Tag Archives: Wales

Wales Blog Awards 2014

Wales Blog Awards

Computing: The Science of Nearly Everything has been shortlisted for Best Technology Blog in the 2014 Wales Blog Awards, organised by Media Wales and Warwick Emanuel PR. Over 300 entries were received for the competition from across the country this year (after a break in 2013), whittled down to a shortlist of 32 blogs. My blog was also shortlisted back in 2012, so thank you to everyone who has been reading and commenting on my blog for the past three years; if you want a taste of what I have been writing about here, have a look at its first birthday, as well as the best of 2012 and 2013.

All shortlisted blogs are also in the running for the People’s Choice Award, to let the public decide on their favourite blog; the judges will announce the winners of the eleven categories at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on Thursday 15 May.

You can cast your vote here; voting for the People’s Choice Award will close at 5pm on Wednesday 30 April.

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2014 IET South Wales Annual Lecture

On Thursday 20th March I will be giving the 2014 IET South Wales Annual Lecture at Swansea University:

Computing: Enabling a Digital Wales

Digital technology (and thus computation) is an indispensable and crucial component of our lives, society and environment. In a world increasingly dominated by technology, we now need to be more than just digitally literate. Across science and engineering, computing has moved on from assisting researchers in doing science, to transforming both how science is done and what science is done. In the context of (Welsh and UK) Government science, technology and innovation policy, computer scientists (of all flavours) have a significant role to play. Tom will ground this hypothesis by describing his research interests at the hardware/software interface, his broader work in education and science policy, and then finishing by presenting a vision for a “Digital Wales” underpinned by science and technology innovation.

 
This talk is free, with registration online.

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Policy Statement on Skills by the Welsh Government

Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Skills, has today unveiled a Policy Statement on Skills — a ten year plan “to help Wales evolve into a highly-skilled nation and create the conditions that businesses need to grow and flourish”, setting out the steps that need to be taken “to develop a resilient, responsive and sustainable post-19 skills system”.

The statement covers four priority areas for the Welsh Government:

  • Skills for jobs and growth: Focuses on how Wales can stimulate demand for a more highly-skilled society that can drive forward our economy in the pursuit of jobs and growth.
  • Skills that respond to local needs: Describes how Wales must develop a skills system which reflects the needs of local communities, including providing a streamlined and accessible employment and skills offer for both individuals and employers.
  • Skills that employers value: Recognises the importance of engaging employers to participate in the skills system and describes the level of co-investment needed alongside government if Wales is to remain competitive.
  • Skills for employment: Explores the role of the skills system in providing the employment support necessary to assist individuals into employment and to progress in work, both of which are central to our tackling poverty agenda in Wales.

From my perspective, digital skills should be front and centre in this new policy, both to ensure we have safe and confident digital citizens (see Delivering a Digital Wales), as well as to encourage the development of high-level skills for the Welsh Government’s priority sectors over the next ten years. This also links back last October’s review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, as well as the work of the UK Digital Skills Taskforce.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months; download the full policy statement [PDF].

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UK Forum for Computing Education

A new expert body on computing education was established today: the UK Forum for Computing Education (UKForCE), which will provide an independent and unified voice to advise UK government and other agencies on issues relating to computing education. UKForCE is led by the Royal Academy of Engineering and will provide advice on the curriculum, qualifications and assessment and the supply and training of computing teachers.

As per today’s press release, the expert body has been established in response to the 2012 Royal Society report “Shut down or restart: the way forward for computing in UK schools”, which had as a key recommendation the formation of a UK forum for the UK’s computing bodies. UKForCE brings together representatives from across the communities of education, computer science, digital media, IT, engineering and telecommunications. The body will be independent of government and awarding organisations and will work towards improving computing education across all education sectors of the UK.

UKForCE will consist of a smaller strategic group, along with a broader representative forum (invitations to be sent out shortly); the current members of the group are:

  • Chris Mairs FREng (Metaswitch Networks)
  • Andy Connell (Keele University)
  • Bob Harrison (Toshiba Information Systems, UK)
  • Simon Peyton Jones (Microsoft Research Cambridge)
  • Bill Mitchell (BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT)
  • Liz Bacon (University of Greenwich)
  • Theo Blackwell (Next Gen. Skills)
  • Mark Chambers (Naace)
  • Debbie Forster (Apps for Good)
  • Quintin Cutts (University of Glasgow)
  • Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
  • Sue Nieland (e-skills UK)
  • Rhys Morgan (Royal Academy of Engineering)

Chris Mairs, Chair of UKForCE and Chief Scientist at Metaswitch Networks, said:


The new computing curriculum, which comes into effect in September 2014, is a most welcome step change in computing education. There are many amazing initiatives springing up to build upon this bold move both inside and outside the classroom.

