The significance of confidence levels


I was intending that my next post would be a follow-up to this one, but events, dear boy, events!

So, Nesta and The TES commission YouGov to run a  survey on teachers levels of confidence in delivering the new Computing curriculum. They may well have their own motives for asking the particular set of questions, but that does not invalidate the answers. The survey reports that 60% of respondents ” are not confident delivering the new computing curriculum”. Now, I have not seen the raw survey results just the report here, but I have to say that it does not surprise me, confirming both what I would expect to be the case, and my own experience in talking to schools over the past year.

Readers of this blog will be well aware of my thoughts on the new curriculum and the load that it imposes on the ICT/Computing teaching force. A massive change is required. In the interests of full disclosure I would also say that many mistakes have been made in the way that change has been addressed by government. It has acted too slowly and provided too little resource in order make a real difference. It has also directed that resource at groups that are too focused on coding.

Significant amounts of cash have been handed to groups who seem to think coding is something that can be learnt in a day. Overall, one estimate is that £5m has been provided for this retraining. This amounts to around £200 per teacher, including both primary and secondary. Having run large-scale national teacher training programmes I am very aware of how little impact this will make.

This is not a suggestion that those individuals running the training are not providing first class support, and that their delegates are not getting a lot out of the sessions they run. It is just that you cannot transform a non-coder into a teacher of coding on £200.  Many schools will be relying on their staff teaching themselves to code and frankly, for many, this will be the only route.

I am not one who believes that teachers should have formal training courses for everything they are asked to do – being a professional means sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. But this is a significant change to the required skill set. For an indication of how long it takes to turn a novice into a coder take a look here. “Oh, but Mike,” I hear you say, “they don’t need to be professional coders, just to be able to teach children coding.” Well, my answer to that is simple. I don’t want non-mathmaticians teaching children maths. I don’t want non-scientists teaching children science. So why would I want non-coders teaching children coding?

Teachers brave enough to speak about their lack of confidence should be applauded, not criticised. As with many reforms the government has done half the job and then left those at the sharp end to do the rest. This can work with, say maths, where there is no new maths in the curriculum. However, when you mandate the addition of a completely new skill set then I would say it is incumbent on the DfE to ensure that the means to achieve it are provided. It has singularly failed to do this in this case, leaving many schools, teachers, and their students, hanging out to dry.

That’s that out of my system. Back to writing about not coding.


2 thoughts on “The significance of confidence levels

    1. I think the list of things that you can learn well enough in a day to then teach to others is going to be fairly short!

Comments are closed.