back to article Want your kids to learn coding? Train the darn teachers first

A number of schools have failed to train their teachers in the government's flagship computing curriculum introduced last year, which was intended to turn Blighty into a nation of coders. One third of 27 secondary schools teaching kids up to and including GCSE level have failed to spend any money training staff in the …

  1. W Donelson

    Cameron and Tories: Do this, do that, no money for you.

    Makes me sick, it's all for show with the scumbag Tories.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cameron and Tories: Do this, do that, no money for you.

      Actually, it's fcvking fault of Labor and the local counsels. THey are more interested in political correctness and allowing South Asians to abuse children than they are about teaching match and English.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Cameron and Tories: Do this, do that, no money for you.

        Actually, it's fcvking fault of Labor and the local counsels.

        Everyone always blames the lawyers!

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

          Re: Cameron and Tories: Do this, do that, no money for you.

          >Everyone always blames the lawyers!

          That will only be 17% of Conservative MPs then.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Cameron and Tories: Do this, do that, no money for you.

        That appears to also have impacted on your ability to spell.

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Shocked, I tell you, shocked!

    "It’s shocking to see such a huge discrepancy in what was said in the run up to the election compared with what these promises have translated to on the ground," he added.

    This must be the first time he's ever met a politician.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's like 1983 again

    "Please sir, you need to type *TAPE first"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's like 1983 again

      > vdu 23,8202;0;0;0;

      >

      "detention for you all unless whoever's taken the cursor puts it back now!"

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    schools and training faculty?

    Brilliant concept, wonder why no one has ever thought of that before...

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: schools and training faculty?

      Because for the most part it doesn't work. The teaching profession is still trying to master the 3R's let alone coding. Education is about indoctrination and it always struggles when it meets reality.

      There is nothing stopping almost any kid in the 1st and 2nd world from learning coding if they so wish. Never have the barriers to entry been so low. If they have a passion to do so then the world is their shellfish. It is a fiction that the kids are not progressing because grubyment has not yet taken them by the hand and led them up the garden path or that grubyment is not yet spending enough of their parents money to entice strangers to offer them candy.

      The kids will teach themselves if the incentives are right; the recognition of their peers (especially for girls), a space to play and a forum to develop. Councils could do far more for teaching kids coding than the central government ever could simply by providing a room, supervision, partnering with a local IT shop or two for guidance & walk-ins and by coordinating news / marketing / competitions and success stories (the kids and the method). If they could carry this program through to mentoring and early incubation then they might even develop local jobs from the initiative.

      This sort of thing but for IT: https://sanfranciscoarthouses.wordpress.com/

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: schools and training faculty?

        "The teaching profession is still trying to master the 3R's let alone coding."

        Teachers are the worst learners... They have a degree and a certificate, they already know it all, or so they would think. Once they get their first JJA award forget about it.

        This is a generalization, but does have a kernel of truth, I was a student once, and I also work in education.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neighbour's son

    Was given some teaching materials and told to work his way through it and he attends a very good local school! His exam result was not good. The "teacher" by all accounts was about the same standard in technology skills as mine were, only my teachers had an excuse, it would 3 years before IBM relased the IBM PC.

  6. Khaptain Silver badge

    Teaching the teachers

    Knowledge : Almost anyone can be taught the basics of coding which they in turn could teach to someone else. Ok let's not begin with a course on Polymorphic Abstraction within the Network layer of a IOT toaster...

    Confidence : Now this becomes a lot more delicate, how do you become confident about teaching something that half the kids don't want to know about and the other half already have more knowledge and experience than you do....

    £4.5m sounds like very little money to even begin scratching the surface ( No, not the MS Surface). Once you remove the backhanders/the kickbacks/the waste and the overtime, the remaining $1.60 would probably be better spent changing the kids home page to point to the "The Register"... They won't learn much but at least they could have a laugh before heading of down to the pub, the one that runs of the BOFH's UPS ....

    It's Friday and I am thirsty, lets hope the Guinness cooler is on that damned UPS too.

  7. Buzzword

    Coding vs Healthcare

    I can't help but notice that the UK also has a critical shortage of doctors and nurses, to the extent that we keep having to pillage the third world for theirs. Yet nobody (except me) is suggesting teaching five year olds how to wield a scalpel. Why on earth not?

