Date: 2012-04-17 Category: Interviews
Interview: Dr Tom Crick, Leader in Wales of Computing at School (CAS)
We interviewed Dr Tom Crick, Leader in Wales of CAS, to get a Welsh perspective on what's happening with Computer Science education in our school's and the role CAS Wales can play.
So what’s happening in Wales with Computer Science education?
There has been significant upheaval in England, especially off the back of Michael Gove’s announcement in January. While this in itself has no direct effect on policy in Wales, it has been interesting to see the wider impact on education and what teachers are discussing. Nevertheless, I personally feel that the situation is somewhat better in Wales: CAS Wales and Technocamps have had very positive discussions with the Department for Education and Skills over the past few months and it appears that the message is getting through. Computer science education is important for Wales, from both an educational and economic perspective. In December 2010, the Welsh Government outlined a framework for Delivering a Digital Wales, a wide-ranging strategy to reflect the importance digital technologies now play in our lives, touching virtually every strand of public and private sector activity; the Economic Renewal Programme identified ICT/Digital Economy as one of the nine priority sectors for economic renewal. The publication of the Science for Wales strategy in March 2012 further reinforced the importance of STEM education. The recommendations of the Digital Classroom report (“Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in digital Wales”) highlighted the importance of infrastructure, resources and networks. Wales could take a massive leap ahead of the rest of the UK by identifying computer science as an educational priority, especially by supporting teachers for initial teacher training and CPD.
So how can we achieve this in Wales?
The publication in January of a report by the Royal Society, “Shut down or restart: The way forward for computing in UK schools” (http://royalsociety.org/education/policy/computing-in-schools/report/), identified the main issues and made some clear recommendations. It addressed the significant terminology problems for the discipline and how the term ICT has become damaged, recommending its disaggregation into computer science, information technology (IT) and digital literacy. However, this negative portrayal of ICT in the press over the past few months has been damaging and particular unfair to ICT teachers. We want to provide the infrastructure to support teachers and get schools across Wales teaching computer science at GCSE. This is why we are sending an information pack to all state secondary schools in Wales and offering the opportunity to join a Network of Excellence for teaching computer science, led by CAS and the BCS Academy of Computing. We have been particularly encouraged by the engagement from the main examination boards, especially by OCR Cymru and the WJEC. Following on from the successful trial of OCR’s GCSE in Computing in 2010, there should be four GCSEs in computer science ready for September 2012. While this is a significant milestone, we need to make sure we have the infrastructure and support in place to enable schools in Wales to offer these qualifications and provide the opportunity for all leaners to be exposed to computer science at school.
So what can you do?
Spread the word. It is free to join CAS http://www.computingatschool.org.uk and we have a diverse membership: teachers, academics, parents, governors, industry, examination boards and government. We are a grass roots organisation, so rely on the input and interaction from our members. If you are a parent, speak to your children’s school; if you are a governor, ask your senior management team if they will be offering computer science this coming academic year; write to your local education authority or Assembly Member. There is a significant opportunity for Wales to lead and show the way forward for the rest of the UK; help make this happen!
The 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference (“Delivering Computer Science for Schools in Wales”) will be held on Friday 22nd June at Swansea University. The aim of this one day conference is to provide teachers, senior management teams, examination boards, higher education academics and education policymakers with a forum to highlight and discuss the important issues surrounding Computing Science education in Wales. We have keynote talks from:
• Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Education and Skills, Welsh Government
• Professor Simon Peyton Jones, Chairman, Computing at School (CAS) and Microsoft Research Cambridge
• Maggie Philbin, BBC and TeenTech
As well as a full workshop programme. The conference is free and registration is now open online: http://caswales2012.eventbrite.com/