5 – 14 across the range       computing qualifications. However, new
                     The term ICT as a brand should be                             ‘Computing’ is now used to describe
                                                                                                                                           of computing aspects, eg digital literacy (the        disincentives are now impacting computing
                     reviewed and the possibility considered of                    the subject that includes digital literacy,
                                                                                                                                           analogue to being able to read and write),            education, particularly at ages 14 – 16. There
                     disaggregating this into clearly defined areas                information technology and computer
                                                                                                                                           information technology and computer science.          remain concerns about the information
                     such as digital literacy, information technology              science. In England, the current computing
                                                                                                                                                                                                 technology qualifications.
                     and computer science.                                         curriculum covers all three strands and differs         These should be constructed to be
                                                                                   from the previous ICT curriculum, which                 implementable in a variety of ways, including a
                                                                                   placed far more emphasis on information                 cross-curricular approach for digital literacy at
                                                                                   technology and digital literacy.                        primary and early secondary school. Schools
                                                                                                                                           may prefer not to impose a timetable or
                     Recommendation 5                                                                                                      separately staff these elements at this age, but
                     Suitable technical resources should be                        Schools have not received ring-fenced                   the existence of separately-defined learning
                     available in all schools to support the                       funding for technical resources to                      experiences will ensure that each strand is
                     teaching of computer science and information                  complement computing curricula. However,                always properly developed – unlike at present.
                     technology. These could include pupil-friendly                there are a number of new, free software                A timetable distinction should then be in place
                     programming environments such as Scratch,                     resources available. Hardware has also been             from the age of 14, allowing pupils to make a
                     educational microcontroller kits such as                      provided at a low cost from Raspberry Pi                well-informed choice to study for recognised
                     PICAXE and Arduino, and robot kits such as                    and micro:bit, which has made a substantial             qualifications in information technology and/or
                     Lego Mindstorms.                                              impact in schools.                                      computer science.

                                                                                                                                           Given the lack of specialist teachers, we
                                                                                                                                           recommend that only the teaching of digital
                                                                                                                                           literacy is made statutory at this point. However,
                                                                                                                                           the long-term aim should be to move to a
                                                                                                                                           situation where there are sufficient specialist
                                                                                                                                           teachers to enable all young people to study
                                                                                                                                           information technology and computer science at
                                                                                                                                           school. Accordingly, the Government should put
                    10.   The Royal Society. 2012. Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools.
                                                                                                                                           in place an action plan to achieve this.
                          See (accessed 15 February 2017).

12                                                                                 AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS    AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                                    13
INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                                                                                                   INTRODUCTION

                    TABLE 1 (continued)                                                                                     TABLE 1 (continued)

                    Partly achieved and a source for concern (continued)                                                     Not achieved but not a priority

                    Recommendation 10                                                                                        Recommendation 4
                    Awarding organisations should consult with        Consultation was limited between the                   School infrastructure service providers,             Schools are managing the implementation of
                    the UK Forum (see recommendation 11) and          awarding organisations and the now                     working with others, should prepare a set of         school IT infrastructure on their own. Some
                    HE departments to develop rigorous Level 3        disbanded UK Forum for Computing Education             off-the-shelf strategies for balancing network       schools have reported difficulties in achieving
                    academic qualifications in computer science.      known as UKForCE. This has resulted in a               security against the need to enable good             balance between network security and an
                                                                      subject that some schools view as difficult and        teaching and learning in computer science and        environment suitable for teaching, however it
                                                                      only offer to high-performing pupils.                  information technology, and should encourage         has not been a major issue overall.
                                                                                                                             schools to discuss and adopt them with their
                                                                                                                             service providers.
                    Not achieved and a source of concern

