Implementing the new computing curriculum

One of the hardest challenges faced by coordinators is getting staff (and pupil) buy-in to new curriculum changes. Guest blogger, Sarah Brown from Wilbraham Primary School in Manchester,  shares some of her experiences regarding implementing the new computing curriculum which will hopefully give you some ideas to use in your approach. 

I work in a large inner-city school in Manchester with 3 classes per year group, from Nursery to Year 6.  I was given the challenging task of ensuring the new computing curriculum was implemented and taught to a high standard by 24 teachers with varying knowledge, confidence and enjoyment of the subject. 

ON YOUR MARKS! – Identify Initial Barriers to Success 

  • FEAR! Fear of breaking the computer; fear of explaining it incorrectly and fear of the children knowing more!

  • Confusing vocabulary – algorithms, debugging, and computational thinking for starters!

  • Lack of knowledge (colleagues and myself!) in areas other than Word, PowerPoint and using the Internet.

GET SET! - Behind the Scenes 

Before I started to train my colleagues, I had to ensure there was a firm foundation to build on. 

  • I ensured we had a clear planning framework in place that I was confident would cover all the National Curriculum objectives. I opted for Rising Stars Switched on Computing as we have previously used their ICT framework and it was a familiar format.

  • I looked through the planning and ensured that the technician installed all the necessary software that would be needed for each year group. I also made sure that all the other resources and equipment (programmable robots (BeeBots, ProBots), cameras, mp3 recorders etc) were in full working condition and that there were enough for a full class lesson.

  • I looked at the gaps in my own understanding and confidence and worked on these. I went to ICT conferences and played with Raspberry Pi’s, I went on training for Scratch, I started to help out at a local CoderDojo, I joined Computing At School and attended local hubs.  

  • I created a staff audit on Google Forms that asked colleagues to rate their understanding and confidence for each NC objective for their own Key Stage. I used the results of this to identify the gaps in each key stage (all were in programming, as expected!).

  • From the audit results I set myself an end goal for the year, a clear and simple target that would keep me focused – to improve the confidence of teachers with the new Computing curriculum with a focus on programming.

GO! – Start the Training

After I was happy that everything was in place, I planned and delivered 2 staff meetings: one to EYFS and KS1 and the other to KS2. The differentiated staff meetings ensured that my message was focused and relevant to the teachers in attendance. I hate staff meetings where you leave feeling like you’ve wasted an hour of your time! Everything I covered in the staff meetings covered an identified ‘gap’ from the audits. 

The meeting went as follows

  • Looking through an ‘easy speak’ version of the new curriculum that I made

  • Brought attention to the new vocabulary and handed out a glossary sheet (I found on the Computing At School website – p27 of this PDF)

  • Allowed time to ‘play’ with the resources available in school: Beebots and the mats that can be used with them, Probots, a range of programming challenging cards, laptops with Scratch, some Code Club projects, and iPads with a range of coding apps on. During this time, I moved between groups talking about what they were doing and used the new vocabulary to explain the link between the task and the new objectives (writing an algorithm, debugging it when they found a problem etc). I also made it clear which objectives they were ‘ticking off’ with the activity to try and increase their confidence in the subject. 

After the staff meetings, which were held in February, I had a term and a half to implement an intense training programme where I worked 1:1 with every teacher. 

I was able to work with 2 teachers a week and I offered them an hour each – they could choose what training they wanted. They chose either watching me teach their class a programming lesson or team planning and teaching a programming lesson. This training method enabled the teachers to take control of their own professional development and it ensured that the training they received was relevant to their situation. The 1:1 training created time and space for in-depth conversations and the teachers were more honest and open about worries. An additional outcome was that I gained a real insight into the computing planning across the whole school and I saw a real enthusiasm from children in every class. 

My recommendations for ‘in-school’ training:

1. You are the best person to deliver training because you can make it relevant for your colleagues and your school

2. Keep the message clear and focused

3. Ensure that the ‘behind the scenes’ work has been completed before you start any training

4. Let your colleagues decide on the training they need – whether 1:1 or from audit results

5. Allow colleagues time to ‘play’ with the resources and software available in school

Sarah Brown, Wilbraham Primary School, Manchester

Tags

computing, Computing and ICT, Switched on Computing

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