Last week, Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, announced funding for a programme of professional learning for Scottish computing teachers, amounting to £200,000 a year for the next two years.
This will come as welcome reassurance to computing teachers and provide the profession with some much needed support. It also follows the lead of similar support being offered in England and was a recommendation of the ‘Shut down or restart: a way forward for computing in UK schools’ - a report published by the Royal Society in January 2012.
But this investment won’t solve the real problem of computing in education or the digital literacy crisis that is already going on in many Scottish Schools.
Why? Because you can have the best CPD programmes in the world but then these teachers need to get in front of children to teach, guide, mentor and coach them. In many schools this won’t happen because they simply don’t have a computing teacher!
This picture has been well painted by the current Chair of Computing at School (CAS) Scotland, Katie Farrell in a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to Local Authorities in 2012.
From the data it is very clear that very few average sized schools have more than one computing teacher. Worrying, there are a lot of schools who do not seem to have a computing department at all? And I expect this information has not improved significantly since the data was collected over a year ago.
With increasingly tight budgets it also seems to be an emerging trend that as computing teachers retire they are not being replaced. Departments are winding down rather than being built up and expanded, as they should be.
What’s worse is that it’s in the rural areas where computing seems to be in real crisis – the areas which could support a vibrant digital economy if the right infrastructure and skills were in place.
All of the above comes at a time when Scotland is increasingly betting its future on a digital one.
One solution might be share a computing teacher across a learning community / associated school group / cluster of schools. This would have the advantage of ensuring that children in the primary school also received specialist tuition in the same way that they do at the moment for things like PE and Music. It would also ensure that children received a progression of skills as they progressed through our 3 - 18 curriculum.
Lets hope that someone, somewhere is giving this some thought...