Rachel White has switched careers. After 8 years working in industry - she is now training to be a computing teacher via a BCS Scholarship. Her teacher training provider is the University of Southampton.
Why should more people consider applying for a scholarship?
It has been a huge help financially. As a career changer, I have been used to a regular income. It was a defining factor in allowing me to train to teach, as it meant that I knew we could afford to pay all the bills while studying. There is also the bonus of the BCS membership that you get for free for the year while you’re training, and when writing assignments, the access to back issues of the BCS magazine and to other articles and reports available in the members area of the website has been incredibly useful.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a career change/thinking of becoming a teacher/applying for a scholarship?
Don’t be afraid to make the jump. I was terrified when I chose to leave my secure career and train as a teacher. Pupils can really benefit from being taught by those who have a background in industry and can apply real world examples, networking is far easier to explain to a group of year 10’s when you can tell them how you planned the build of one yourself!
Tell me about your career - prior to getting your scholarship?
My degree was in Classical Civilisations at Swansea Uni. I worked in a call centre after I graduated and would help colleagues with basic problems. I’d learnt a lot of basic techniques from my boyfriend at the time who was a computer science student. I got the opportunity to move over to IT and was sent on various courses. Later I moved to the parent company and worked with our offices overseas. I helped planned the total rebuild of the European IT network. I then worked as a Systems Administrator for a small company in Winchester.
Why did you opt for a career change?
I always wanted to teach, but originally I didn’t really have any subject knowledge that would make me valuable to teach in a secondary school and later it wasn’t financially plausible. In recent years my finances levelled out, and with the funding available through the BCS scholarship and the support of my partner - it seemed like the stars had aligned!
What made you decide to re-train as a computing teacher?
I felt that my knowledge of how industry works, and my life experience would be something that could really help with teaching the subject. I also felt that my subject knowledge could be helpful in guiding young people to be more interested in a subject that I’d never had the opportunity to study myself at that age.
What challenges did you have to overcome – if any?
I didn’t know much about programming coming in to the PGCE. All my work had been with Systems. I got some books on Python, and also used Code Academy, to help develop my knowledge and basically taught myself Python during the summer holiday before the course started!
How did the scholarship help?
Financially it’s been a godsend. From previous experience the last thing you need when studying at this level is the stress of financial issues.
Have you managed to find employment?
I had an interview at the end of 2014 for a job in Portsmouth at a secondary school, and was offered the role which is really exciting. It’s to teach computing and business, so it’s a bit of an expansion, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I start there in July.
What are you looking forward to when you start your new role?
I guess the challenge. I’d like to feel that I’m making a difference, as at the moment the issue is I’m only with my placement schools for a small amount of time, and I don’t really get to see the big picture - seeing the pupils developing from these tiny, shy year 7’s to these confident knowledgeable year 11’s.
Why do you think teaching computing is important?
Teaching computing and ICT is just as important now as English or Math as when young people hit the working world there will be a certain expectation for computer literacy that previous generations never had. Technology develops so quickly - they need to be on top of the curve, regardless of whether they work within the computing industry, or go on to become a secretary/nurse/vet.
How do you think the new computing curriculum will add to a child’s educational experience?
A good general knowledge of how lots of things work together can make a person more well-rounded. Programming is great for logical thinking. This in turn can only really lead to a more educated and technologically aware society.
What do you think the computing curriculum will achieve in the long term (for education/society/industry?)
We’re going to create generations who are more technologically aware, and potentially more interested in how things work together. Hopefully, it will make more people interested in moving in to industry, potentially more girls, and increase the quality of graduates. From what I’ve seen of A2 computing level programming, it’s on par with what undergraduates were studying when I was at university back in the early 2000’s so we can only really move forward in terms of subject knowledge and skills development. This should mean that, in a few years’ time, the work force will be far more prepared for the challenges ahead, and with industry involvement in school activities becoming more common, we are hopefully training them meet our future requirements.