Microsoft backs teachers programme

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Microsoft is funding a scheme to help teachers with computer science lessons Microsoft is funding a scheme to help teachers with computer science lessons

Technology giant Microsoft is helping to train teachers in computer science ahead of the arrival of the subject on the school curriculum.

The Windows developer has announced a partner scheme with the Computing at Schools Group worth more than £300,000 that will train and support up to 50,000 teachers to prepare them for the introduction of computer science into the national curriculum this September.

The aim of the scheme is to help teachers understand the new subjects, which include computer coding, to make lessons more engaging for students who already have an understanding of technology.

Named 'Countdown to Computing', the initiative will see two training courses created for teachers; one each for primary and secondary school level, as well as include resources for use in the classroom during the first term of the new curriculum.

Zoe Ross, a Computing at Schools (CAS) Master Teacher, said; "The new computing curriculum is so important because it teaches kids valuable skills and approaches such as logical thinking, problem solving and creativity which is useful in many subjects and future careers. It can be great fun if taught well and accessible to everyone."

Master teachers are those who have undergone 120 hours of training at a local university to become regional computer science teachers, and will be available to offer support to teachers when the new lessons begin. The scheme will also give teachers access to resources online as well as over Skype in order to deal with any queries.

"For me, it's all about exciting pupils and getting them to think, be creative and understand how computers works. And that comes with creative pedagogy and good teaching approaches, which is what CAS is all about," said Ross.

Technology multinational Microsoft is supplying the investment for the scheme, with the company saying that it wants to drive technological innovation among British youngsters in order to keep up with the rest of the world.

Michel Van der Bel, the UK managing director of Microsoft, said; "In 2009 a nine-year-old boy from Singapore built an app that has been downloaded more than 800,000 times. In 2013, a seven-year-old girl from Philadelphia became the youngest person to build a mobile game app.

"If we want the next success story to be based in Britain, then we need teachers who have the right skills and the confidence to inspire, support and enable them to do so."

The existing Information Communication Technology curriculum was labelled 'harmful' by Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2012, when he announced it would be scrapped in schools.

"Our school system has not prepared children for this new world. Millions have left school over the past decade without even the basics they need for a decent job. And the current curriculum can not prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change," he said.

The Chancellor George Osborne has pointed to the economic benefits of the curriculum change as a key reason behind its introduction, as well as using industry experts to steer the programme.

George Osborne added: "Making sure our children are equipped with the right skills for the future is a key part of our long term economic plan. The new computing curriculum teaches students not just how to use computer applications but how to write them too, and we need skilled teachers to deliver it.

"So with a field that moves as fast as technology, it is absolutely right we work in partnership with industry. It is great to see Microsoft and the Computing at Schools group backing our new computing curriculum and providing this level of support for teachers.

"Together, if we encourage more of our young people to be producers, not just consumers of digital content, we will keep our technology sectors booming and help build a more resilient economy."

As part of the Budget last month, the Chancellor confirmed a tax break for the UK games industry designed to aid development in the UK, a further indication of the Government's willingness to invest in the technology industry.

Smartphone maker Samsung also recently opened a Digital Classroom at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which will teach Key Stage 2 and 3 children important aspects of maths and science using Samsung devices and the medium of music.

President of Samsung UK Andy Griffiths said at the time that it was crucial the UK harness the power of the so-called 'digital generation'.

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