                    Recommendation 3                                                                                         Recommendation 8
                    Government should set a minimum level             Governments have taken a passive role in               The UK Forum should advise awarding                  Hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering,
                    of provision for subject-specific CPD for         ensuring there are minimum levels of CPD               organisations on appropriate assessment              the UK Forum for Computing Education was
                    computing teachers, should seek support from      that teachers are required and supported to            methods for qualifications in digital literacy,      formed shortly after the launch of Shut down
                    business and industry to make that provision,     undertake. Scotland continues to require that          information technology and computer science.         or restart? The way forward for computing in
                    and should ensure that the provision is well      teachers undertake 35 hours of CPD a year;                                                                  UK schools. However, in 2016 a decision was
                    coordinated and deepens subject knowledge         however, the CPD doesn’t have to be subject-           Recommendation 9                                     made to disband the forum and support the
                    and subject-specific pedagogy.                    related.                                               The UK Forum should put in place a                   work of Computing At School and the Royal
                                                                                                                             framework to support non-formal learning in          Society’s Computing Education Project.
                                                                      Overall, there are large disparities in the CPD
                                                                                                                             computer science and to support teachers.
                                                                      hours undertaken by computing teachers, with
                                                                                                                             Considerations include after-school clubs,
                                                                      some teachers not receiving any CPD at all.
                                                                                                                             school speakers and mentoring for teachers
                                                                                                                             in developing their subject knowledge. Bodies
                    Recommendation 6
                                                                                                                             such as the Science, Technology, Engineering
                    The schools inspectorates should monitor the      School inspectorates need to put further
                                                                                                                             and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) will
                    implementation of this change to ensure that      measures in place to ensure that inspectors
                                                                                                                             have a role to play in implementing this.
                    the problems of the ICT curriculum are not        are monitoring the subject appropriately and
                    replicated.                                       effectively.
                                                                                                                             Recommendation 11
                                                                                                                             The computing community should establish
                    Recommendation 7
                                                                                                                             a lasting UK Forum for joint working
                    In order to redress the imbalance between         Awarding bodies have developed computer
                                                                                                                             and coordination between the many
                    academic and vocational qualifications in this    science qualifications. However, there are
                                                                                                                             computing bodies, in order to progress the
                    area – and to ensure that all qualifications      no qualifications for IT. Subsequently, this
                                                                                                                             recommendations within this report. The forum
                    are of value to those who take them – the         has caused computing qualifications to be
                                                                                                                             should provide regular progress reports on the
                    departments for education across the UK           narrow and schools are only offering it to high-
                                                                                                                             implementation of the recommendations.
                    should encourage awarding organisations to        performing pupils. In England, schools need
                    review their current provision and develop        further support to teach the non-assessed part
                    Key Stage 4 (KS4) qualifications in computer      of the computing curriculum at Key Stage 4.
                    science in consultation with the UK Forum (see
                    recommendation 11), universities and employers.

                    Awarding organisations across the UK should
                    review and revise the titles and content of all
                    new and existing qualifications in this area to
                    match the disaggregation described above (eg
                    computer science, information technology and
                    digital literacy).

14                                                                    AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                                    15
INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  INTRODUCTION

                    What is the school subject of computing?                      Mathematics, the social sciences, arts and            Computing education in the UK                         nations include the skills, knowledge and
                    Computing in schools is a wide-ranging                        design all underpin computing. Computing              Education policy is devolved in the UK and            understanding in information technology,
                    subject composed of three strands:                            qualifications may cover one or more of the           each of the four nations has its own curriculum.      digital skills and computer science varies, as
                    information technology, digital literacy and                  three strands, and qualifications in other            The way the school curricula across the UK            does the level of detail provided (see Box 2).
                    computer science (see Box 1). A complete                      disciplines may cover aspects of computing.
                    curriculum ensures that all three strands are                 Some components of digital literacy may be
                    covered. Computational thinking is a core                     taught to all pupils in other lessons, such as         BOX 2

