The Academy in collaboration with CAS, and with a great deal of support from Microsoft and Google as well as many others as already mentioned, have taken the following steps towards our goal of introducing Computing as an option within the new national curriculum.
Department for Education
Since January 2011 BCS Academy and CAS have had a series of over nine meetings with DfE officials, leading up to a meeting in December 2012 with Dominic Cummings, a special advisor to Michael Gove. That meeting included Ian Livingstone co-author of the Livingstone Hope review, as well as representatives from Microsoft, Google, Raspberry Pi and Coding for Kids. The following month Michael Gove gave his ground breaking speech at BETT in support of Computer Science.
These meetings have significantly contributed to the fact that DfE accept Computing is a rigorous academic subject distinct from ICT that good schools should teach. Digital literacy is also recognised by them as essential for all pupils. This is significant progress as digital literacy is no longer conflated with Computing. Such conflation has caused confusion in the education sector as to what should or should not be taught and what types of qualification are required.
BCS Academy with CAS and Microsoft also met with Nick Gibb (Minister responsible for the National Curriculum) in August to discuss the possibility of Computing within the National Curriculum Review.
Department for Business Innovation and Skills
BCS with CPHC, UKCRC and Microsoft Research met with David Willetts (Science Minister at the Department for Business Innovation and Science) in February to discuss Computing education in school and university. At our meeting he recognised the importance of Computing education in benefitting the economy and encouraged engagement with the DfE to discuss how Computing would fit into the school curriculum.
David Willetts recently announced a new pilot scheme to introduce computer programming into schools through employer led projects, which is known as the Behind the Screen project. The project is being run by e-Skills UK and was established by Lord Lucas.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt comments on computing in school
Together with CAS, NESTA, UKIE, the Royal Society, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, the efforts of BCS Academy have helped to raise awareness of the Computing issue at a senior level in Google. We believe these efforts were a contributory factor to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s widely reported comment that he was ‘flabbergasted’ we do not teach Computer Science in school1.
In June, Matt Brittin, Managing Director UK & Ireland Operations Google, agreed to sign a letter to Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education), in which he endorsed the BCS position that Computing education is essential for all pupils in secondary schools. This letter was signed by a number of prominent captains of industry and the text of the letter is included below together with a list of the other signatories.
Since then Naomi Gummer and Sarah Hunter of UK Public Policy at Google have been working to actively raise the issue of Computing both within Google and to government. David Harper, Head EMEA University Relations at Google, has also been working with BCS Academy and CAS and was also a member of the Royal Society Advisory group for the Computing in Schools study.
Letter to Michael Gove
The following letter from BCS was sent to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in June 2011. This letter was the catalyst leading to a dialogue with BIS and DfE.
This letter was sent on behalf of
- Mr Matt Brittin, Managing Director UK & Ireland Operations Google UK
- Dr Hermann Hauser Hon-CBE FREng, Venture Capitalist and co-Founder of Amadeus Capital Partners (appointed by the Prime Minister to the Council for Science and Technology)
- Dr Andrew Herbert OBE FREng, Chairman Microsoft Research EMEA
- Mr Ian Livingstone OBE, Life President Eidos and Chair Computer Games Skills Council
- Mr Keith Williams FBCS, Managing Director Altran Praxis, Global Executive Director - Embedded & Critical Systems Altran
- Mr Alex Hope, Managing Director Double Negative, Board Director of the UK Screen Association (Double Negative won the 2011 Oscar for best Visual Effects)
- Mr Andy Mulholland, Corporate Vice President & Global Chief Technology Officer Capgemini Group
- Mr John Lazar, Chairman Metaswitch (four times winner of the Queen's Award for Enterprise, including the Queen’s Award for Technology Innovation in 2010)
- Mr David Docherty, Chief Executive of the Council For Industry and Higher Education, and Chairman of the Digital Television Group
- Mr Hasan Bakhshi, Director Creative Industries National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts
- Mr John Higgins CBE, Director General Intellect
- Mr David Clarke MBE FBCS, Chief Executive BCS
Dear Mr Gove,
We believe it is of strategic national importance that all children have the option to study Computing in school between the ages of eleven and sixteen. There are many companies and organisations across the country willing to use their own resources to get Computing taught in schools, through direct support for computing teachers and by supporting a national network of extra-curricula enrichment activities. For these to succeed however, schools need to believe the Government treats Computing as a subject equal to Maths or Physics.
