I was interviewed last month by ITWales, to talk about computer science education, CAS Wales, the Technocamps project and the future skills and expertise required to underpin the digital economy in Wales.
(full interview here)
On 19 November, I chaired a seminar to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. The seminar was attended by representatives from a range of key stakeholders including schools, the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, awarding organisations, industry and the media.
Following a lively and engaging discussion, there were a number of key themes that emerged that I am keen to consider further, they include:
- ‘ICT’ in schools needs to be re-branded, re-engineered and made relevant to now and to the future;
- Digital literacy is the start and not the end point — learners need to be taught to create as well as to consume;
- Computer science should be introduced at primary school and developed over the course of the curriculum so that learners can progress into a career pathway in the sector.
- Skills, such as creative problem-solving, should be reflected in the curriculum; and,
- Revised qualifications need to be developed in partnership with schools, Higher Education and industry.
I have established a Steering Group to take forward consideration of the future of computer science and ICT in schools. The group will consider the key findings of the seminar, develop proposals in relation to their implementation, and provide a report on the way forward.
The membership of the Steering Group is comprised of representatives from a cross-section of key stakeholders and includes:
- Co-Chair: Stuart Arthur (Box UK)
- Co-Chair: Dr Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
- Co-Chair: Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Primary School, Vale of Glamorgan)
- Professor Khalid Al-Begain (University of Glamorgan)
- Chris Britten (Ashgrove Special School, Vale of Glamorgan)
- Lucy Bunce (Y Pant Comprehensive School, Rhondda Cynon Taff)
- Gareth Edmondson (Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr, Swansea)
- Mark Feeney (e-skills UK)
- Charlie Godfrey (Fujitsu)
- Magi Gould (Bangor University)
- Mark John (Vision Thing Communications)
- Ben Lidgey (Monitise)
- Hannah Mathias (St David’s College, Cardiff)
- Professor Faron Moller (Swansea University)
- Gareth Morlais (BBC Wales)
- Simon Pridham (Casllwchwr Primary School, Swansea)
- Maldwyn Pryse (Estyn)
- Glyn Rogers (Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Pontypool)
The group will report to me by July 2013 and provide recommendations on the way forward.
The recommendations will inform the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales, which I announced on 1 October. Any necessary changes will be considered as part of any revisions to the National Curriculum in Wales.
This is a hugely positive step by the Welsh Government, especially in light on the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales (as well as the recently published 14-19 Review of Qualifications); it also complements the activities of the National Digital Learning Council. I am very much looking forward to co-chairing this review and developing a modern, rigorous and challenging ICT curriculum for Wales.
The ICT sector in Wales is a driving force in both economic development and wider social change and it encourages productivity and competiveness across the economy. The sector in Wales is global and dynamic and includes a wide range of companies from blue-chip corporates through to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises across IT services, software, telecommunications and electronics.
In this context, I am determined to ensure that learners progressing through our education system have the skills required to work in and contribute to the sector.
There has been a significant decline in the number of learners taking the GCSE ICT course in Wales and I am aware that some employers have expressed concern over what is being taught in schools, that young people are being ‘switched off’ careers in the sector, and that they lack the necessary skills. There is a risk that the current curriculum is failing to provide young people with relevant skills.
On 1 October 2012, I announced a review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales. The review aims to streamline and simplify assessment arrangements and consider the National Curriculum core and other foundation subjects at each stage, to ensure that our expectations of content and skills developments are suitably robust.
As part of this wider review, the time is right to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. I will begin this process by chairing a seminar on 19 November, which will bring together some of the key players in Wales to discuss the future of ICT in schools.
I have invited representatives from the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, and industry to contribute to what I hope will be a lively and informative debate on the best way forward and how to ensure that Wales is well placed to play a leading role in the global economy of the future.
I have been invited to this meeting on the 19th, so I hope to have more information in a couple of weeks.
Significant progress has been made by Computing At School (CAS) in supporting computer science education in the Wales over the past two years: a strategic partnership with the Technocamps project in 2010, a successful inaugural CAS Wales/Technocamps conference in July 2011, a strategic information pack sent to all state-maintained secondary schools in Wales in April 2012, the announcement by the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills of a £3m investment in computer science and digital literacy at the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps conference in June, the launch of CAS Online, the new community website and the first official Codeacademy partnership in Western Europe: Codecademy Cymru.
Lucy Bunce (@loobey41), Y Pant School, Pontyclun
Gareth Edmondson (@welshgje), Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr, Gowerton
Roger Boyle, Aberystwyth University
Vic Grout (@vicgrout), Glyndŵr University, Wrexham
Dave Perkins (@daveshorts), Bangor University
Dale Jones (@spookingdorf), John Beddoes School, Presteigne
At the start of this year, I asked whether 2012 would be the year of computer science; I think there is a lot more to come in 2013! Please join CAS (it’s free), get in contact with your local Hub and keep an eye on the upcoming CAS events…and if you think there is enough activity and support to start a new CAS Wales Hub near you, then please get in contact.
