The government will train 8,000 extra computer science teachers at a new £100 million National Centre for Computing, Philip Hammond is expected to announce this week.
In Wednesday’s budget, the chancellor will set out his vision for a “hi-tech Britain”, and acknowledge the need to train more teachers in computer science.
The shortage of computing teachers was officially recognised in January when the role was added to the “shortage occupation list” by the Migration Advisory Committee, which lifted restrictions on hiring specialists in the subject from outside the EU.
The government’s announcement is an encouraging step forward
The announcement, teased in the media over the weekend, has been welcomed by Google, which pledged a further £1 million in grants to train teachers.
Obum Ekeke, the company’s head of computer science education programmes for the UK and Africa, said the proposal built on “the progress that’s been made since computing was added to the curriculum in 2014”.
The centre will help to ensure teachers “have the specialist training and support they need to educate the next generation of British computer scientists”, he said.
Previous attempts to encourage more people to train as computer science teachers have seen only limited success.
Last January, Schools Week revealed that a £3 million scheme aimed at recruiting 400 “master teachers” in computer science had failed to meet its target.
The target was scaled back to around 300 after Computing at School, the organisation hired to train the teachers, admitted there was “nowhere near enough of them”.
Last December, it was reported that another programme aimed at encouraging qualified teachers to return to teaching failed to make a significant impact in the sciences, including computing.
Of 428 returner-teachers retrained through the scheme, just 27 were computer science teachers.
There are also concerns that trained ICT teachers struggle when asked to switch to computer science.
Last year, Dr Bill Mitchell, head of the British Computing Society, warned that ICT teachers were struggling with the new computing curriculum.
Mitchell said at the time that it could be another five years before ICT teachers “feel confident enough to successfully teach computing science”.
The British Computing Society, which was involved in designing the new computing curriculum, has also expressed fears about the take-up of computing among pupils.
Figures published by Ofqual in June showed entries into the computer science GCSE rose from 61,220 in 2016, to 67,800 this year.
At the time, Mitchell described this as “deeply worrying”, as numbers should be growing “very rapidly”.
Further details about the government’s new centre are expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Google’s £1 million grant will fund science and pedagogy training for “thousands of key stage 3 and key stage 4 teachers in England over three years”.
This training will be delivered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the British Computer Society and the National STEM Learning Centre.