                    component of a computing curriculum, and is                   Personal, Social and Health Education, but                                                                                                                      “Here in the UK, it’s
                    not only important in coding, but can also be                 not examined.                                          Curricula across the UK                                                                                   clear to me that
                    an important life skill for solving problems11.                                                                                                                                                                                computer science has
                                                                                                                                         England                                              Scotland                                             a great future with the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   talent, educational
                                                                                                                                         New National Curriculum for computing,               Curriculum for Excellence – Technologies
                          BOX 1                                                                                                                                                                                                                    institutions and
                                                                                                                                         introduced from September 2014.                      (refreshed as part of the 2016 Digital Learning
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   passion for innovation
                                                                                                                                                                                              and Teaching Strategy for Scotland).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   we see all around us.”
                          Terminology                                                                                                    • T
                                                                                                                                            he new computing curriculum is non-
                                                                                                                                           prescriptive and there are no specified            • T
                                                                                                                                                                                                 he Scottish Government introduced the           Google CEO Sundar
                          In this report, we use and develop the                  the morality and ethics of the personal and              coding languages, software or hardware               Curriculum for Excellence in 2010 – 2011.         Pichai, November 2016
                          terminology used in our previous report,                societal implications of digital technologies.           to use.                                              This set out to help children and young
                          Shut down or restart? The way forward                   These are the skills that secondary school                                                                    people gain the knowledge, skills and
                          for computing in UK schools.                            teachers of other subjects should be able              • F
                                                                                                                                            rom age 5, pupils are taught the                   attributes needed for the 21st century.
                                                                                  to assume that their pupils have, as an                  principles of information and computation
                          Computing as a school subject                           analogue to being able to read and write.                and how digital systems work. They go on           • T
                                                                                                                                                                                                 he Technologies area sets out
                          encompasses three strands: information                                                                           to learn how to put this knowledge to use            experiences and outcomes for pupils in
                          technology, digital literacy and                        Computer science should be interpreted                   through programming. Building on this,               a range of contexts spanning: business;
                          computer science.                                       as referring to the scientific discipline of             pupils are equipped to use information               computing science; food and textiles; and
                                                                                  computer science, covering principles                    technology to create programs, systems               craft, design, engineering and graphics.
                          Information technology means the                        such as algorithms, data structures,                     and a range of content.
                          assembly, deployment and configuration                  programming, systems architecture,                                                                          • F
                                                                                                                                                                                                 rom 2013 to 2014, the Scottish
                          of digital systems to meet user needs for               design and problem-solving.                            • A
                                                                                                                                            t Key Stage 4 (equivalent to GCSE), all            Qualifications Authority introduced new
                          particular purposes.                                                                                             pupils must have ‘the opportunity’ to study          qualifications to align with the Curriculum for
                                                                                  Inevitably, there will be topics that test the           aspects of information technology and                Excellence that included computing science.
                          Digital literacy means the basic skill or ability       extent to which the three areas above can                computer science.
                          to use a computer confidently, effectively              be effectively disaggregated – there will                                                                   • A
                                                                                                                                                                                                 s part of the 2016 Digital Learning
                          and safely, including the ability to use office         always be some blurring at the boundaries.             • A
                                                                                                                                            s part of a wider programme of                     and Teaching Strategy for Scotland,
                          software such as word processors, email and             Nevertheless, we maintain that it is useful to           qualifications reform, revised AS and A              the Scottish Government has refreshed
                          presentation software, and the ability to use           make these distinctions as an aid to effective           levels in computer science have recently             the experiences and outcomes in the
                          a web browser and internet search engines.              communication between stakeholders.                      been introduced into schools. GCSE                   Technologies area of the Curriculum for
                          Digital literacy also includes understanding                                                                     qualifications in ICT have been withdrawn.           Excellence. This includes discrete units
                                                                                                                                                                                                covering (among others): digital literacy,
