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I Belong in computer science: Laura

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A photo of Laura smiling.

We recently caught up with Laura, who has supported her school to complete our I Belong: Encouraging girls into computer science programme, to see how she got on, and why she thinks it's important more students study computer science.

Why do you think it's important for girls to be in computer science?

Why wouldn’t it be? Girls are being disadvantaged in the workforce by not taking Computer Science. England and Wales are made up of 51% females and 49% males therefore the workforce should depict likewise. Taking Computer Science gives students an advantage when it comes to university degree courses, not just in CS or IT, increased number courses are now using computational understanding, for example computational biology, chemistry, and linguistics. Digital, logical and computational skills learnt through GCSE Computer Science will mean that all students taking it will be well placed for their future studies and careers.

Why did you choose to participate in the I Belong programme?

I wanted to raise the profile of females in a wide array of digital technologies for our students and give recognition for the work the Computing teachers have put in, especially over the last five or so years, raising the number of opportunities for girls (and all students) at our school.

How has the encouragement from school leaders influenced the success of the programme?

Fortunately, I lead a large Technology and Enterprise Faculty that includes four specialist Computer Science teachers. This together with a forward thinking and supportive headteacher and senior leadership team has enabled the team to undertake CPD to update and progress our own skills. We discuss as part of our subject development plan and supported when we offer enrichment opportunities for students resulting in cover requirements.

How has the programme helped your school?

Understanding the importance of improving gender balance in all technology career fields start from the classroom. Not only in the teaching content but the way in which we talk about our female colleagues' abilities and skills in front of students, how we approach effective computing pedagogy in all our lessons and how we chose our units of work for KS3 to fit in with our allocated timetabled time.

What aspects of I Belong have resonated with you the most?

Personally, from being an ‘80s O’ level Computer Studies female who was not allowed to touch a computer until we had written, by hand, our C++ programming and had it checked by the teacher. Even then the other three female students and I were only allowed to use the BBC Basic and the boys could use either that or one of the two Commodore 64s! Therefore, the placing parity at the forefront of the curriculum and career education regarding computing and digital opportunities is the main aspect of I Belong that does it for me. It also does this without disadvantaging, it benefits all students.

Could you tell me a bit more about the TECgirls Green Future Jam that your students participated in?

I was at a meeting, in September 2022, for local secondary Computing heads and met Caitlin Gould of TECGirls and Chloe Rickard, Digital Skills Partnership at Cornwall County Council who were after ideas to move into the secondary age range, TECGirls being primary focused up to that point. I spoke to them about an event I had been to back in 2015 by Digi-Girlz that was sponsored by Microsoft, and how it had excited the group of year 9 girls I had taken then many of whom continued to study computing/IT at level 2 and 3. I explained that I thought it would be better pitched at Year 8 students and run at the end of the summer term as this would mean that the girls would be encouraged in Year 9 when they would make their option choices and teachers would have some capacity with exam classes finished. I suggested making a connection with my sister who worked at ServiceNow as sponsor and the students being able to meet relatable females who are in the workplace, I feel, contributes to the success; much like teacher – student relationships improve outcomes.

What about the Teach Computing Curriculum do you enjoy the most?

There is a lot to enjoy about the curriculum, I am a little bias as a specialist teacher. I must add that I like that it offers the balance across all ten strands and each KS/topic/lesson is relatable for the student whilst incorporating cross-curricular contexts.

How has it shaped your students’ future aspirations for computer science?

Back in July 2021 I undertook the Teach Computing – Teaching GCSE Computer Science: improving subject engagement course and wrote a basic 4-year plan on how I was going to engage girls and increase the uptake opting to study at GCSE. The current Year 9 cohort have been the first subjects of said plan, that encompasses I Belong, and I am positively looking forward to the success once they complete their option choices by Easter.

What would you tell someone who is considering signing up to the programme?

Why wouldn’t you want to sign up? I Belong provides advice, support (CPD through Teach Computing) and excellent resources. As teachers we are in the position to have the most impact on our students, the programme will enable you to do just that.

Thanks, Laura!

Check out our page for more information about how you can encourage more girls into computer science in your school.