    1. Me too
      Pirate

      Re: Coding vs Healthcare

      Simple, they've got transferable skills from the switchblade they've carried since they were weaned.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Coding vs Healthcare

      "to the extent that we keep having to pillage the third world for theirs"

      Um....bluntly: NO

      I've lived in those third world countries at various times in the past.

      People do the medical courses _specifically_ to get jobs elsewhere (because that's where the money is). If the promise of overseas employment wasn't dangled as a carrot (it figures highly in all the adverts) they wouldn't be doing the courses in the first place.

      There's no pillaging involved. The moment the UK and others started restricting intakes, the medical schools concerned saw a significant fall in their enrolments.

      The countries in question export _people_. They regard "remittances" back to home as part of the national economy and overseas workers are regarded as semi-heroes even if they're working illegally and find themselves deported.

      Of course the flipside of people going into these professions for the money is easy to see - it's no coincidence that these nationalities figure highly in patient abuse stats. They're not there for the care aspect of things and they come from cultures where casual violence and elder abuse is the norm (this is an observation from living in such places).

  8. john devoy

    I dropped out of my ICT teaching course when i realised there would be the minimum of the most basic programming involved, it was clear i would be teaching what basically amounted to MS Office for beginners; Incredibly I would also have had to teach things that were patently wrong due to changes in technology, I just couldn't face years of that. It's incredibly unfair to blame the teachers, the bulk of what they teach is dictated to them, they only have leeway in how they teach it.

    1. william 10

      I had the same issue with my son, ended up teaching him to code my self.

      IMHO, the issues is not only with the Politicians but us and the BCS ("Chartered Institute for IT champions") they should be acting as the link between industry, government, universities and schools to ensure the teachers are capable of producing the goods. They should also be helping to finesse the process of School children leaving schools and get IT apprenticeships, they should have an approval system for IT apprenticeships, so that school children can identify the best apprenticeships.

      I have been a member of IPSE (PCG) almost since they started and they provide real value - I keep looking at the BCS and never see any value in the organisation.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I keep looking at the BCS and never see any value in the organisation."

        Political connections and the old boys' club. Being a member adds a certain amount of extra employability.

        1. Andrew Meredith

          "Being a member adds a certain amount of extra employability"

          I beg to differ. I have been a full member for a lot of years and it has made not one demi-jot of difference.

      2. Andrew Meredith

        "I keep looking at the BCS and never see any value in the organisation"

        Mmmm ... snap ... and I'm a full chartered member !!!

    2. Dr Paul Taylor

      New curriculum

      There is a new curriculum for computer science at school, based on an initiative involving universities (especially Birmingham) and various big and small software companies that has been running for several years. I encourage you to take a look and participate.

      See www.computingatschool.org.uk

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Same old same old

    'The Register asked the Department for Education how confident it is that teachers are qualified in the curriculum, and what it is doing to ensure the right capabilities are in place.

    A spokesman did not respond to the specific question, but said the government has provided £4.5m to "make sure teachers have the confidence and knowledge to teach this new curriculum and are engaging leading technology companies to support schools delivering it."'

    Measuring inputs not outputs.

  10. Necronomnomnomicon

    What a coinkydink. One of our guys asked me, today, where his wife (a primary teacher) could learn how to do stuff with a raspberry pi. They'd had a load of pis dumped on them with no hints as to what to do. I was lost as to what to even suggest - mentioned it could be turned into anything from a mini desktop to a weather station to a file server to a robot.

    In the end she settled for learning a bit of Python that she could pass on to the kids. Will hopefully help them create a few games and similar.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Did nobody think of talking to Raspberry Pi foundation?

      Most of their time effort is not on the hardware, but in the production of the educational material and support/training for the teachers. Most of their people do this stuff.

      1. Necronomnomnomicon

        If they did then they failed to communicate it to the teachers on the front line. I've no idea as I'm a general IT guy in no way involved with teaching, but thanks for the info as I've forwarded that on to the people involved. Hopefully that'll help them out more than my suggestions.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "If they did then they failed to communicate it to the teachers on the front line. "

          They almost certainly maildropped every school in the country. It will have got as far as the school reception team or maybe even the school "manager", neither of whom probably knew what to do with it so binned it.

          1. 0laf Silver badge

            Yup. In Scotland it would probably land on the desk of a director of Education who would see "Raspberry Pi" and assume it was something to do with free school meals.

    2. boisvert

      Dumping pis, that's exactly the problem teachers face. A bit of Python sounds a good use for them, although in primary, scratch is probably a better idea. But you don't need pis for these.