                                                                                                                                                                                                computer science and technological
                                                                                                                                                                                                developments in society (including
                                                                                                                                                                                                business education).

                                                                                                                                         Source: Department for Education.                    Source: The Scottish Government.

                    11.     Wing J. 2006. Computational Thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3).

16                                                                                AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                                              17
INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                                                                                                           INTRODUCTION

                    BOX 2 (continued)                                                                                    Our evidence gathering                                         We commissioned an analysis of existing
                                                                                                                         To understand how computing is being taught                    government and other datasets, on school
                    Curricula across the UK                                                                              in the UK, we surveyed 341 primary school                      examinations, the teaching workforce and
                                                                                                                         teachers and 604 secondary school teachers                     university students. These data establish
                    Wales                                          Northern Ireland                                      with a responsibility for computing education                  benchmarks regarding the health and capacity
                    The 2008 National Curriculum for Information   ‘Using ICT’ is embedded across the Northern           over a two-month period12,13. The purpose of the               of computing in schools, colleges and
                    and Communication Technology (ICT) is due      Ireland Curriculum.                                   survey was to understand the impact of recent                  higher education.
                    to be replaced by a new Curriculum for Life,                                                         policy changes on computing education. We
                    including aspects of computer science.         • A
                                                                      cross the Northern Ireland Curriculum             were seeking to identify additional actions that               These data were also used to develop
                                                                     in primary and secondary schools, pupils            governments, industry, non-profit organisations                statistical models to explore the uptake of
                    • T
                       he current ICT curriculum in Wales           are expected to develop the skills of               and schools could take in order to ensure                      GCSE computer science at Key Stage 4 and
                      applies to pupils from Key Stage 2 (ages       ‘Using ICT’ by engaging in meaningful               young people gain the skills and expertise                     A level computer science at Key Stage 5.
                      7 – 11) to Key Stage 4 (ages 14 – 16) in       research and purposeful activities set in           they need to thrive in a rapidly developing and                We refer to these models in the report as the
                      maintained schools. Learners develop           relevant contexts.                                  increasingly technology-rich world. Some of the                pathways analysis. The first model analyses
                      their ICT skills by finding, developing,                                                           issues explored in the survey include the level                GCSE uptake pathways where schools have
                      creating and presenting information          • T
                                                                      hey should use ICT to handle and                  of teacher confidence in teaching an unfamiliar                at least one pupil completing the subject. The
                      and ideas and by using a wide range            communicate information, solve problems,            subject, the resources teachers use to improve                 second model explores computing uptake at
                      of equipment and software.                     pose questions and take risks. They                 their subject knowledge, the resources used                    A level for those who have previously taken
                                                                     should process, present and exchange                to teach in the classroom and the way in which                 the subject at GCSE. Both models examine
                    • In September 2016, a new Digital              their ideas and translate their thinking            schools have implemented computing curricula.                  individual pupil characteristics to understand
                       Competence Framework was made                 into creative outcomes that show an                                                                                how these affect uptake.
                       available for schools and other settings      awareness of the audience and purpose.              The survey targeted teachers with some
                       in Wales, making it the responsibility of     They should also use ICT to collaborate             responsibility for delivering the computing                    We commissioned three literature reviews to
                       all teachers and practitioners to include     within and beyond the classroom, to share           curriculum, irrespective of their level of                     summarise available evidence on effective
                       digital competence within lessons.            and exchange their work.                            confidence, knowledge and experience. The                      computing pedagogies and assessment in
                                                                                                                         survey was promoted through various networks                   schools and universities. This review now
                    • T
                       he new Curriculum for Life is expected     • A
                                                                      t a level appropriate to their ability,           such as the Royal Society’s associate schools                  summarises the existing evidence base and
                      to be launched in September 2018.              pupils are expected to develop their ICT            and colleges, Computing At School, and online                  identifies gaps in knowledge where future
                      This will include six ‘Areas of Learning       skills in five key areas: Explore; Express;         subject-specialist groups. Other organisations                 studies may be appropriate.
                      and Experience’. One of these                  Exchange; Evaluate; and Exhibit.                    such as Raspberry Pi, Primary Science Quality
                      (Science and Technology) will include                                                              Mark, Teach Primary, Technocamps (Wales), C2k                  Finally, we have met with a number of individuals
                      computer science.                                                                                  (Northern Ireland), Education Scotland, OCR and                and organisations to gather evidence.
                                                                                                                         AQA also assisted with the promotion of the
                                                                                                                         survey to reach as many teachers as possible.

