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Exclusive: UK faces severe shortfall of computer science teachers

30 Jan 2013
Students and teacher working with computer

"ICT has over the years traditionally recruited late, but this looks even worse than last year, with a 41 percent drop in applicants and many providers not meeting targets," said an ITTE mid-January newsletter, seen by V3.

"SKE has historically been important for recruitment, but last year's uncertainty and late allocations meant numbers are down, which will impact on this year's PGCE recruitment to Schools Direct and core PGCSE."

Carl Simmons, computer science subject co-ordinator for Edge Hill University in Lancashire, told V3 there had been large cuts in allocation numbers for undergraduate SKE computer science teacher training courses.

"All places nationally have been cut - this is a real blow to us at Edgehill as we usually recruit at least 25 students. We had already interviewed many promising A-level students when the decision came through," said Simmons.

"I think it's a travesty that A-level students who see teaching IT as a vocation have no direct route into IT and so will possibly choose another initial teacher training (ITT) subject."

Meanwhile, a computer science co-ordinator for a London-based university said, "We were allocated 40 places in 2011 and recruited 45, 25 places in 2012 and recruited 10, and 15 places in 2013 - but so far I have received only one application."

Another institution in the Midlands said its computer science teacher-training course could not run because it did not receive a single suitable application. A Russell Group university said the same.

A further six UK universities reported similar findings to the ITTE that computer science PGCSE and SKE courses had to be axed because of the confusion over allocations at the end of last year, and the resulting lack of applicants. V3 has seen a copy of each report.

The poor state of ICT teacher training has not been lost on lecturers of other subjects.

Bethan Marshall, a senior lecturer in English education at King's College London raised the issue on a teaching website.

"The [courses] that have been most severely cut are all those that do not appear on education secretary Michael Gove's English Baccalaureate. ICT, which was big in the days of the last government, does not appear in the EBacc and now it has had its places on the PGCE almost halved. The £9,000 bursary that students got, to encourage them to teach, has also disappeared," said Marshall.

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