There could be no better campaign for the importance of computing science than a global pandemic. As the nation has turned to remote working and online learning, it is clear computing technology plays a vital role in all our lives.
That is why the sharp decline in computing science teachers in Scotland, coupled with the low uptake of the subject among school students, is of such great concern.
The most recent teacher census shows the number of computing science teachers in Scotland has dropped by almost a quarter over the past 13 years, plummeting from 766 in 2008 to 595 in 2020. The persistent gender gap is another problem – girls make up about 20 per cent of computing science students.
As education faces these challenges, the digital skills gap continues to widen. Despite the annual requirement for an additional 13,000 digital jobs in Scotland, the nation is only producing around 5,000 new recruits each year through universities or apprenticeships.
But it is not too late to turn things around. Former Skyscannner chief operating officer Mark Logan’s review of the Scottish tech ecosystem – the recommendations in which Nicola Sturgeon has recently vowed to “fully implement” over the next parliament – has called for computing science to be formally taught from first year at secondary school in the same way as a core science subject such as maths or physics..
Additionally, movements like the Digital Technology Education Charter, which was launched by computing science teacher Toni Scullion in May and has rallied the support of over 110 influencers in the Scottish technology education sector already, are leading the way for constructive change in the industry.
As the country looks to post-Covid recovery, we at Futurescot have conducted research with sector professionals and industry sources to highlight some of the leading figures across Scotland’s edutech scene whose achievements might be harnessed at a national level to inspire the next generation of coding talent.
1 Toni Scullion
Computing science teacher at St Kentigern’s Academy in Black- burn, West Lothian, founder of dressCode, a non-profit committed to inspiring girls into the male-dominated subject, and the creator of the Digital Technology Education Charter – a national movement that was launched last month to “drive change” in the industry – it is safe to say Scullion is doing her bit to safeguard the future of computing science in Scotland.
Mark Logan says: “Toni is truly extraordinary, and one of the most creative, energetic and tenacious people I’ve had the good fortune to work with in my career. Her relentless drive to improve computing science provision in Scottish schools is truly inspiring to pupils, teachers and the wider tech industry. If we want to transform educational outcomes in Scotland, by far the fastest way is simply to ask Toni what she wants to do and what she needs to get it done.”
2 Mark Logan
Author of the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, commissioned by the Scottish Government, Logan, a former Skyscanner executive, has been a catalyst for change in the Scottish technology education sector. The Glasgow University computing science professor’s review sets out 34 recommendations for both education and industry. These recommendations include for more effort to attract computing science graduates into teaching and for an industry partnership with schools to give computing science pupils summer work experience.
3 Bill Buchanan
A computing science professor at Edinburgh Napier University, which last year was recognised by the Na- tional Cyber Security Centre for its commitment to delivering first-rate cybersecurity education, Buchanan is behind an extensive online en- vironment for schools in Scotland
– Bright Red Books – which has over 120,000 registered users. Buchanan, who reached over 4,000 Scottish students in the past year with his virtual computing science lectures, has also won “best lecturer” in the School of Computing at Napier five times since 2011.
4 Toni MacKenzie and Clara O’Callaghan
MacKenzie and O’Callaghan are the senior pupils behind Turing’s Tes- ters 2.0 – a programme supported by dressCode which aims to inspire the next generation of Scottish cyber talent and help close the gender gap. The St Kentigern’s pupils are great advocates of STEM, run national competitions for students, speak at events, including the Women in Tech conference Edinburgh 2019, and have won various national awards for their efforts, such as the “cyber evangelist of the year” at the Scottish Cyber Awards.
5 Charlie Love
Now quality improvement officer – digital at Aberdeen City Council, Love is a former computing science teacher who provides advice to the Scottish Government as part of the digital learning and teaching programme. In 2006, the curriculum innovator set up CompEdNet – a “hugely valuable” online community for Scottish computing science teachers, which he still runs. He led Aberdeen City’s digital learning response to the pandemic, which included use of live lessons with Google Workspace, and developed guidance for the use of video for learning which was shared nationally.
6 Judy Robertson
Computer scientist and learning technologist at Edinburgh University, Roberston is chair in digital learning at the institute’s Moray House School of Education and a keen advocate for computing science at schools, responsible for several initiatives.
7 Gib McMillan
Under McMillan’s innovative leadership as headteacher, Newbattle High School in Dalkeith, has become Scotland’s “first” digital centre for excellence with close links to industry.
8 Nicola Orr
A primary teacher at Condorrat Primary School in Cumbernauld, Orr produces videos of industry experts answering questions about their jobs to help inspire pupils across the country into STEM.
9 Tony Harkin
Head of computing science at St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow, Har- kin compiles Computing Science Scotland in his spare time – a free magazine for teachers delivering the subject in Scotland.