                                                                                                                         To complement the findings of the survey, we
                                                                                                                         also held eight small teacher meetings across
                    Source: Welsh Government.                      Source: Department of Education (Northern Ireland).
                                                                                                                         the UK to delve deeper into some of the
                                                                                                                         findings in the survey. The survey and teacher
                                                                                                                         meetings also enabled us to identify some
                                                                                                                         case study schools where a school’s approach
                                                                                                                         to teaching computing was having a positive
                                                                                                                         impact. This report also showcases a series of
                                                                                                                         case studies that we have sourced of people
                                                                                                                         using digital literacy, computer science and IT
                                                                                                                         skills in a wide variety of roles.

                                                                                                                         12.   Pye Tait. 2017. After the Reboot: The State of Computing Education in UK Schools and Colleges. p18.
                                                                                                                         13.   There are approximately 21,000 primary schools and 4,000 secondary schools in the UK.

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Chapter one
                                                      Computing for
                                                      our pupils

© kali9.

CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      CHAPTER ONE

                           Computing for our pupils
                           Introduction                                                    In this chapter, we examine the demand for                 CASE STUDY 1
“Today’s [computer]                                                                        computing skills, and the attitudes to and
 simulation techniques     • T
                              he demand for computing skills and                          participation of young people in computing.                Tim – opportunities in start-ups
 so pervade scientific       knowledge is growing – the nation’s                           To understand possible career outcomes
 practice that they have     economy depends on it, and young people                       that computing can bring, we have included                                        Tim Sherratt is about         the risk, so they wound up their company
 added a third basic         must be equipped with the necessary skills                    three case studies of young people currently                                      to embark on a new            and went to the US. For the next four years,
 tool to those of theory     for the future.                                               working in a computing-related role. We also                                      business venture,             as one of the co-founders of the start-up,
 and experiment. They                                                                      consider the role of the primary and secondary                                    one that will exploit         Tim helped develop apps and a website.
 have moved on from        • C
                              omputing as a subject is growing in                         computing curriculum in meeting knowledge                                         his experience
 assisting scientists        England, but only 11% of Key Stage 4 pupils                   and skills needs and motivating young people.
 in doing science, to                                                                                                                                                        and knowledge of              These were both challenging and exciting
                             take GCSE computer science.                                                                                                                     both business and             times for Tim. “Creating a business that
 transforming both how
                                                                                           The demand for pupils with computing                       computer science. For the past six years,            hadn’t been done before was hugely
 science is done and
                           • In Scotland, where computer science has                      expertise                                                  he has been involved in setting up two,              exhilarating and we worked hard to achieve
 what science is done.
                              long been established as a discrete subject,                 Employers project that the number of careers               very different, web-based companies.                 this. To win this market we had to be the
 They are fundamental
 to many open                 the uptake of the subject is decreasing.                     depending on computing skills will grow14.                                                                      single successful company”. For this reason,
 questions in science,                                                                     Many young people currently starting out                   Tim attended the University of Bristol, where        they focused their time on growing the
 in domains that span      • C
                              omputing curricula and qualifications must                  in school could end up in jobs that do not                 he studied computer science, and after               user base, at the expense of generating
 from Climate and            continue to evolve.                                           currently exist. Cybersecurity is another                  graduating, joined a small telecoms company          revenue. The consequences were defining.
 Earth System science                                                                      emerging skill valued by employers. Jobs in                as a programmer. Three years later, together         When the venture capital market took a
 to Epidemiology           Education provides young people with                            cybersecurity now make up 15% of UK-based IT               with a colleague, he took what they both             downturn about a year ago they were forced
 (especially pandemic      knowledge and understanding of how the                          jobs and are set to grow by 10% each year until            saw as the ‘next obvious step’ and started a         to close down; but not, says Tim, without
 models, eg Ferguson),     world works and opportunities to embark                         202015. Another example is the emergence                   business of their own, designing websites.           success – the website was reaching a few
 from Species              on exciting life journeys. In the sciences,                     of machine learning, which is a branch of
 Distribution modelling                                                                                                                               For the next two years, he and his colleague         million users per month and what he learned
                           mathematics and computing, there is a strong                    artificial intelligence that allows computer               worked hard to get the business off the              about running a business and the constantly
 to Immunology.”
                           alignment between the intellectual and cultural                 systems to learn directly from examples, data              ground, and in the process they learned a            evolving technology was invaluable.
                           needs of the individual and the economic                        and experience, and is beginning to transform              lot, mainly about business. Crucially, he says,
From the Royal Society
                           needs of the nation. As jobs are increasingly                   many sectors from transport to healthcare.                 he discovered the world of start-ups, helping        In the future, says Tim, every business will
Science Policy report
Science as an open         becoming dependent on technology, a high-                       The demand for machine learning is already                 many to build their products. This was to            be transformed by computer technology
enterprise, 2012.          quality computing education should give                         changing the types of digital skills that are              prove decisive in the next step in his career.       much like Uber is transforming the taxi
                           pupils the opportunity to gain the skills and                   highly sought after by employers16.                                                                             business, and with current developments
                           knowledge they need to be successful in                                                                                    Tim was approached by an entrepreneur                in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine
                           the technology-rich future.                                     Our first case study is based on an interview              in the US who had raised around $3m in               technologies, very little will be beyond
                                                                                           with Tim Sherratt, a developer, whose career               venture capital for a start-up to build a            automation. “This”, he says, “makes it crucial
                                                                                           has taken him to Silicon Valley. It highlights how         website and apps aimed at amateur sport              for computing to be a core subject from
                                                                                           developments in computing lead to the creation             teams and leagues. Despite the growing               primary school onwards so that children
                                                                                           of new businesses. Tim’s experience is typical             success of their company, Tim and his                have the tools they need to participate and
                                                                                           for an entrepreneur with a computer science                colleague decided the US venture was worth           be successful in the world”.
                                                                                           degree from a world-leading university.

                           14.   UK Commission for Employment and Skills. 2017. The Labour Market Story: Skills for the Future. p24.
                                 Skills_for_the_Future.pdf (accessed 4 July 2017).
                           15.   Future of Tech. The importance of keeping cyber security skills sharp. See
                                 theimportance-of-keeping-cyber-security-skills-sharp (accessed 3 July 2017).
                           16.   The Royal Society. 2017. Machine learning: the power and promise of computers that learn by example. p62.
                                 (accessed 28 June 2017).

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CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   CHAPTER ONE

