Ofsted

Speed read: Ofsted’s guide to a ‘high-quality’ computing curriculum

Lack of specialist computing teachers could have 'significant consequences'

Lack of specialist computing teachers could have 'significant consequences'

16 May 2022, 12:44

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A lack of specialist computing teachers will have “significant consequences” for the education of pupils, Ofsted has warned in its latest subject review.

The inspectorate today published its latest research review, which focuses on computing.
It has previously covered subjects such as maths, languages and geography.

The new review noted that school leaders must provide “sufficient professional development” for teachers so they can design and teach a high-quality computing curriculum.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman added: “Computing is rich in complex knowledge, which can make it interesting for pupils to learn. Yet it is also hard to teach well.”

Here are some of the main tips and challenges identified in the review.

1. Lack of computing specialists ‘will have significant consequences’…

The review identified a “low” number of subject specialists in computing with “a lack of new teachers to improve the situation”.

Ofsted said this “will have significant consequences for the quality of education that pupils receive in computing if nothing is done to remedy the situation”.

The inspectorate warned that teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge “are important factors in high-quality computing education”.

But in 2018 and 2019, less than half of the hours taught in computing in secondary schools were taught by a teacher with a relevant post-A-level qualification.

Apart from in 2020-21, when there was a 23 per cent increase in new entrants to ITT for all subjects, recruitment of computing teachers has consistently fallen short since 2014.

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2. …as will reduced teaching time

Ofsted said pupils should have “sufficient curriculum time” to learn computing knowledge.

But “the amount of curriculum time afforded to computing education is a significant concern within the sector”.

A 2019 report using government census data found computing curriculum time in key stage 3 dropped from one hour to 45 minutes between 2012 and 2017.

Meanwhile an earlier report from the Royal Society highlighted that one hour a week “was not adequate to teach the key stage 3 curriculum”.

The review also said teachers should receive high-quality computing CPD to “develop and maintain their subject knowledge”.

3. Don’t assume pupils are ‘digital natives’

Teachers have been warned to avoid making assumptions about pupils’ prior knowledge and digital literacy.

Ofsted found “one of the barriers” to pupils developing knowledge was the belief they are “digital natives” and already experts.

But “for pupils to use computing devices effectively, they need to be taught how to use them”.

Novices require “more explicit instruction”, the review added.

4. Keep online safety in mind when planning curriculum

A “high-quality” computing curriculum should carefully sequence knowledge related to online safety, or “e-safety”, to ensure subject content is “appropriate for pupils at each stage of their education”.

Ofsted said it was not enough just to set out “what pupils should know and remember”. E-safety should be “rooted in the design of the curriculum and taught by teachers who have had opportunities to develop subject knowledge in online safety”.

5. Pupils should become ‘skilful programmers’

The curriculum should enable pupils to become “skilful programmers”, Ofsted said.

The review found that learning to program is considered difficult, and to do so successfully requires learning of programming languages, programming styles and standardised solutions to programming problems.

6. Don’t test ‘generic competencies’

The review said computing assessment needed to determine if pupils remember what they are taught and apply this knowledge as intended.

But a drift towards “generic competency-based outcomes” can mean a loss of focus.

Ofsted said there was an “urgent need” for a better understanding of formative assessment in computing which focuses on knowledge.

Formative assessment should also be used to identify misconceptions early, Ofsted said. Multiple-choice questions can be an “effective tool” in checking understanding.

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