Fancy joining Mike Bloomberg (Mayor of New York), New York University and millions of people across the world (including the people of Colombia) in learning how to code? While learning how to program should be the start, not the end, 2012 seems like a pretty good year to do this.
Codecademy, one of the largest online interactive platforms for learning how to code, think the same way as Computing At School: everyone should be exposed to programming and computer science — especially kids. Codecademy can help you learn how to program, create your own courses and support programming in schools. And this is where Codecademy is partnering with CAS Wales: Codecademy Cymru — to create a bespoke and adaptable environment to support the teaching of Computer Science and ICT in schools across Wales — the first official Codecademy collaboration in Western Europe!
Codecademy is really excited to partner with teachers in Wales to make the learning and teaching of coding easier than it has ever been before. It is fantastic that the Computing At School teachers have embraced Codecademy, and we look forward to seeing the results from the students!
Zach Sims, CEO and co-founder of Codecademy
Interested? Please complete the Codecademy Cymru expression of interest form.
In September 2011, Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, set up an external task and finish group to consider “which digital classroom delivery aspects should be adopted to
transform learning and teaching” for those aged 3–19. The Digital Classroom Teaching Task and Finish Group report (Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in digital Wales) was published in March, with ten headline recommendations. Prior to the Minister giving a keynote talk at the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps conference in June, a Written Statement was released outlining the plan of action to improve performance in Wales’ schools through the use of digital technology; namely:
With regards to the National Digital Learning Council (as per the Minister’s Written Statement):
I am establishing a National Digital Learning Council to provide expert and strategic guidance on the use of digital technology in teaching and learning in Wales. The remit of the Council will be to guide the implementation of the learning in digital Wales programme and to promote and support the use of digital resources and technologies by learners and teachers. The Council will work closely with the School Practitioner Panel which I announced in March 2012.
The Council will start work in September 2012. The membership of the Council will be drawn from schools, further education and the skills sector in Wales. In order to ensure that there is a strong learner voice in the Council, I have also agreed that a pool of associate members will be established, comprised of learners from primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges.
In addition, the work of the Council will be supported by a number of professional advisors from higher education and industry.
Supported by the following expert advisors:
A team of eight Digital Leaders will start in January 2013, acting as online champions of digital technology in teaching and learning:
The first meeting of the National Digital Learning Council is tomorrow in Llandrindnod Wells; I look forward to serving on the Council (with a priority focus for me being CPD funding for ICT teachers to teach computer science) and blogging about its activities over the next few months.
Computer science touches upon all three of my education priorities: literacy, numeracy and bridging the gap. It equips learners with the problem-solving skills so important in life and work.
The value of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy is huge, across all subjects in the curriculum. I therefore believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from computer science.
Indeed, computing is a high priority area for growth in Wales. The future supply and demand for science, technology and mathematics graduates is essential if Wales is to compete in the global economy.
It is therefore vitally important that every child in Wales has the opportunity to study computer science between the ages of 11-16.
This is how Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, opened his keynote speech at the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference at Swansea University on Friday 22nd June. It was a clear declaration by the Welsh Government of the importance and wide utility of computer science education. Building on last year’s successful inaugural conference, the 2nd CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference had the bold tagline of “Delivering Computer Science for Wales“.
The Minister’s speech touched upon a number of key issues, highlighting computer science as a key underpinning STEM discipline, recognising the value of learning how to program, as well as the wider educational impact of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy across all subjects in the curriculum. He also agreed with the findings of the Royal Society’s report Shut down or restart?, recognising the three distinct strands of computer science, information technology and digital literacy. As part of a broad and balanced curriculum, the Minister reiterated that there should be flexibility in the programmes of study to let teachers deliver a tailored curriculum that best meets the needs of their learners:
I have asked my officials to look at the current ICT Programme of Study at Key Stages 2 and 3 and explore opportunities where computer science may be incorporated within the curriculum.
And more importantly, in response to the headline recommendations of the Digital Classroom Teaching Task and Finish Group to improve digital learning in Wales:
I am pleased to announce today an additional £3m of funding over the next three years to support a range of measures to improve computer science, digital literacy and ICT in schools and colleges across Wales.
While it remains to be seen quite how this money will breaks down, this is a clear Ministerial commitment to promoting and supporting the teaching of computer science in Wales (further to my letter to all state-maintained secondary schools and colleges in Wales in April). There is also a clear imperative for investing in CPD to upskill ICT teachers across Wales to teach computer science:
I believe that provision for continuing professional development for teachers is critical here. The Welsh Government will work closely with delivery partners such as Computing At School and Technocamps to ensure that this CPD programme is well-coordinated and has a significant impact on learner outcomes in digital literacy, ICT and computer science.