UKForCE will be the connective tissue between all these initiatives, central government and other relevant bodies. With a coherent voice and government commitment, our children will be the world’s most savvy digital citizens and a tremendous asset to the UK economy.

As well as providing a springboard for great software engineers and computing specialists, effective delivery of the new curriculum can literally improve the life chances of an entire generation. UKForCE will help make this happen.

The creation of UKForCE, to sit alongside similar organisations such as ACME, SCORE and E4E, is a significant opportunity to raise the profile of computing as a discipline, as well as support its delivery across all four nations of the UK. I look forward to working with the forum in 2014, in particular to continue to promote the reform of computing education in Wales (see the review of the ICT curriculum in Wales from October).

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The ICT Steering Group’s Report to the Welsh Government

welshictreportcover

Today, the ICT Steering Group published its review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, at a launch at Box UK’s office in Cardiff attended by Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills.

This is the culmination of eight months of discussion, evaluation and consultation, to identify a way forward for ICT in Wales. As co-chair of this review, I am delighted with what we have delivered: a declaration of intent for Wales, to change the profile and perception of a subject of tremendous educational and economic importance to Wales. I truly hope that the Welsh Government adopt the report’s recommendations in full and use this as an opportunity to highlight the importance of computing and digital literacy in a modern, challenging and aspirational national curriculum.

As per today’s written Ministerial Statement:


The report of the ICT Steering Group, published today, poses some very significant questions and explores themes that we must now consider in the context of the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum…I am very grateful for this report and will respond in full to all these recommendations in due course.

The full report is now available to download (English, Cymraeg).

Headline Recommendations

  1. A new subject named Computing should be created to replace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) from Foundation Phase onwards. This new subject will disaggregate into two main areas: Computer Science (CS); and Information Technology (IT).
  2. Computing should be integrated into the curriculum as the fourth science, served by a mandatory Programme of Study, and receive the same status as the other three sciences.
  3. A Statutory Digital Literacy (DL) Framework should be implemented to work alongside the Literacy and Numeracy Framework from Foundation Phase through to post-16 education.
  4. Perceptions of Computing education pathways should be changed to recognise the key societal roles of computing and technology, as well as promote the importance and diversity of IT careers.
  5. The revised Computing curriculum should encourage creativity, allow thematic working and develop real world problem-solving. It should be flexible enough to continually evolve to remain current, adopting an Agile ideology and approach to ensure this.
  6. A range of engaging and academically rigorous pathways and bilingual qualifications for Computing and Digital Literacy should be devised, encouraging interest and opportunities for deeper learning.
  7. Engagement and collaboration between education and industry should be an integral part of the curriculum to embed current practices and skills.
  8. Pathways for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Computing should be created to encourage the best talent into the profession. All entrants to the teaching profession should have the skills to deliver the Digital Literacy Framework (DLF).
  9. A programme of training and professional development to enable the new Computing curriculum should be accessible to new and existing teachers.
  10. A National Technology Framework should be devised to create an effective technology infrastructure for education. Welsh Government, local authorities, industry and learning providers should be responsible for its effective implementation and strategic development.
  11. Effective monitoring arrangements should be created for Computing and the Digital Literacy Framework. Estyn should consider relevant changes to the Common Inspection Framework in light of all of these recommendations.
  12. An appropriate body or properly constituted group should oversee the implementation of these recommendations. Its remit would need to be broad enough to encompass this crucial governance role, utilising appropriate expertise and representing key stakeholders.
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The Times and The Sunday Times University Guide 2014: Computer Science

Today saw the publication of the first combined The Times and The Sunday Times University Guide 2014 (£), in which the University of Birmingham was named University of the Year, along with strong performances from Bath and Coventry (also named Modern University of the Year). Looking at the methodology for the new combined guide, with higher weightings on student satisfaction (NSS) and research quality (RAE 2008), it looks similar to the original Times methodology rather than the Sunday Times. Whilst generally sceptical of the plethora of university rankings and league tables, I wholeheartedly agree with Phil Baty (Editor-at-Large, THE) — it seems mad to reward universities for dishing out more first and upper second class degrees, as surely this metric is trivially improved?

As always, there are familiar institutions in the top 10 of the Computer Science category; due to the similarity in methodology, I’ve compared this new combined table to last year’s Times table (but it is also worth comparing to the 2013 Sunday Times table). I’ve also added another column to compare to the position in the overall table:

Ranking 2013 Overall
1. 1. University of Cambridge 1.
2. 2. Imperial College London 5.
3. 5. University of St Andrews 4.
4. 3. University of Oxford 2.
5. 8. University of Southampton 20.
6. 14. University of Birmingham 16.
7. 4. University of Bristol 15.
8. 7. University of Glasgow 25.
9. 11. University of Bath 7.
10. 10. University of Edinburgh 22.

