Laura Burt, head of computing at The Maynard School in Exeter explains how Computing at School (CAS) has helped her to successfully transition from ICT to computing.

When Laura Burt, a former secondary ICT teacher and local authority ICT advisor, re-joined frontline teaching after the birth of her daughter, things really had changed. ICT had been dis-applied and a brand-new subject had been introduced. Laura, was playing catch-up along with 75,000 other new ‘computing’ teachers.

Laura explains that ‘the extent of the difference between ICT and Computing is often underestimated by both senior leadership teams and other colleagues; not only was the subject knowledge completely different but the extent to which students joining us in year 7 had any prior knowledge in the subject was extremely broad depending on the extent to which they had experienced any computing in their primary school.’

Most computing teachers have a background in ICT, but it’s highly unlikely that they have any experience of coding or programming, or any computing background at all. Despite this significant transition and with school budgets so tight, opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) and training for computing really need to be free and accessed in the teachers own time.

However, there is now a new wave of newly qualified teachers who are qualified as ‘computing’ teachers, but as Laura points out ‘we need to ensure that they aren’t ‘too intense’ and don’t put students off by delivering an overly complex view of computing, it needs to be relevant to the real world. This is a subject that is still very new to most students too.’

Our local network has proved invaluable

My local Computing at School (CAS) Hub has proved invaluable. Here I have been able to access free CPD from local colleagues alongside input from a range of experts. I initially became a CAS Lead School as I wanted to make sure that I kept our Schemes of Work up to date and this means that I must be aware of new resources and keep things current.

I then became Hub Leader for the Exeter Hub. Teachers from both Primary and Secondary schools are encouraged to attend, and we have also had colleagues from FE join too. Everyone who attends is keen to share ideas and good practice and we’ve formed some excellent working relationships as a result. The coordination from CAS is important in ensuring that the networking opportunities exist in the first place.

Barefoot has been brilliant!

Many Primary teachers have expressed a fear of the subject, as they simply don’t have the time to learn an entirely new discipline. But to help we’ve hosted a couple of Barefoot workshops which have been brilliant. They were both well-attended and much appreciated.

Barefoot is aimed at teachers right across the primary school, and not just subject specialists. The resources (all pre-made and easy to follow) are great. Barefoot offers different levels of challenge (both for staff and students!) which is much needed. There are still many schools that are unaware of Barefoot and once they learn about it, they think it’s brilliant, and whilst it is predominantly a Primary school programme there’s a lot that secondary subject teachers can take from it too.

Next academic year will see Laura’s school, The Maynard School, an all-girls independent school in Exeter, offer Computer Science GCSE for the first time. 13 students have opted to take the qualification and Laura and team are rightly proud of the uptake.