I would encourage headteachers to ensure that their school is engaged with Technocamps. I am also keen to promote the Computing At School initiative by encouraging ICT teachers across Wales to take advantage of this excellent free service.
A huge thanks to all of the keynote speakers and workshop leaders who made the 2012 conference a success, especially Technocamps and Swansea University. Check out the Storify of the conference and the Bring & Brag event, as well as images from the day.
This is a significant milestone in government support for computer science education in Wales (UK?), but it all depends on how we progress from here. Will 2012 be the year of computer science in Wales?
In April, I sent a Strategic Information Pack (zipped) to all state-maintained secondary schools and colleges in Wales (following on from a similar exercise in England) in order to explain the opportunities they would have from September 2012 to develop Computer Science as a rigorous academic component within a reformed ICT curriculum. The supporting materials in the information pack provided comprehensive information that would help head teachers, principals and school governors make the right decisions:
Alongside the information pack was the announcement of the Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence, to create a network of schools and universities across Wales to advance teaching excellence in Computer Science. Schools that are members of the network would:
The centres of excellence in Wales would become part of a wider UK network for establishing best practice and spearheading innovative teaching in Computer Science, with ongoing support from CAS, the universities in the network and BCS; it has already generated a huge amount of interest, with over 500 schools across the UK applying.
It is not too late to join the Network of Excellence: we need leading schools from across the Wales to drive forward this initiative. Please contact me for further information.
(N.B. I would like to say a massive thanks to the Technocamps project for their financial and logistical support in getting the Strategic Information Pack sent out to school and colleges in the run up to our joint conference this week)
As Chair of Computing At School (CAS) in Wales, I am pleased to announce the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference, to be held at Swansea University on Friday 22nd June. The tagline for this year’s conference is: “Delivering Computer Science for Wales“.
Building on last year’s successful inaugural conference, CAS Wales are continuing to work in partnership with the Technocamps project to drive forward the computer science education agenda and provide an opportunity for teachers, practitioners, academics, local government and industry representatives across Wales to come together to discuss the latest policy issues and share best practice.
I am pleased to confirm the keynote speakers for the conference:
There will also be a full workshop schedule featuring: Programming with Greenfoot (Dr Neil Brown, University of Kent), Kodu (Stuart Ball, Microsoft Partners in Learning), cs4fn (Professor Peter McOwan, QMUL), Wearable Arduinos (Sophie McDonald), Aber Robots (Technocamps, Aberystwyth University), OCR GCSE Computing forum (David Pearce, Brynteg Comprehensive School), Interactive Fiction (Kristian Still, Hamble Community Sports College), Algorithmic Problem Solving (Dr João Ferreira, Teeside University) and Computational Modelling (Professor Faron Moller, Technocamps/Swansea University).
Registration for this free event is online; there is also a TeachMeet-style “Bring & Brag” event the evening before the conference for teachers and practitioners to network and connect with the wider CAS and Technocamps community and showcase some of the innovative and engaging ways in which they are teaching computer science at school. You can also follow the event on Twitter: @CASWales and @Technocamps on the hashtag #caswales12.
With the recent attention on computer science education in the UK, this conference is a prime opportunity for the Welsh Government to recognise its importance and invest in its delivery in Wales. In doing so, it would take a massive leap ahead of the rest of the UK.
I look forward to welcoming you to Swansea University at the end of June.
On Friday 1st July 2011, Computing At School (CAS) Wales, in partnership with the Technocamps project, hosted their inaugural conference at Swansea University. The aim of this one-day conference, with the tagline Computing at School: Enhancing the STEM Curriculum for a Digital Wales, was to provide teachers, senior management teams, examination boards, higher education academics, industry and education policymakers with a forum to highlight and discuss the important issues surrounding Computer Science education in Wales.
It featured keynotes talks from:
Over 100 attendees participated in a wide range of workshops and policy panels to discuss curriculum and qualifications, as well as sharing best practice for teaching Computer Science. This event was the culmination of nearly a year of discussions on education and science policy, focusing on the strategic importance of Computer Science within the wider STEM agenda [1,2,3,4,5] and was widely reported in the media [1,2,3,4]. A Storify of the event is also available.
This successful event has highlighted the importance of Computer Science, from an educational, scientific and economic perspective, and has laid the foundation for future curriculum and qualifications reform in Wales.
CAS Wales and Technocamps will continue to work together in 2012 to drive forward this agenda.
(N.B. this blog post was moved from its original location, having been first published in August 2011))