 

And the rankings for Wales:

Ranking 2013 Overall
21. 34. Cardiff University 33.
37. 33. Swansea University 47.
52. 26. Aberystwyth University 82.
66. 72. Cardiff Metropolitan University 87.
83. 60. Glyndŵr University 109.
85. 41. Bangor University 56.

 
N.B. there was no data available for the University of South Wales (formed from the recent merger between University of Glamorgan and University of Wales, Newport) or the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (formed from the recent merger between University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University).

While there have been some significant drops in ranking for a number of Welsh institutions (most likely to due to student satisfaction scores), this does not seem to correlate with the 2014 Guardian University Guide from June (which also places a high value on the NSS). However, it is encouraging to see Cardiff just outside the top 20.

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Guardian University Guide 2014: Computer Sciences and IT

University ranking season is upon us once again — this week saw the publication of the Guardian University Guide 2014. In the Computer Sciences and IT category, there has been significant movement in the top 10, especially comparing against the 2013 table:

Ranking 2013
1. University of Birmingham (7th)
2. University of Glasgow (8th)
3. Imperial College London (4th)
4. University of Bristol (5th)
5. University of Southampton (3rd)
6. University of Sheffield (10th)
7. University of Bath (11th)
8. University of Cambridge (1st)
9. UCL (18th)
10. University of Warwick (13th)
(full table)

 

As always, of particular interest to me were the Welsh rankings:

Ranking 2013
28. Cardiff University (29th)
28. Swansea University (27th)
58. Aberystwyth University (68th)
73. Bangor University (33rd)
88. Cardiff Metropolitan University (64th)
99. Glyndŵr University (101st)

 
(N.B. no data was available for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the recently formed University of South Wales)

Looking at the table headings and the methodology, research does not feature as one of the ranking metrics, while student satisfaction (in particular, indicators from the National Student Survey) features highly; as you can see from last year’s university guides, the different metrics and weightings can change the ordering somewhat.

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A Public Policy Institute for Wales

Last week, the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister for Wales, announced that Cardiff University have been awarded the contract for a Public Policy Institute; as per the ministerial statement:


The Public Policy Institute is a Programme for Government commitment that seeks to develop independent sources of expert policy advice for the Welsh Government. It will improve the robustness of policy in Wales and make the Welsh Government a more intelligent customer in terms of research and advice.

Following an open, competitive process, initiated last autumn, applications were received from a range of parties and were assessed by a panel independently chaired by Professor Frances Ruane of the Dublin Economic and Social Research Institute. The evaluation has concluded and I have been able to appoint Cardiff University to run the Public Policy Institute which will include a network of experts drawn from Universities, think tanks and other research organisations from across Wales, the UK and beyond. Organisations already recruited to the network include research groups based in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Liverpool and Swansea Universities. This is the beginning of a wider network of economic, social and environmental experts, including those from outside of Wales.

The Public Policy Institute contract will be for an initial three-year period, subject to a process of evaluation and review, and will have an annual budget of £450,000. The Institute will be led in the interim by Professor Steve Martin while a permanent Director is appointed. I expect the Institute to be launched operationally in the autumn.

As mentioned above, the creation of a Welsh Public Policy Institute is a Programme for Government commitment, with the aim of guiding the reform and improvement of public services. This is a great result for Cardiff University, who will be working with research groups from Aberystwyth, Bangor, South Wales, Liverpool and Swansea universities, as well as the think tanks The Bevan Foundation, the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Wales Public Services 2025.

In light of the significant commitments made by the Welsh Government for science in Wales, especially from a policy perspective, let’s hope that there is a clear theme of science and technology in this new Public Policy Institute for Wales.

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Delivering a Digital Wales

Next week I will be speaking at Digital 2013, a headline Welsh Government event highlighting the importance of the ICT sector in Wales. In preparation for the event, I was interviewed to discuss the “Digital 2013 Opportunity“, especially with the ongoing ICT review in Wales, as well as broader science, technology and innovation policy:

 

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Consultation on the Review of ICT and Computer Science Education in Wales

DfES ICT consultation

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.

Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Education and Skills (June 2012)

As co-chair of the Welsh Government’s ICT Steering Group, announced in January to consider the future of ICT and computer science in Welsh schools, we are currently inviting stakeholder views as part of a wider open consultation.

Please participate by completing the official online survey (available in English and Welsh) by Friday 10th May 2013.

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