Improving computing provision in schools

Technology is becoming increasingly central to education and improving computing provision within schools depends on several factors, says Becci Peters, computing subject lead at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT
The factors that can improve computing provision in schools are multi-faceted and include teachers, curriculum, extracurricular activities and spreading the good news about all the exciting career paths students could take.
Knowledgeable teachers are essential to the success of computing education in schools, and allocating time for teachers to study CPD courses and get involved in their communities of practice is crucial. The National Centre for Computing Education offers a range of CPD courses to enhance teachers' knowledge and skills. The courses are aimed at specialists and non-specialists to improve their teachers' subject knowledge as part of the Computer Science Accelerator certificate. There's also support with pedagogy, specifically through the Secondary Certificate.
Teachers can join the BCS-backed Computing at School network, a peer-to-peer network comprising thousands of teachers. It is a very active forum where teachers can join groups, live sessions, and contribute to an online forum. They can discuss ideas, and seek guidance on teaching everything from AI and physical computing to interactive 3D environments. It's also an excellent opportunity for individuals to connect with, for instance, others who are teaching the same age range.  
The Computing at School website also has free teaching resources tailored to the English & Scottish curriculum.

Part of the issue is getting students to study computing and digital skills. BCS believes there should be a greater variety of digital qualifications on offer as part of the national curriculum, as currently, 94 per cent of girls and 79 per cent of boys drop computing at age 14. BCS has recently recommended that the government rethink the computing curricula and qualifications to make them relevant for all young people.
Meanwhile, teachers can do much to engage students by going beyond the topics/concepts in the national curriculum by for instance, creating lessons that use fun activities with physical computing using tools like micro:bits or Raspberry Pi or unplugged activities, such as computational thinking or hands-on learning away from computers.
Also, teachers can harness the excitement and curiosity generated by the popularity of emerging technologies, such as AI. Raspberry Pi's Experience AI provides lesson resources for Key Stage 3, designed based on research to offer effective teaching models. The resources help students understand what AI is and how to use it safely. BCS has also recommended that learning about AI should be part of teacher training.
Programming is an area of the curriculum in which many teachers and students struggle. As this is a skill, it requires regular practice and should be covered in every year group and throughout the year rather than just a one-off topic annually. Teachers can identify small programming tasks related to their topic of work and build these tasks into the unit to give students regular exposure to block-based and text-based programming.
In Key Stage 4, students need to understand how changes in technology affect safety, including new ways to protect their online privacy and identity and how to identify and report a range of concerns. Digital literacy is essential for personal and professional success, especially for students not studying GCSE Computer Science.
Extracurricular activities

Schools could do several extracurricular activities to boost engagement with the subject further. These are especially important at Key Stage 3, where teaching time is limited. Getting students involved in code clubs or competitions is a good idea, as this can be a fun way of teaching in groups, where students can learn from each other and win prizes, too.
Regular competitions include Advent of Code (which runs in December), Bebras, which involves computational thinking puzzles and is suitable for 6-18-year-olds (and runs in November), the National Cipher Challenge (which runs September through December), Cyberfirst girls competition (which runs in November) and Project Euler (available year-round). Other schemes include Cyber Explorers (for 11-14 year olds) and the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA).

There are excellent job opportunities in a vast range of tech careers, and, as there is a skills shortage, these jobs have good prospects. Schools can play a pivotal role in signposting pupils to these careers and the various pathways students can take to achieve their dream job, from apprenticeships to degree courses.

It's also vital that computing is not only seen as a career for boys - who currently make up the majority of students at GCSE and beyond. It is essential that students from all backgrounds and genders understand that a career in technology is open to them. BCS has created several videos which can help students learn more about different roles and see young people just like them talking about their real-life stories about their tech careers.

This can inspire a wide range of students and prepare them for future positions that may not yet exist. Career guidance should be an integral part of the curriculum, emphasising problem-solving, project planning, and teamwork skills. This comprehensive approach will help students to be well-prepared for their future careers and contribute to addressing the diversity gap in the tech industry.