                   The range of roles that will require computing                Computing in primary and early secondary                   Governments have changed school curricula                       BOX 3
                   expertise is varied. Sammy Elwardany works                    Getting the curriculum right is the first step             since 2012. Computing is now a mandatory
                   in a non-IT role, and his case study shows why                needed to ensure that pupils leave school,                 subject in the national curriculum in England                   Computational thinking
                   an understanding of computing is useful for a                 college and university well equipped to embark             to age 16. Scotland has also refreshed the
                   wide range of jobs.                                           on successful professional careers and to                  Technologies area of the Curriculum for                         The phrase computational thinking is
                                                                                 become astute and responsible citizens. To                 Excellence to reflect the changing digital                      shorthand for the thought processes
                   Sammy says Amazon is a digital company                        do this, governments and school leaders must               landscape, with computer science given as                       involved in formulating problems and their
                   that doesn’t pre-date computing, therefore                    make sure that school curricula include all three          a technologies outcome at broad general                         solutions. Computational thinking can be
                   having a computer science background                          aspects of the computing curriculum, including             education. In Wales, the Government is                          used to create working, useful and usable
                   means he can function in the company                          digital literacy, information technology and               introducing a new Curriculum for Life, with                     computational systems to understand and
                   knowing and understanding how and why                         computer science, and that children begin to               elements of computer science, and the                           reason about both natural and artificial
                   they use technology.                                          study computing at the earliest age possible17.            Northern Ireland Department of Education is                     systems and processes18,19.
                                                                                                                                            embedding ‘Using ICT’ across the curriculum
                                                                                                                                            to engender informed and responsible                            At its core is the idea that the solutions to
                     CASE STUDY 2                                                                                                           users of technology.                                            many problems are not easily quantified
                                                                                                                                                                                                            as direct answers but rather as algorithms
                     Sammy – computing skills in non-IT roles                                                                               The new primary school computing curricula                      that lead to the answer; solutions to
                                                                                                                                            should help pupils to build foundational                        whole classes of problems encoded in
                     Sammy Elwardany works in a non-IT role.                     His time at Ford was all about the application             skills, such as computational thinking, and                     a set of instructions that can be followed
                     He is a senior programme manager in the                     of computer systems to manage a process                    gain an understanding of the technological                      by computers or humans. In addition,
                     department of product imaging at Amazon                     to meet business needs. Sammy believes                     world in which they live. Starting computing                    it encompasses the idea that by using
                     UK, responsible for the photography of all                  his computer science background in                         education in primary school has the potential                   algorithmic techniques, computational
                     products that go on this electronic shopping                programming was a necessary part of his                    to encourage more pupils to take it to a                        systems can model many phenomena,
                     website. However, working at Amazon – a                     education. “You can’t work effectively in                  higher level and reduce the proportion                          from climate change to the way our
                     company that relies on IT – is not entirely                 this business environment without some                     of pupils that perceive computing as ‘not                       brains work and the working of cancer
                     separated from his previous work experience                 technical grounding. You need to understand                for them’. In addition, when computing is                       cells. Computational thinking allows the
                     or the need for a computer science                          programming and how software is built in                   embedded within other subjects in primary                       development of practically useful algorithmic
                     background. Prior to this job, Sammy spent                  order to use IT systems effectively, and to be             school, there is potential to give pupils an                    solutions even for very complex problems.
                     13 and a half years years at Ford Motors in                 comfortable to discuss any issues and ask                  understanding of the subject’s relevance
                     Brentwood, Essex, in a variety of IT roles. He              the right questions of the technical teams”.               and its potential applications.
                     studied computer science with business at
                     the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).                 At Amazon, Sammy leads a team of                           In secondary education, school timetables                     The computing curriculum
                                                                                 programme managers, who are based in                       need to allow sufficient time for classes to                  One major change in the English computing
                     The course at QMUL, he says, was brilliant                  Japan, the US, Germany and India, and                      cover the three strands of the computing                      curriculum has been a new emphasis on the
                     because it was practical and relevant.                      who initiate and plan the launch of any new                curriculum. Schools that only provide one hour                principles and concepts of computer science,
                     “The idea that you can take a technology                    category of images online. This involves                   a week or a fortnight for computing at 11 – 14                alongside digital literacy and IT. This means
                     and apply it to solve a problem relevant                    everything from finding or building a                      do not provide teachers with enough time                      students gain the skills needed to represent
                     to everyday life, or use it to improve the                  suitable studio, through to training staff, and            to ensure the subject is adequately covered                   real-world problems in a form amenable to
                     quality of life, is what really interests me”.              delivering the product images online. It’s                 (as indicated by 40% of surveyed secondary                    computational investigation, together with the
                                                                                 working with people from different parts of                schools). In upper secondary, pupils also need                skills needed to explore those representations
                     Sammy went from QMUL to Ford, where                         the world and with diverse skill sets that he              access to high-quality computing qualifications               to develop algorithmic solutions, and practical
                     he worked in a number of IT roles in                        enjoys most about his job. “To launch new                  and we discuss these in the next section.                     experience of writing computer programs
                     logistics and sales. He eventually moved                    products and new studios online, I need to                                                                               implementing those solutions. The way
                     into digital marketing, where he was                        work with people from IT, logistics, retail and                                                                          of thinking about and solving problems in
                     responsible for developing part of Ford’s                   marketing, as well as with reports and analysis                                                                          computer science is often referred to as
                     global network platform.                                    – it is truly cross-functional and global”.                                                                              ‘computational thinking’ (see Box 3).