Computing is a rigorous, intellectually demanding and exciting discipline that gives children the ability to shape the digital world they live in, as well as being a practical and applied Science much valued by our industry and commerce. Currently we teach ICT, which does not involve any Computing and in most cases has become solely teaching children functional IT user skills, which makes them passive consumers of technology.
The digital revolution is gathering pace, not slowing down. It is a vital contributor to economic growth. According to the Royal Society2 “The ‘digital revolution’ over the past two decades has fundamentally changed the way many services are delivered and consumed (through the enablement of disruptive business models), as well as the internal processes of firms themselves. Computing, communications, IT, the internet, the worldwide web, massive distributed databases, large scale computer modelling and deep numerate analysis are fundamental STEM underpinnings to many areas of service innovation.”
New disruptive digital business models have led to an e-commerce market in the UK of over £100bn in 20103. For example, in 2010 tesco.com alone had sales of £2bn. Companies such as Rolls Royce Aerospace rely on computer-aided design and manufacturing systems to remain at the cutting edge of aerospace technology. Global corporations use advanced software to optimise and control production workflows for their worldwide supply chains, directly improving profitability and competitiveness. The finance sector is entirely dependent on computing and communications. Computing also has a profound impact on our science base and our ability to meet humanity’s greatest challenges: Fundamental improvements to human health arising from sequencing of the human genome, the ability to increase agricultural production to feed the burgeoning human population, the understanding of climate change and the design, production and operation of low carbon technologies, are all only possible because of automated collection and processing of vast amounts of information using ground breaking software and hardware.
The same digital revolution also means that online attacks are constantly developing in sophistication and severity. The Cabinet Office estimates4 that cyber attacks cost the UK economy £27bn per year, and this figure is growing rapidly. For an advanced economy such as the UK, we must ensure that competitiveness is not undermined by information theft, that the public has confidence in transacting online with British business, and that our national security needs can be met.
Our economic competitors in India and China recognize that it is advances in Computing that are powering innovation and growth. In the US, Congress is worried that their shortage of IT professionals gives other countries a competitive advantage that threatens their security and technology leadership. According to the European Commission5 the UK will need half a million additional IT professionals by 2015.
So if the UK is to compete successfully, now and in the future, we need professionals who can invent new digital technologies, professionals who can integrate those inventions into technology platforms, and professionals who can build software applications that address business needs. We also need professionals capable of protecting our information, our digital infrastructure and our intellectual property. The path to this professionalism can only begin in schools.
But there is currently no educational route from KS3 leading to any of the above important professional roles. We all know functional skills are essential basic skills, but they alone are utterly incapable of providing a progression route into the IT profession and the many industries that require a workforce with a sound understanding of the underpinning principles of Computing.
We need Computing in schools as part of the National Curriculum. This is recommended by the Livingstone-Hope Skills Review of Video Games and Visual Effects Industries6 called for by Ed Vaizey, also recommended by E4E7 who represent the collective view of 36 professional bodies, the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering, and by Intellect8 who represent more than 780 companies ranging from SMEs to multinationals including BAE Systems, BT, HP, IBM, Intel, Logica, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, SAP and Sony.
We believe that we can help, and we would welcome an opportunity to discuss with you these issues and how we can work together to address them.
Collaboration with other groups
Over the last two years BCS Academy has been working to ensure we are actively engaged with key stakeholders across the education space. Ensuring these stakeholders, wherever possible, reach a consensus view of what needs to be done in school is important. When a consensus is possible it means schools, funding agencies and government departments receive the same coherent, consistent and compelling messages from many organisations working in concert, which means our views are much more likely to be heard. The Academy’s continued engagement has significantly contributed to the fact that so many organisations are now supporting our position on Computing in school. Below are listed some of the key collaborations currently ongoing that are helping to promote the value of Computing education in schools.
BCS Academy played a key role in ensuring sufficient funds were raised on time for the Royal Society in order for them to begin a study into Computing in school. The study has the support from 24 organisations, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, BCS Academy of Computing, CPHC (The Council of Professors and Heads of Computing), Google, Microsoft Research, IBM and many of the UK’s leading universities.
