Today the Royal Society published After the Reboot, a report card on the state of computing education in UK schools. It’s a serious piece of work, published with lots of accompanying research and data, and well worth a read if you care about these issues (which, if you’re reading this blog, I guess you do).
The headline message is that, while a lot has been achieved, there’s a long way to go before we can say that young people are consistently getting the computing education they need and deserve in UK schools.
If this were a school report card, it would probably say: “good progress when he applies himself, but would benefit from more focus and effort in class” (which is eerily reminiscent of my own school reports).
After the Reboot comes five and a half years after the Royal Society’s first review of computing education, Shut down or restart, a report that was published just a few days before the Education Secretary announced in January 2012 that he was scrapping the widely discredited ICT programme of study.
There’s no doubt that a lot has been achieved since 2012, and the Royal Society has done a good job of documenting those successes in this latest report. Computing is now part of the curriculum for all schools. There’s a Computer Science GCSE that is studied by thousands of young people. Organisations like Computing At School have built a grassroots movement of educators who are leading fantastic work in schools up and down the country. Those are big wins.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been playing its part. With the support of partners like Google, we’ve trained over a thousand UK educators through our Picademy programme. Those educators have gone on to work with hundreds of thousands of students, and many have become leaders in the field. Many thousands more have taken our free online training courses, and through our partnership with BT, CAS and the BCS on the Barefoot programme, we’re supporting thousands of primary school teachers to deliver the computing curriculum. Earlier this year we launched a free magazine for computing educators, Hello World, which has over 14,000 subscribers after just three editions.
More to do
Despite all the progress, the Royal Society study has confirmed what many of us have been saying for some time: we need to do much more to support teachers to develop the skills and confidence to deliver the computing curriculum. More than anything, we need to give them the time to invest in their own professional development. The UK led the way on putting computing in the curriculum. Now we need to follow through on that promise by investing in a huge effort to support professional development across the school system.
This isn’t a problem that any one organisation or sector can solve on its own. It will require a grand coalition of government, industry, non-profits, and educators if we are going to make change at the pace that our young people need and deserve. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working with our partners to figure out how we make that happen.
The other 75%
While the Royal Society report rightly focuses on what happens in classrooms during the school day, we need to remember that children spend only 25% of their waking hours there. What about the other 75%?
Ask any computer scientist, engineer, or maker, and they’ll tell stories about how much they learned in those precious discretionary hours.
Ask an engineer of a certain age (ahem), and they will tell you about the local computing club where they got hands-on with new technologies, picked up new ideas, and were given help by peers and mentors. They might also tell you how they would spend dozens of hours typing in hundreds of line of code from a magazine to create their own game, and dozens more debugging when it didn’t work.
One of our goals at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to lead the revival in that culture of informal learning.
The revival of computing clubs
There are now more than 6,000 active Code Clubs in the UK, engaging over 90,000 young people each week. 41% of the kids at Code Club are girls. More than 150 UK CoderDojos take place in universities, science centres, and corporate offices, providing a safe space for over 4,000 young people to learn programming and digital making.
So far this year, there have been 164 Raspberry Jams in the UK, volunteer-led meetups attended by over 10,000 people, who come to learn from volunteers and share their digital making projects.
It’s a movement, and it’s growing fast. One of the most striking facts is that whenever a new Code Club, CoderDojo, or Raspberry Jam is set up, it is immediately oversubscribed.
So while we work on fixing the education system, there’s a tangible way that we can all make a huge difference right now. You can help set up a Code Club, get involved with CoderDojo, or join the Raspberry Jam movement.