                                                                                                                                            18.   Computing At School. 2015. Computational Thinking – A Guide for Teachers. (See
                                                                                                                                                  computationalthinking, accessed 7 August 2017).
                   17.   Kind A. 2015. Computing Attitudes: Will Teaching 2nd Grade Students Computer Science Improve their Self
                         -Efficacy and Attitude and Eliminate Gender Gaps? Rising Tide 8, 1–34. (See   19.   Wing, J. 2010. Computational Thinking: What and Why? The Link, Spring 2011. pp. 20–23. (See http://www.cs.cmu.
                         studiesjournal/a-rising-tide-volume-8-summer-2015/, accessed 15 September 2017).                                         edu/sites/default/files/11-399_The_Link_Newsletter-3.pdf, accessed 15 September 2017).

24                                                                              AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS         AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                                                  25
CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                                                       CHAPTER ONE

                   Programming languages provide an                    BOX 4                                               FIGURE 1
                   exact and efficient way to describe the
                   implementation of abstract algorithmic                                                                  Percentage of primary school respondents using indicated programming language.
                                                                       Unplugged computing
                   solutions. The choice of language is not
                   critical to pupils’ understanding and teachers      Unplugged computing is a constructivist
                   can use a wide variety of programming                                                                                       Scratch                                                          38%
                                                                       approach to teaching computing concepts
                   languages to explain and demonstrate the            and computational processes away
                                                                                                                                                 Logo                                     17%
                   principles of computer science. We asked            from computers. It involves a variety of                                  Kodu                               15%
                   teachers which programming languages they           techniques including kinaesthetic activities                            Python                    7%
                   used in their classrooms and found that a           such as the role-play of computational                                   Other               4%
                   wide range of different languages can be in         processes, games, puzzles and magic                                     Blockly              4%
                   use simultaneously, sometimes even in the           tricks that make intangible, abstract                             JavaScript                3%
                   same class. Typically, primary school teachers      concepts concrete and physical.                         Microsoft TypeScript                3%
                   reported using block-based programming              Representing abstract ideas with physical
                   languages, such as Scratch (38%), Logo (17%)                                                                            Espresso                3%
                                                                       entities makes them easier to explore,
                   and Kodu (15%). At secondary level, there was       manipulate, ask questions about, and so
                                                                                                                                       Purple Mash             2%
                   a shift to text-based languages, with Python        understand. The activities also often link                                Java          2%
                   being the most popular (21%).                       computing ideas to everyday objects and                                   Swift        1%

                                                                       activities allowing pupils to extend their                    Touch Develop            1%
                   Teachers can also use ‘unplugged’                   existing understanding of the real world                         Visual Basic      0%
                   pedagogies to teach computational thinking          into the computing realm.                                                 Alice    0%
                   (see Box 4), as well as a wide range of
                                                                                                                           C-languages (C, C#. C++)       0%
                   programming concepts and general computer
                   science concepts. These focus on teaching                                                                              Greenfoot       0%

                   those principles and concepts away from             BOX 5                                                            Small Basic       0%
                   computers, for example, through analogy with                                                                                 Pascal    0%
                   everyday activities, games and puzzles, and
                                                                       cs4fn                                                                     PHP      0%
                   through the role-play of computation. They
                                                                                                                                                 Ruby     0%
                   turn abstract and invisible computational ideas
                                                                       Created in 2005 at the Queen Mary
                   into physical and tangible activities that are                                                                                        0%                   10%           20%           30%    40%
                                                                       University of London, cs4fn is a free
                   easier to explore and ultimately understand.                                                                                                                     Base: 174 responses
                                                                       magazine that strives to support digital
                                                                       learning to provide a bigger picture of             Source: Pye Tait.
                                                                       computing and its links to other subjects.
                                                                       The magazine looks to promote the real
                   In England, school governors and                    world that goes beyond the syllabus and
                   Ofsted should monitor whether                       aims to inspire young people. Subscribed
                                                                       to (free) by over 2,000 schools, cs4fn is
                   and how schools are teaching
                                                                       published twice a year with a circulation
                   computing to all pupils.                            of 20,000 copies.

