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Key Stage 3 and GCSE computer science subject knowledge certificate: Andrea

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Image of Adnrea on the right hand side and text saKey Stage 3 and GCSE computer science subject knowledge certificate: Andrea

Hi Andrea, nice to meet you. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself? What made you change your tech job to a teaching job?

My adventure began in America, where I grew up. At university, I interned at an alternative radio station at a time when music was still delivered via reel-to-reel tapes and scratchy vinyl records were played on-air. This was a time when analogue met digital, it was pre-Internet, and broadcast radio was changing. I was very young and on the cusp of something exciting. At the same time, I was also moonlighting as an assistant editor for a national magazine, where I witnessed the early stirrings of the online world. We “kids” were tasked with editing news stories and uploading webpages in HTML — the magazine’s first foray into the digital realm.

Fast-forward to the late 1990s and I found myself in the UK, in the heart of the dot-com boom. I held various technical and creatively charged roles during this period. From coding to design, I immersed myself in the digital landscape and learned so much on the job. I went freelance and was later hired as an IT consultant at the Department for Education to help launch a website for parents. At the end of this IT project, a kind senior civil servant, who had been a headteacher in her previous life, took me aside and asked me whether I ever considered becoming an ICT teacher. There was a shortage of teachers and my enthusiasm for new technology was noticed. I liked the idea of sharing my knowledge with a younger audience, so I joined a PGCE course in 2003 as a secondary 'ICT' teacher.

Her suggestion caught me at the right moment, where I was still enjoying working in tech, but was (unknowingly) searching for a more meaningful vocation. I’ve now taught ICT, computing, computer science, business and media at secondary schools for the past 20 years and the whole subject has gone through so many changes! No day as a teacher is ever the same.

When did you complete the KS3 and GCSE Computer Science subject knowledge certificate?

I completed the certificate in April 2022. I signed up for it at the start of the school year and wasn’t sure what it was about, and as a busy head of faculty, I ignored the emails for a few months. But then I started attending a few courses and picked up useful tips on how to approach a topic or noted a nifty resource which was shared with us from a NCCE facilitator.

I would also get a buzz every time I earned a badge — I just loved how the system kept track of what I participated in, so I kept at it. It just goes to show that we teachers love a bit of praise and recognition just like our students do!

Why did you decide to sign up for the KS3 and GCSE Computer Science subject knowledge certificate? 

To improve as a teacher and head of faculty, I knew that I needed to carve out some time for my own learning, and I wanted to complete something tangible and useful. After all, I didn’t want to suggest courses to other members of my department and encourage them to complete the certificate if I hadn’t attempted it.

It was also the right time for me to connect with other computing teachers outside of my school and to try out new teaching methods and share ideas. The great thing about these courses is that you can meet people from across the country who may be teaching in different setups, or you can sign up to a face-to-face course and meet with teachers within your own local area. 

How did you find the CPD that you chose to undertake as part of your journey?

Despite the challenges of balancing teaching and department leadership responsibilities, earning the Key stage 3 and GCSE Computer Science subject knowledge certificate proved worthwhile. It contributed to the way I've designed and delivered a high-quality curriculum at our school. For example, when I signed up for the computer processors and instruction set course, it was filled with advice, including useful websites that I could use for further research or to share within my department. 

How has completing the certificate impacted your teaching and strategies in the classroom?

Being part of a community where ideas are shared has expanded my horizons and further strengthened and consolidated what our department teaches. It’s impacted how I approach topics at Key stage 3 level and has changed the order of topics we teach. The learning pathways are clear and understandable, which makes it easier when directing teachers in my department towards useful CPD. As for the pupils, I believe they are experiencing an effective and engaging learning experience as a result. 

What about the relationship with your colleagues?

The certificates and badges are a good way of letting the senior leaders of your school know just how many hours have been spent on your own specialist CPD. It emphasises to others the importance of continuous learning and development in our subject. 

As I mentioned before, I still get a kick out of earning the training badges. It’s proof that I’ve spent hours improving my own knowledge and hopefully I’ve passed some of this knowledge onto my pupils!  My colleagues are now on their own journey, and they’ve begun to choose courses as needed. 

What has been the biggest change in your approach since you completed the certificate?

The most significant transformation I’ve experienced is heightened awareness of inclusive computing. I’ve actively worked to create a more welcoming environment for everyone who enters a computing environment. My goal is to avoid overwhelming students who might feel that computer science is not for them. I want more pupils from all backgrounds to choose computer science as a GCSE option. We are (thankfully) moving away from this idea that computer science is ’hard’ and that only a ‘strong maths’ pupil should sign up for it. There’s more work to be completed in this area, but the certificate and courses are a start.

Additionally, I now feel connected to a broader community, which has positively influenced my approach to the subject.

Would you recommend the certificate to other teachers and if so, why?

Yes, definitely.

The certificate is awarded by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, a recognised professional body. I believe it has bolstered my academic reputation, further enhancing my credibility and that of my department because most people don’t see how much computing teachers work behind the scenes. The certificate is a reminder to us all that the hours have been put in and our subject involves deep learning and constant practice.

The certificate inspires me to encourage my own students to consider careers in computing. I can encourage them to accept that learning never stops, especially in the field of technology. Completing the certificate has equipped me with practical strategies to create a positive impact in my classroom.


Andrea Tyrrell is the Head of Faculty and currently juggling various roles and spinning plates as a mum, teacher, HOF, form tutor, ECT mentor, staff governor, associate PDL and advocate for the NCCE.

To find out more about our Key Stage 3 and GCSE Computer Science subject knowledge certificate, check out our website.