      - computer science unplugged has all kind of ways to teach ideas away from the machines, I recommend it.

      - The first lego league is an exciting thing to join in

      - and if there's money and time to do something different, fun and exciting, how about the lilypad arduino?

  11. Otto is a bear.

    Hmmm 25K to teach.

    So, I sign up to be an IT teacher at 25K a year, I only get to keep and improve my salary based on the performance of kids defined by the predicted GCSE grades at age 10 in primary school. If they fail my salary is cut, if they pass, it might be increased.

    (This is actually true, teachers can have their salary cut if their pupils fail to achieve their predicted GCSE grades based on SATs they took at primary school that may bear absolutely no relevance to their GCSE subjects, and take no account of the complete character changes teenagers go through)

    Bugger that for a game of soldiers, I'll do it for real and earn far more than I ever could in teaching as a coding contractor. Why would anyone want to be a teacher, let alone an IT teacher, you are certainly not rewarded unless you happen to be an Academy head. Mrs Bear is an Ofsted rated outstanding teacher, and trust me IT is a doss job compared to teaching.

    1. future research

      Re: Hmmm 25K to teach.

      "Why would anyone want to be a teacher, let alone an IT teacher".

      In the UK those who want to be teachers are motivated by seeing children develop grow in there understand. If financial reward is what you are after UK teaching is not for you. Even then the bureaucracy (now too much box ticking and measuring) can make a good teachers life miserable so they leave a profession.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm 25K to teach.

        "In the UK those who want to be teachers are motivated by seeing children develop grow in there understand."

        When you pay low figures, you find that teaching positions get filled by groups of people pushing agendas.

        30-35 years ago in New Zealand, teachers started noticing a worrying number of fundamentalist christians coming in as trainees and those trainees were hellbent from the outset on pushing their worldview on impressionable young minds.

  12. dotdavid

    One third of 27 secondary schools teaching kids up to and including GCSE level have failed to spend any money training staff in the computing curriculum

    Maybe the staff in those secondary schools already had the requisite skills?

    Okay you can all stop rolling around on the floor laughing and get up now.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dunno for teachers, but ...

    Pro devs, in France, have never been paid to acceptable levels.

    I left this job (with a lot of sadness) in 1998, when I realised the most productive and beautifull job in IT, aka creating software, would never feed you anything best than potatoes.

    it always amazes me I was able to make 4 times more by just stating the obvious as a consultant, or just RTFM and have 2 cents of common sense as an architect.

    World is mad ...

    1. JeffUK

      Re: Dunno for teachers, but ...

      "or just RTFM and have 2 cents of common sense as an architect." .. ityf 2 cents makes you a Senior Architect

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    left hand, right hand

    And yet, when I reply to targetted emails from DoE saying "we want *YOU* to enter the teaching profession", and apply for teacher training, I get turned down. When I see the vacancies still there in Clearing and apply again, I am again turned down.

    If they want more teachers, stop turning away the b****y applicants, especially the ones you specifically target to try and get into teaching.

    1. I'm Brian and so's my wife

      Re: left hand, right hand

      Why do you think that they keep rejecting you / why do you think you're qualified?

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: left hand, right hand

        Blacklist?

  15. billat29

    On the other hand..

    I was in my local primary and the teacher was leading. Now, he has had all of the training that is around and has access to all the materials that have been produced to make a lesson.

    It all went wrong during the lab session using scratch. One kid's effort "didn't work" and the teacher had no clue what was wrong, how to find out what was wrong and... how to get the kid to work out what was wrong.

    So they're not spending enough on training but even so they are assuming that a bit of training can equip your average teacher with the critical thinking skills required to guide the kids through this.

    I really doubt it.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand..

      "They are assuming that a bit of training can equip your average teacher with the critical thinking skills "

      I grew up around teachers.

      Most of them (~75%) have no idea what critical thinking is. They teach by rote because they learn by rote.

      The ones who come via degrees are worse, because whilst they may have critical thinking skills (not necessarily at batchelor level but an absolute requirement for anything higher), they seldom have decent teaching skills.

  16. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    There's an app for that

    Much of the governments interest seems to stem from the occasional youngster creating an app that makes a bit of dosh.

    The idea is that all kids are capable of knocking up apps and making millions. Schools are being prodded to get kids to make apps by the bucketload in the hope that money will be made, the economy popped up and the last 'manufacturing' industry will save us all. (sorry - excite the stock market and make those who spunked our money away even richer).

