How CPD changed my career
Computer Science teacher Annie Cuffe Davies tells us about her transformative journey through the Computer Science Accelerator, and the impact it's had on her and her school.
Why did you decide to do the Computer Science Accelerator?
I’ve been teaching ICT and computing for a few years now. I’ve taught key stage 3 and GCSE, but I was employed on a temporary contract at my school. I wanted to have the confidence to teach computer science at GCSE and to get myself a permanent contract, but I also wanted to be part of the new revolution in computer science, and to do projects to get everyone involved in it at key stage 4, so the Computer Science Accelerator programme was perfect for me. I had big aspirations!
What was it like getting started with the programme?
I completed the diagnostic test at the start of the programme - I was a bit nervous about finding out all of the things that I didn’t know. We do this to children all the time, but when we test ourselves, we want to get it all right! But the test was fantastic – it got me thinking and it helped me see where the gaps in my subject knowledge were. When I realised what I didn’t know, I wanted to fix it: I wanted to be able to deliver GCSE computer science to my students and to help my colleagues too.
I chose to do seven courses in total. I did more than I had to, because the courses were just outstanding. The combination of online and face-to-face courses was ideal. You need both to be able to cover a subject as broad as computer science.
How did you find the courses that you chose to undertake?
The experience of doing the face-to-face courses was amazing. We were treated like royalty! The lecturers were so passionate about their subjects, and the resources they gave us were exceptionally brilliant. The sessions were pitched at exactly the right level. Everyone was catered for, whether you had plenty of computer science experience or none at all.
The online courses allowed me to study at my own pace. I could go back over topics as many times as I wanted, and I could ask questions if I needed to. Where there was content I was less confident about, I had the time to explore it in more detail.
The combination of courses that I picked worked really well and there were good links between them. The algorithm course helped me to understand the thinking behind some of the programming content, for example. The computer science GCSE specification is so big, and there is so much subject knowledge to learn, but there are links everywhere.
I took away so many ideas about how to make computer science tangible and relevant for my students, and ways to get them to use it to problem solve and to make them think.
At the end of the programme I sat the final test, and I passed. If I’d have taken it at the start, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it! The programme gave me a genuine opportunity to increase my knowledge, and it worked.
What has completing the programme done for you?
Completing the Computer Science Accelerator has honestly changed my career. It has given me the confidence to do so many new things. Since finishing it, I have been for interviews for computer science jobs, including a position in Munich teaching across primary and secondary free schools, which I got. But when I told my headteacher that I’d been offered the role overseas, she offered me a permanent contract to stay at Rutlish School! I was delighted - it wouldn’t have been possible without the NCCE.
I’m now running lots of coding clubs in school and there has been such a great response. I use the clubs to engage my students in the huge range of potential careers computer science can offer. The students are all starting to see the value of computer science in different places, whether that’s in making, building, gaming or problem-solving. They’ve said to me that they’ve found what they have learned with me useful in other subject areas too, and some students have told me that it’s improving their focus at school. We have also seen a really big increase in the number of students wanting to study GCSE computer science, which is exciting.
How did the Computer Science Accelerator programme impact on your school?
The bursary has had a real, visible impact. We have been able to invest in our department, getting laptop computers for our students and robots for our coding clubs. We’ve also now got so many resources for our lessons that have come from all of the courses I took, which my colleagues are using now too.
I thought that the programme was going to be hard, but the support mechanisms were there all the way through. I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy it, but it really changed my mode of thinking. It was exciting, and genuinely engaging.
I can’t wait to be able to have my own GCSE computer science class, and I want to support other schools with their key stage 4 teaching too. It has been a fantastic journey!
To start your own professional development journey, go to teachcomputing.org/cs-accelerator.