KIds using Surface tablet for Royal Society story

Royal Society, Microsoft and Google to transform computing in schools

The Royal Society has joined forces with Microsoft and Google to transform how computing is taught in UK schools, it was revealed on Thursday.

The partnership will look at the challenges teachers have faced since computer science was introduced into the national curriculum in 2014. They will then look at what still needs to be done to improve courses, including encouraging more youngsters – especially girls – to get involved in the technology sector.

The study, commissioned by The Royal Society and funded by Microsoft and Google, aims to provide teachers with high quality classroom resources, guidance, continuing professional development programmes and assessment tools. Additional plans include identifying opportunities to help young people relate to digital careers through partnerships with businesses.

Pupil and teacher in classroom

Hugh Milward, Director of Corporate External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft UK, said: “Our collaboration with the Royal Society is part of our overarching YouthSpark programme, which aims to increase access to computer science education and encourage young people to explore digital skills and careers.

“The UK economy will require 745,000 additional workers with digital skills by 2017, which is why quality computer science education in schools is vital. This project will help shape and inform computer science education best practice and support educators with rich materials to inspire the next generation in whatever career they choose.”

The study will be led by Professor Stephen Furber, a Royal Society Fellow who is known for his work in designing microprocessors.

Professor Tom McLeish, Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, said: “As a subject with a rich and vital future, computer science not only needs high-quality teacher training and development, best practice in the classroom, and inspiring materials for pupils; it also needs solid, evidence-based research about what works.

The Royal Society was founded at Gresham College, London, on November 28, 1662. King Charles II became patron

“We are delighted that Google and Microsoft are supporting the research phase of this very important project. In a world where technology is increasingly embedded into our daily lives we need to ensure that the computer science curriculum equips young people to take advantage of the opportunities the digital world offers.”

A new computing curriculum for five to 16 year-olds was introduced in English schools two years ago, replacing Information and Communication Technology and establishing computer science and computational thinking as a foundation subject alongside mathematics and the sciences. England is the first country to formally recognise the importance of teaching children computing.

Children in classroom using Microsoft tablets

The study comes after separate research funded by Microsoft revealed that girls want technology companies to relate to them better if they want to increase the number of women choosing a career in the sector.

Microsoft and holiday resort Butlins recently teamed up to encourage children to get involved in science and technology, while Microsoft has also been involved in the BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized computer designed to get youngsters involved in coding.