The Chair of the BCS Academy, the BCS Academy Director, the Chairman of CAS and the CAS Coordinator were members of the Advisory Group. The report ‘Computing in Schools: Shut down or restart?’ was published9 in January 2012. BCS and CAS wholeheartedly endorse what we see as the central vision in that report as quoted verbatim here:
“Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school. We believe that:
- Every child should be expected to be ‘digitally literate’ by the end of compulsory education, in the same way that every child is expected to be able to read and write.
- Every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from Computing (including Computer Science and Information Technology) from the beginning of primary education onwards, and by age 14 should be able to choose to study towards a recognised qualification in these areas.”
BCS Academy and CAS actively promoted the importance of Computing in school with NESTA during the Livingstone-Hope Skills Review10 of the Video Games and Visual Effects industries. This review was called for by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. BCS Academy and CAS directly contributed to the two main school recommendations in the report:
- Bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline
- Include computer science in the English Baccalaureate
Since this report was published Ed Vaizey has publicly promoted Computing education in school, and has engaged with Ministerial colleagues on this topic.
E4E (Engineering for Education) represents the collective views on education and training policy of the Royal Academy of Engineering, 36 Professional Engineering Institutions, the Engineering Council, and EngineeringUK.
E4E have adopted the following position on the national strategic importance of Computing in school. An initial draft of this statement was prepared by BCS and the text was approved for inclusion in E4E’s submission to the Department for Education’s consultation on the National Curriculum.
The E4E position on Computing in school: every school pupil should encounter Computing because:
- Universal scientific, engineering, mathematical and business principles, concepts and methods can be encoded in formal languages that a human can understand and a digital computer can execute automatically
- The rigorous design and automation of different kinds of machine executable languages is unique to Computing; in particular designing and building languages capable of describing elegant, efficient solutions to hard real-world problems that affect our societal wellbeing as well as our future economic prosperity
- Computing develops a way of thinking about issues, problems and situations that uses the powers of logic, algorithm, precision and abstraction (understanding through analysis and reconstructing from the constituent parts) - it is a scientific, engineering and mathematical approach
- Computing supports economic well-being at the personal (intellectual), vocational (employability), social (stronger work force) and national (more competitive market force) levels
Next Gen Skills
BCS, along with major global corporations such as Facebook and Google, have joined the Next Gen Skills campaign11. The main objective of the campaign is to achieve the introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the National Curriculum.
Royal Society of Edinburgh
The Royal Society of Edinburgh, together with BCS Academy and CAS Scotland, are currently conducting a major case study looking at how to implement the Scottish Curriculum of Excellence in schools. In Scotland, implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the development of new SQA national qualifications provide a timely opportunity to consider the way in which Computing and information science is taught in schools and to provide a vastly more interesting, up-to-date, and engaging experience for both teachers and students.
The exemplification will map out curriculum plans, practical experiences and the breadth and depth of treatment appropriate at each stage, and identify the stages at which fundamental Computing concepts, processes and practices should be introduced and developed. The exemplification will also explore how the curriculum could best prepare and serve those who will not specialise in Computing but for whom knowledge and understanding of the discipline is necessary to prepare them as informed citizens.
The outcome of this exemplification should lead to resources that are valuable for all UK schools, not just those in Scotland.
List of organisations BCS Academy have engaged with
- Altran Praxis
- Cabinet Office
- Campaign for Science and Engineering
- CIHE: Council for Industry and Higher Education
- Design and Technology Association
- Engineering Council
- EPSRC: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
- HEA- ICS: Higher Education Academy, Information and Computer Science centre
- Institute of Physics
- London Mathematical Society
- Metaswitch Networks
- Microsoft Research Cambridge
- Next Gen Skills
- NESTA: National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts
- Royal Academy of Engineering
- Royal Institution
- Royal Society
- Royal Society of Edinburgh
- Science Council
- Scottish Institute of Computing Educationalists
- Software Alliance Wales
- the 2011 Oscar winner for best Visual Effects, Double Negative
- Evaluation of the implementation of the communication of the European Commission E-Skills for the 21st Century, Tobias Hüsing Werner B. Korte, European Commission Oct 2010
- Hidden wealth: the contribution of science to service sector innovation, RS Policy document 09/09, Issued: July 2009 RS1496
- "The Cost of Cyber Crime" March 2011, OCSIA Cabinet Office and Detica.