It is disheartening to see that there has been a drop of 10 computing science teachers in the recent teacher census, which is now the lowest number of computing science teachers recorded.

It is important to note that challenges to recruitment are not unique to Scotland. Recruitment of computing science teachers remains one of the biggest challenges for the subject’s growth across schools and for equity of access to all pupils. This is, of course, a blow to the subject, but I still remain optimistic that it is something that can still be turned around and fixed, and there are a number of initiatives that could be implemented to help in this area.

I recognise that this is not a simple problem to solve. The figures show the current approaches aren’t working; it is getting harder and harder. We know that we are fighting for the same talent pool as industry, and there are undergraduates employed in the third year of university, so we must actively promote it as a career option to all undergraduates, have a presence at all university careers fairs, and create opportunities for undergraduates to get a taste of teaching and see how rewarding and great a job it can be.

Targeting computing science undergraduates is not enough. We must widen the net to include maths and physics undergraduates who would be eligible to enroll in a PGDE computing science course. There are lots of opportunities for us to be creative around this space. We know that geographical barriers exist with PGDE in computing science full-time in person courses being offered at 3 universities, 2 of which are in the same city, in comparison to 7 or 8 universities for other traditional STEM subjects.

There is a virtual PGDE course that can be completed in a year but is limited to specific councils so the framework already exists so potential to open that to all councils but we need a strategy to actively promote this. There are lots of other ideas that could be tried, such as we know there are teachers that are delivering computing science but are not specialists in the subject and there is the Additional Teaching Qualification course that already exists along with STEM grants.

We could be a bit creative and direct some of the STEM grant funds or something similar towards teachers who are already delivering computing science and package the ATQ course or something similar that can be completed in a year to potentially entice more secondary teachers to retrain and allow the teachers who have already delivered computing science to backdate that as practical hours needed to qualify.

That’s just a few but there are a lot of other things that we haven’t tried yet and we need to try. I don’t think one thing will fix it, it is going to require a strategic series of interventions targeting various potential computing science teachers across lots of different pathways. We must go out and actively find the 50 odd teachers we need each year. We are only talking about a small number that is needed each year to allow the subject to grow and thrive and allow equity of access for all pupils.

By fixing the challenges at the grassroots level and nurturing computing science in schools, Scotland can have a healthy tech talent pipeline. I believe it is entirely fixable, but we need to act now; we can’t wait any longer. I have a list of ideas that could be tried, and I’m sure there are many others with lots of ideas. Scotland is filled with creative individuals, and teachers with lived experience of some of the potential barriers and likely some solutions.

It is also vital that we are nurturing and supporting the computing science teachers that we have and let them know how special they are. Bringing together this community ensures that single-person or small departments do not feel alone and have the whole community to lean on and access for support. This is an area Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS) are working on and we have a few initiatives in the pipeline on this space.

Recruitment is a huge challenge, but it is something we need to face head-on, come together to solve it and try multiple different approaches.