  17. 0laf Silver badge

    No money bust still can't help themselves from announcing 'initiatives'.

    Not just Westminster by any means just the usual political BS.

  18. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Our local schools...

    ...had an extra day off after the bank holiday for an "In service" day, aka Teacher Training, so that's that little problem sorted out then.

    1. Spamfast

      Re: Our local schools...

      Same here but double. (Knowledge gained from my significant other who is in the trade.) Monday was bank holiday, fair enough. Tuesday was 'inset' day aka teacher training (mostly pep talks from management about how well the school's doing) - kids forced to stay at home, Wednesday teacher IT training day (the system having been 'upgraded' to some new malfunctioning fleece-the-taxpayer-ware during the holidays for no clearly defined reason) - kids to stay at home again. On Thursday only the new intake of kids were allowed in - which isn't a bad idea from the new ones' point of view but nonetheless it means that the school term officially started on the 1st but the vast majority of kids weren't allowed in till the 4th which makes the bleating about parents taking their kids out of school during term time ring a little hollow.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Our local schools...

        That would be because of the need for good attendance figures....to the extent that they would prefer a child to attend school to register, even if that child then has to go/be-sent home again immediately.

        They are not averse to the "fine" for non-attendance-due-to-term-time-holiday though, at £100 quid-a-kid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Our local schools...

        The head mistress of a local primary school near to me tragically died must have been a month or so ago, so at the start of the holidays. So they have decided to delay the opening on the school for a week!? Eh WTF

  19. Hollerith 1

    "make sure teachers have the confidence and knowledge to teach this new curriculum"

    If you have the knowledge, you usually have the confidence. I would rather have a knowledgeable teacher without confidence, as they will usually learn this as they teach, than someone who doesn't really know the stuff but who is sure he or she can do it.

  20. Spamfast

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    There's nothing wrong with teaching a bit of coding - same as we should be teaching a bit of everything else to the young 'uns so they can get an idea of what they might like to do later. And it'd be good if the teachers knew something about it. (Although English teachers even in my day and even more so now, I'm reliably told, don't know diddly about English grammar either.)

    But right now what the UK is lacking isn't the kids who can make a pretty picture appear on the display with some scripting language. Good luck to those who have the imagination to exploit that ability but they are a tiny minority and aren't going to make any significant impact on the UK economy.

    What's missing is engineers - software, electronics and mechanical - who can design the bloody display in the first place, i.e. those that have enough breadth of knowledge of their own and the adjoining disciplines to be effective designers & implementers.

    I despair of the candidates I have to interview who claim to be embedded software engineers but who, often with years of employment on their CVs in defence or mobile comms (adieu Ericsson UK R&D!), have no clue how basic TCP/IP protocols work, let alone transducers, SPI buses, phase locked loops, interrupt controllers. Hell, often they can't even do bitwise logical operations by hand.

    I speak to senior (in both career & chronological terms!) electronic & mechanical engineering colleagues and they express the same frustration in their own fields.

    Meh! I'll be retired and then dead soon enough.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

      Hit the nail on the head, didn't we?

      Coding is like writing English. Its a basic skill needed for our work, we all need to be proficient in it, but at the same time for nearly all of us it isn't our actual work. I've spent most of my career writing real time software, mostly for communications. I've made quite a lot of money from it but invariably the most lucrative work hasn't been stuff I've created but rather the jobs that required me to sort out other peoples' nightmares. Its easy to write really bad code, to cobble something together so it appears to work, but without a really good understanding of what you're doing and why you just make a mess.

      So, yes, by all means teach kids to code. But don't forget to teach them how to measure, plan, build, create, troubleshoot -- all those skills that are needed to solve real world problems.

  21. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    If most educators in Blighty are anything like their US cousins I am not surprised at the failure. Most teachers do not understand computers and as a former instructor you can teach what you do not understand. Money for training for programming will not solve the more fundamental problem. scientific and technical illiteracy.

  22. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Us 'Oldies' could contribute

    There are a good few on us baby boomers who have just retired or are about to retire.

    Some of us have 40+ years in IT behind us.

    Why not let us help?

    Oh wait.

    Criminal checks - we gotta pay to prove that we aren't paedo's.

    Teaching Unions - We aren't qualified teachers so expect strike action as soon as we step into the classroom

    etc etc

    So we take our skills into the coffin.

    Pah.

