Graduates are to be offered £20,000 scholarships to train as computer science teachers in an initiative launched by the government and backed by companies including Microsoft and Facebook.
The move is part of a package of reforms aimed at overhauling computer science education, giving children the skills to write programs rather than simply focusing on word processing skills.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, announced on Friday that current information and communications technology teacher training courses will be axed from next year. Instead, ministers will offer scholarships worth £20,000 to attract high-achieving graduates to train as computer science teachers.
Teachers and industry leaders are concerned that the way ICT is currently taught in schools leaves children bored and learning little beyond the most basic digital skills.
Under the new measures, industry experts have set out the subject knowledge required of all new computer science teachers. This includes being able to demonstrate an understanding of key concepts such as algorithms and logic.
The new teacher training courses will begin next September, when around 50 scholarships will be available to applicants with a 1st or a 2.1 degree.
Gove said: “Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.
“If we want our country to produce the next Sir Tim Berners-Lee – creator of the internet – we need the very best computer science teachers in our classrooms. They need to have the right skills and deep subject knowledge to help their pupils.”
The government also announced that about 500 existing teachers with an ICT background would receive training to teach computer science. About half of these will be expert teachers who will share their skills and knowledge with other teachers. A network of computer science teaching excellence will forge links between schools, universities and employers. Computer science departments at universities including Cambridge, Manchester and Imperial College have already signed up, as have Microsoft, BT and IBM.
In January, Gove scrapped the existing programme of study for ICT in schools to make way for new lessons designed with input from employers and academics.
Ian Livingstone, chair of the Next Gen Skills campaign, which lobbies for better computer science teaching, said: “Having dedicated, high-calibre computer science teachers in schools will have a powerful effect. They will enable children to be creators of technology rather than being simply passive users of it. Whether it’s making games, fighting cybercrime or designing the next jet propulsion engine, computer science is at the heart of everything in the digital world.”
The British Computer Society, the professional body for IT, said schoolchildren needed an “intellectually rigorous” computer science education.
Dr Bill Mitchell, director of the BCS Academy of Computing, said: “Our vision is for every secondary school to have outstanding computer science teachers.”
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