Claire Davenport, BCS Academy of Computing Education Outreach Manager, details how the academy is helping teachers deal with the change to school’s curriculum with the addition of computing and also looks at the work of a Computing At School (CAS) hub.

In the academic year 2014-15, computing was introduced into the National Curriculum at primary and secondary level. Many teachers who have no prior knowledge of computing have been asked to teach computing concepts and basic programming.

To meet this need Computing At School (CAS) group, part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, offered low cost continuing professional development (CPD) through its Master Teacher programme to these teachers thanks to a DfE funding grant and also, every term, support of face-to-face CAS Hub group meetings to offer the opportunity for free, twilight, informal networking sessions hosted by teachers, for teachers at their own schools.

The CAS hub network to date, comprises 156 hubs, of which 29 are dedicated Primary CAS Hubs, representing regions throughout the UK and also internationally. One of these Primary Hub groups is the CAS East Suffolk Primary group run by Bob Higham, BCS Member, in conjunction with Caroline Moore, IT Co-ordinator at Woodbridge Primary School.

Caroline Moore, who is also co-Hub Leader of CAS East Suffolk Primary Hub, has appreciated working with Bob Higham in his role as a school governor and at the hub: ‘Having an IT professional with such expertise and enthusiasm involved in the school as a governor has been invaluable to me as the IT co-ordinator, the rest of the school staff, the hub group members for the development of computer science and, most importantly, the children’.

As a governor he has helped in the following ways:

  • developed the hardware acquiring rebuilding and updating computers all-round the school;
  • installing a wireless network (at the fraction of the cost of commercial providers);
  • helping strategic thinking about the purchase of new equipment and how it will fit the network, and being proactive on how this all works including the school website and working with the PTA;
  • working with children in the classroom to get people started, supporting and advising staff
    running Code Club and CoSpace, and supporting children through expert questioning;
  • designing new projects for children to become involved in, like time-lapse photography with RaspberryPi. This has resulted in some children getting their own Pi, both boys and girls;
  • being able to develop projects outside the Code Club remit, to develop higher order skills;
  • networking - encouraging links with other professionals, including a high school and BT. Through Bob we were able to trial Barefoot resources whilst they were being developed and the Beta version of Junior SCRATCH;
  • raising awareness of developing issues and new developments/ technologies in the field;
  • presenting parent sessions on CS and e-safety (e-safety governor as well as chair) addressing e-safety issues as they arise, such as the security of the network and internet behaviours of the pupils.

CAS Hub activities

Bob has been the main creator of the East Suffolk Primary Hub, supporting teachers from a wider network. The hub has hosted a number of training sessions from Introducing Barefoot Resources with BT to sharing good practice.

We also had a Google Hangout with Phil Bagge, Primary Computing expert from Hampshire. These sessions have given starting points for all those attending, encouraging a have a go attitude and providing free resources. It has definitely had an impact on some hub group members, encouraging them to start their own Code Club at their schools and in one case becoming a specialists teacher in a small primary school.

Shared Pi Hack Days and other links with Kelly Abbot, CAS Master Teacher at Kesgrave High School, have encouraged teachers and pupils alike from a wider network. The involvement of STEM Ambassadors has provided even more expertise. We held a very useful QuickStart Training session that enabled teachers to go back and train their own staff. CAS provided Raspberry Pi’s for schools to use in activities.

Whilst we have made a move to implement the new computing curriculum, there are still significant challenges:

  • government policy: The future is uncertain and schools are unsure how they are to be held accountable in the future;
  • conflict with other priorities - especially in small schools with limited resources;
  • funding - with prospective cuts in real terms to education, how can individual schools afford more expensive kits like Lego Wedo which would engage the children further. Could the CAS Hub share these?;
  • an outline scheme of work based on barefoot resources would be useful to promote them further.

What other teachers say about the CAS Primary Hub

Alyson Videlo, a teacher at Waldringfield Primary School praised the CAS East Suffolk Primary Hub, led by Bob: ‘Being able to share ideas, and possibly in the future, equipment, has been of real benefit. I have enjoyed our meetings and feel energised to try something different when I get back to school, knowing that if I get stuck I have help at the other end of a phone or email.’

Bob Higham

What is your involvement in CAS? What do you do? What are you getting out of it? Why you decided to do it? Why is it important to work with CAS?

I can’t quite remember why I decided to get involved in setting up the Hub to be honest. In 2012 we had been chosen by Code Club to be one of the 10 pilot schools for its roll out programme, which had obviously sparked off the initial interest in the school.

At the same time I joined the CAS community and the proposed changes to the curriculum had been announced, but my recollection is that East Anglia, and notably Suffolk and Norfolk didn’t seem to have much activity when compared to the rest of the UK.

I first talked to BCS about the prospect of setting up a hub in Suffolk in early 2013. We talked to a few people in the east of the county, at both primary and secondary levels, and in the end determined that the needs of primary teachers were sufficiently different to warrant a separate hub for primary.

There are now three active hubs in Suffolk and I am talking to teachers in the North of the county about a primary Hub there. I am the Hub Leader for East Suffolk Primary CAS Hub, which is primarily an organising role. We try to run at least one twilight session for primary teachers each term, which includes CPD and networking activities.

We also jointly run a termly Raspberry Pi Jam with the Secondary Hub for KS2 and KS3 pupils and teachers on a Saturday at Kesgrave High School with lots of help from local STEM ambassadors. We also run ad hoc CPD events if requested by CAS members.

Alongside that I try to disseminate information around the network and I am trying to encourage the use of the local CAS discussion group. I also offer assistance to schools if needed, either from myself or using the network of contacts that we are slowly building. Of all these initiatives the Pi Jam days are probably the most successful and have been beneficial to both pupils and teachers alike.