Campaign calls for new teacher-training 'infrastructure'

Child using computer Next Gen Skills is an alliance of groups who want UK schools to teach world class computing skills

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The UK needs a new "infrastructure" to support the teaching of computing in schools, the chancellor has been told.

Leading education and industry groups have signed a letter asking George Osborne to fund new computer training for teachers.

Next Gen Skills, which organised the call, said teachers would need support ahead of possible curriculum changes.

The government is consulting on a new flexible curriculum more focused on computer science and programming.

Ahead of this year's budget on 21 March, the letter asks the chancellor: "To support the development of a new computer science and information and communications technology teaching infrastructure... so the UK can truly take advantage of the curriculum reforms proposed in January this year by the secretary of state for education."

Backers of the letter include UKIE - representing the UK games industry - NMI, the trade body of the UK semiconductor industry, and the British Computer Society.

Next Gen Skills, an alliance of IT industry and education groups that campaigns for better computer education in schools, said that they were not asking for a specific amount of money; how much was needed would be a matter for the Department for Education.

But they said curriculum change had to be adequately funded: "If the government is to realise its ambition to make computer science in our schools 'sufficiently rigorous' it needs to invest more resources on a new generation of teachers and help upskill existing ones - through continuing professional development," said Next Gen Skills Theo Blackwell.

Changing curriculum

Following a high-profile campaign by members of the UK digital industry, the government announced earlier this year it would replacing the current ICT curriculum with a more flexible one placing greater emphasis on programming and core computing skills.

Announcing those changes, Michael Gove said: "We will be looking at initial teacher training courses carefully in the coming year so that teachers get the skills and experience they need to use technology confidently."

The letter writers argue that developing those skills must be a priority: "The Royal Society has concluded that there is a shortage of teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy, with only 35% of ICT teachers holding a relevant post-A-level qualification in the subject."

The letter asks the chancellor to ensure that computer science teachers training is well funded: "We urge you to reflect this in the 2012 Budget by providing appropriate support for a new generation of professional information and communications technology and computer science teachers."

Unions echoed the call for training support for teachers. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, told the BBC: "It is very important for teachers to have access to sufficient training in IT skills and for this to be an ongoing process, not something which ends after initial teacher training."

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