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Transforming the way computing is taught

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Since 2018, the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) has been dedicated to improving the way computing is taught across schools in England. From upskilling teachers to inspiring students into the fulfilling careers a high-quality computing education can lead to, the NCCE has been an integral part of the STEM Learning’s 20 year journey in improving lives through STEM education – a celebration of the impact for everyone involved.  

It all started with the Royal Society’s publication of the ‘After the reboot: computing education in schools’ report that made 12 key recommendations. To address those, the NCCE supported by the Department for Education has been established and began its work in November 2018.  

At that time, more than 81,000 students across England entered computing subjects at A level and GCSE. In 2023, this had increased to over 109,000 students. With the dedicated work of the NCCE, computing continues to attract growing numbers of students, with provisional GCSE entries up 6.2% on summer 2023 and A level entries up 11.8%. Our impact shows that in the last 12 months alone, the NCCE has reached approximately 6.5 million English students.  

Dave Gibbs, Education Strategy Lead at STEM Learning, said: “The continued growth of computer science as a study choice for young people is extremely encouraging - not just in schools but in universities too. The value of computer science to those studying it is immense, opening up a world of opportunity. We're working hard to make these opportunities available to all young people.”  

With more students choosing to study computing, it is now more important than ever to ensure we have teachers equipped to support them in acquiring knowledge to progress into high-demand careers in the world of computer science. In the last 12 months, the NCCE delivered over 3,000 face-to-face and remote professional development courses to teachers across the country, and over 2,600 teachers have enhanced their computer science subject knowledge through training delivered as part of the certification offered by the NCCE and awarded by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. 

To support more schools on their journey to offering excellent computing education to all young people regardless of background, the Computing Quality Framework was established in spring 2022 and has now engaged over 2,000 schools.  

The framework helps schools track and review their progress in developing an exemplary computing curriculum by providing a process for identifying strengths and areas for development and receiving tailored support from the NCCE to address those. This engagement results in schools achieving a Computing Quality Mark showing their commitment to offering exemplary computing education. Over 70 schools have been awarded the Mark in the last year alone.  

Robert Cowling, Headteacher at Fosse Way Academy, said: “Going through the CQF allowed us to align our computing curriculum with national standards and best practices. This has ensured that our pupils receive a comprehensive and up-to-date education in computing that meets or exceeds established benchmarks”. 

Female entries in A level Computer Science have more than doubled since the start of the NCCE, but there is clearly still a long way to go as in 2023 that only accounted for 15% of all entries, and at GCSE only 1 in 5 entries were from girls. On a mission to change this, in September 2023 the NCCE has launched a high-impact programme, I Belong: encouraging girls into computer science. 

The programme is evidence-informed and helps teachers and leaders understand the barriers to girls’ participation in computer science and make a plan to overcome them. Since its launch, over 1,600 teachers from approximately 1,400 schools have signed up, showing commitment to improve equity and diversity within computing education and further.  

The NCCE has been on a journey of making a positive impact on the lives of teachers, students and the industry. With the launch of the Computing Ambassadors volunteering scheme, new careers support resources including computer science careers videos and the delivery of over 100 Computing Clusters in the last 12 months, there are more things to come for the NCCE and we are excited to see what the future holds.