The Scottish Government has announced a £1.3 million boost for computing science in schools, in a bid to prepare pupils for careers in tech.
Secondaries in Scotland will be given the opportunity to bid for grants of up to £3,000 to purchase additional equipment, devices, software or teaching resources for the subject. Those institutions who also involve their associated primary schools can bid for more.
Every school will also receive two pocket-sized computers that introduce pupils to how software and hardware work together.
In August 2020, former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan’s independent Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review recommended increased investment to improve computing science provision in schools.
Logan, who is a computing science professor at the University of Glasgow, also advised that the subject be taught in year one with the “same focus as maths and physics” as opposed to an “option” in year three year under the current system.
He said: “It’s vital to the future supply of talent into Scotland’s tech sector that Computing Science at school level is elevated to the same level of importance as other STEM subjects.
“The additional funding for Computing Science announced by the Scottish Government and the formation of STACS, which makes teachers major participants in advancing the subject in Scotland, are key building blocks on the way to that goal.”
Toni Scullion and Brendan McCart, part of the Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS), an organisation based at the University of Glasgow to spread best practice in computing science in schools, said: “We are delighted to be appointed as co-leads of STACS. This is an incredible opportunity for computing science and we are looking forward to working with the dedicated teachers across Scotland who are delivering Computing Science in schools.
“This initiative recognises the importance of computing science as a subject in schools and the integral part it plays in Scotland’s ambition for a Digital Nation. Computing science in education has a key role in helping to engage, nurture and inspire the next generation of talent and that journey starts in the classroom.”
The STACS programme, another of the recommendations outlined in Logan’s report, has been set up with a Scottish Government grant of £67,500.
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is essential that we have as many talented young people leaving schools with the skills Scotland’s technology sector and wider economy fundamentally depends upon.
“This investment aims to refresh computing science lessons for learners – equipping them with the skills they need for careers in tech.”
Despite a national focus on digital skills and education, secondary schools in Scotland are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver computing science.
The latest official data shows the number of pupils studying the subject has declined significantly over the past decade, while the gender gap has grown. In 2001 there were 28,393 pupils who sat computing science across all levels, and 9,825 girls. As of 2020 there were 9,873 pupils who took the subject and just 1,895 girls.
Meanwhile, Scottish Government statistics reveal that between 2008 and 2020, the number of computing science teachers in Scottish schools fell from 766 to 595.