    I've given some talks about some of the projects I've worked on over the years to children (not in schools) and I know that they can be inspired but doing anything more is just too hard.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Us 'Oldies' could contribute

      I will admit to growing up in middle America. While in High School, for two years, I attended school for half a day, and worked the other half, or so the records*cough*would reflect. Why can't the opposite work?

      When I read article, then this post, I was thinking that normal classes with certified teachers would have special guest "Lecturers", from local industry for an extended educational unit... These lectures' would also be paid for working for their company, and no cost to the schools. Perhaps getting an early scouting report on students with talent that should be supported.

      Professional sports do this don't they?

      In the end, teaching everybody how to code enough to bork a little bit of everything probably isn't a good thing... A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      1. Andrew Meredith

        Re: Us 'Oldies' could contribute

        "These lectures' would also be paid for working for their company, and no cost to the schools"

        Most British SMEs are firmly in the "We don't do training" camp; referring to their own employees. If they're utterly unwilling to develop their own staff, why on earth do you think they would spend time and money training kids ?!

  23. PhillW

    Tories inventing things

    to get public financing that they can shove into their back pocket. beats working for a living.

    "Year of Code was the brainchild of former No.10 Downing Street SpAd Rohan Silva, who now works for venture capitalist Saul Klein. "

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/25/year_of_code_chief_quits/

    Year of code, who's who:

    Rohan Silva Chairman

    Entrepreneur in Residence,

    Index Ventures.

    Saul Klein

    Advisor

    Investor and Entrepreneur.

    James Bilefield

    Advisor

    Digital Entrepreneur,

    Advisor & Investor.

    For 'Advisor' read slurping up public money as fast as they can 'Advise' the Govt to release it.

    These scum will bleed us dry and sod off to their luxury pads, telling us it was all OUR fault that there is no money left.

  24. Simon 15

    I'd love some training!

    Training in schools and especially colleges (where I've worked for the last ten years) is quite 'sparse' to say the least. I've recently returned to working in school teaching again after seeing so much tax-payer's money being haemorrhaged on shiny shiny technology (think iPads for staff and 72" touch-screens used only to display). I'd also suggest that there's a considerable deal of corruption and thereby misuse of any allocated funding in most FE institutions, very little ever seems to filter down to the drones working on the chalk-face.

    I'd consider myself reasonably competent at programming what with having a Software Engineering degree (1st class of course - anything less is a certificate of attendance) and spending much of my own time working on hardware/software projects and thereby using a range of different programming languages. However I am quite unique and most of my ICT/Computing colleagues across the country are more geared towards the ICT (Using Computers) side of things and simply don't want to spend their weekends learning exception handling in Python.

    Another major problem in education is that we are absolutely abysmal when it comes to educating/training each other. In my previous job the college paid a significant amount to have a trainer deliver some rudimentary CISCO network training to a small group of staff when they had an experienced CCAI (me) in the same room already working for them but for some reason hadn't realised this.... Ho Hum. This is just one of many examples. Schools are even worse, there are many teachers who are still terrified to turn on a computer let alone use one. I'm not sure what the answer is, but just throwing more money at the problem wont solve anything.

  25. boisvert

    True, not enough training, but a lot of it is poor anyway

    I teach computing at university, and we have a program supporting secondary teachers locally.

    The problem of lack of training in Computing is not new - for years, IT has been given to untrained people, teachers who need spare hours because there's less demand for their work (or they are useless) (or they teach sports, and someone decided that they have time because there's no marking).

    Having said that, as a specialist who meet teachers who need support, I receive a lot of marketing from companies profiting from this, and selling anything from kits and ready lessons to one-week miracle training courses.

    The thing is, introducing coding in school as a serious activity was never going to work fast. There was a timing opportunity as the tories arrived in government just as we were lobbying for this change, and that speeded up the decision, but training teachers, getting the schools to employ trained people, and rebuilding the credibility that has been ravaged by nearly 20 years of stupid IT takes time. Prof Peyton-Jones, one of the main academics involved in the lobbying for code in school, calls it the "ground war", and it's going to have to be won school by school, headteacher by head teacher.

    If you are in a position to influence this - a teacher, parent, professional - then support

    http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/

    they are free, they don't sell any snake oil, and you'll find contacts and forums to support schools, as well as materials for your classes and events worth asking for support for.

    If you are in the Sheffield area, and you want to know more about what we do, I work at Sheffield Hallam University: c dot boisvert at shu dot ac dot uk.

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