10 Lewis Binnie
A final year student at St Kentigern’s Academy, Binnie has designed infographics in his free time to help inspire pupils into computing science.
11 Stephen Stewart
Head of computing science at Lochaber High School, in Fort William, Stewart is the creator of Smart School – a programme helping Scottish schools to make “great use of digital tools”.
12 Darren Brown
A computing science teacher at Inverness High School, Brown is behind Computing Science Scotland Google Drive, a “gold mine” of resources for teachers.
13 Debbie McCutcheon
Manager of Skills Development Scotland’s “tech industry in the classroom” project, part of the wider Digital World programmes, McCutcheon drives the relationship between students and industry to inspire uptake in digital careers.
14 Fiona McNeill
Reader in computing science at Edinburgh University and lead of the Scottish Computing Science Committee, McNeill is a leading advocate of the subject in schools.
15 Brendan McCart
A computing science teacher of 35 years, McCart turns the latest trends in computing science into engaging lessons. When he first learned to program, he had to write Fortran code by hand on squared sheets and wait a week for the output.
16 Sinéad Flanigan
Computing science teacher at Uddingston Grammar in South Lanarkshire, Flanigan launched the NPA cyber security course at her school and delivers it to 33 students.
17 Fraser McKay
Computing science teacher, McKay is the founder of Computing Science Scotland Meets – an online “teach meet” for teachers where they can share ideas and resources.
18 Jayne Mays
A teacher at Fintry Primary in Dundee, Mays is a driver of digital innovation who runs a free coding club and is heavily involved in the “young STEM leader” programme.
19 Molly Plenderleith
An S4 pupil at St Kentigern’s Academy passionate about cyber security, Plenderleith has created a website – Reboot the Rules – with free cyber resources for primary school teachers.
20 Karen Meechan and Nicola Crawford
Meechan, interim chief executive of ScotlandIS and Crawford, programme director at Developing the Young Workforce Glasgow, are currently collaborating on a new initiative, “critical friends”, to support teachers delivering computing science and bridge the gap between industry and schools.
21 Declan Doyle
Head of ethical hacking at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, Doyle is responsible for managing students enrolled in Abertay University’s ethical hacking course.
22 Dr Ella Taylor-Smith and Dr Matthew Barr
Senior research fellow at Edinburgh Napier University and computing science lecturer
at Glasgow University, Taylor-Smith and Barr are the co-founders of ADA Scotland – an annual festival that addresses the gender imbalance in computing science education.
23 Craig Steele
Director at Digital Skills Education, Steele is the creator of “cyber skills lessons” which are “a hit” with teachers and pupils. He works closely with Digital World and leads CoderDojo Scotland – a network of free coding clubs
24 Dr Quintin Cutts
Professor of computing science education at Glasgow University, Cutts helps run various innovative initiatives, including PLAN C – a training programme for computing science teachers.
25 Martin Beaton and Evelyn Walker
Beaton, Edinburgh satellite manager at EIT Digital, and Walker, a digital and cyber educator, have encouraged countless pupils into cybersecurity by helping to run the annual national “Christmas Cyber Lectures” event.
26 Kraig Brown
Partnership and development manager at Digital Xtra Fund, Brown promotes digital skills and careers among young people in Scotland. He previously worked at Edinburgh Science where he raised funds for school STEM outreach programmes.
27 Gillian Docherty
Chief executive of The Data Lab, Docherty helps run an annual initiative alongside the innovation centre’s Data Fest event to inspire young girls into computing science.
28 Greg Reid
Former computing science teacher and now subject implementation manager of computing science at the SQA, Reid is a creator of innovative teaching resources and author of several books on the subject.
29 Hattie Chandler and Tanya Howden
Chandler, strategic programme manager at Hearts FC and Howden, learning experience designer at Robotical, have teamed up to deliver a free coding club for children.
30 Alan Torrance
Executive director at JP Morgan and founder of Make It Happen – a charity that aims to encourage primary school children into computing science.
Organisations shaking up computer science in Scotland
This charity supports Scots under 19 to learn code and opens their eyes to the possibilities presented by programming.
A non-profit that encourages girls aged 11 to 13 into computing science with lunchtime coding clubs to help close the gender gap.
CodeBase Stirling – LevelUP
This digital skills strategy for under-18s inspires and supports young people to develop a range of digital skills including programming.
An annual technology design challenge hosted by JP Morgan for female students studying National 5 mathematics and interested in a STEM career.
This organisation runs hub events for students to learn about STEM career opportunities while taking part in workshops and activities.
Digital Xtra Fund
A charity that provides grant awards to organisations delivering extracurricular computing and digital tech activities to young people across Scotland.
Part of a global collaboration that provides free coding clubs for young people, this initiative teaches kids to become great programmers.
Digital Inventors Challenge
This annual competition focuses on using technology to improve health and gives secondary pupils the opportunity to pitch innovative ideas