26                                                                   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS   AFTER THE REBOOT: COMPUTING EDUCATION IN UK SCHOOLS                                                       27
CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       CHAPTER ONE

                   FIGURE 2                                                                                                                How young people have responded                                 Opportunities for computing 14 – 19
                                                                                                                                           In Shut down or restart? The way forward                        In the later years of secondary schooling,
                   Percentage of secondary school respondents using indicated programming language.                                        for computing in UK schools, the Society                        pupils across the UK make choices about
                                                                                                                                           commented on the image of computing and                         which subjects they will continue to study.
                                                                                                                                           noted that many pupils found it ‘repetitive and                 However, pupils can only choose to study
                                       Python                                                                      21%                     boring’20. We asserted that this image was                      computing if schools and colleges offer
                                       Scratch                                                               19%                           one of the reasons there had been a steady                      relevant qualifications. Encouragingly, in
                                 JavaScript                                      10%                                                       decline in the number of pupils studying the                    England approximately 70% of secondary
                                         Kodu                             8%                                                               subject since 2007. Lauren’s case study shows                   pupils attend a school where GCSE
                                Visual Basic                         6%                                                                    how previous generations of young people                        computer science is on offer.
                                                                                                                                           have had to adapt and learn computing skills
                                         Logo                    5%
                                                                                                                                           that weren’t included in their school curriculum.               Our pathways analysis revealed that if there
                                Small Basic                      5%
                                                                                                                                                                                                           were two equally able pupils in different
                   C-languages (C, C#. C++)                     4%
                                                                                                                                           We wanted to find out how pupils’ views of                      schools, the pupil in the lower-performing
                                         PHP                    4%                                                                         computing had changed in the past five years.                   school would be more likely to study
                                        Other                   4%                                                                         The Wellcome Trust, through a project called                    computing at Key Stage 4. This may be
                                         Java               3%                                                                             the Science Education Tracker (SET), surveyed                   suggestive of higher-performing schools
                                       Blockly              3%                                                                             a representative sample of 4,000 young                          deliberately focusing on other subjects,
                             Touch Develop                  3%
                                                                                                                                           people in state-funded schools in England                       such as those more likely to provide high
                                                                                                                                           between ages 14 – 1821. The purpose of the                      results in key performance measures.
                                  Greenfoot                2%
                                                                                                                                           survey was to investigate young people’s
                                         Alice        1%
                                                                                                                                           attitudes towards and experiences of science                    Schools not only need to offer computing
                                        HTML          1%                                                                                   education (including computing) and careers.                    qualifications, they also have to encourage
                                        Pascal        1%                                                                                                                                                   pupils to study the subject. At present, only
                                         Swift    0%                                                                                       The top reasons cited for pupils not taking                     11% of Key Stage 4 pupils choose to take GCSE
                       Microsoft TypeScript       0%                                                                                       computing were a lack of interest in the                        computer science compared with 14% of Key
                                         Ruby     0%                                                                                       subject, the school not offering the subject,                   Stage 4 pupils choosing ICT23. Soft signals, such
                                                                                                                                           or pupils prioritising other subjects ahead                     as how the subject is timetabled, who teaches
                                                                                                                                           of computing.                                                   the subject and how it is portrayed within the
                                                 0%                            10%                           20%                   30%                                                                     school, are all likely to affect uptake. Based
                                                                                     Base: 1,508 responses                                 Encouragingly, 11% of those interviewed                         on their predicted mathematics grade, many
                                                                                                                                           expressed interest in a career in computer                      schools may also allow only their brightest
                   Source: Pye Tait.
                                                                                                                                           science and this was the third most popular                     students to take computing courses24.
                                                                                                                                           science career22. However, only 3% of girls
                                                                                                                                           were interested in computer science as a                        The other subjects a teacher teaches will also
                                                                                                                                           career, compared with 17% of boys. This                         send signals to pupils and parents about what
                                                                                                                                           compares with 27% interested in medicine                        the subject relates to. We found that secondary
                                                                                                                                           (14% of boys, 44% of girls) and 24% for                         computing teachers also teach a variety of other
                                                                                                                                           engineering (34% of boys, 10% of girls).                        subjects, with business studies, mathematics and
                                                                                                                                           See Table 14 on page 103.                                       design technology being the most common25.

                                                                                                                                           20. The Royal Society. 2012. Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools.
                                                                                                                                               See (accessed 15 February 2017).
                                                                                                                                           21.   Wellcome Trust. 2017. Young people’s views on science education. Science Education Tracker Research Report.
                                                                                                                                                 See (accessed 14 March 2017).
                                                                                                                                           22. Wellcome Trust. 2017. Young people’s views on science education. Science Education Tracker Research Report
                                                                                                                                               See (accessed 14 March 2017).
                                                                                                                                           23. GOV.UK. 2017. Find and compare schools in England. See (accessed 10 July 2017).
                                                                                                                                           24. Kemp P, Wong B, and Berry M. 2016. The Roehampton Annual Computing Education Report.
                                                                                                                                           25. Pye Tait. 2017. After the Reboot: The State of Computing Education in UK Schools and Colleges.

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