Simon Peyton Jones

Microsoft researcher Simon Peyton Jones appointed first chair of National Centre for Computing Education

A researcher at Microsoft has been appointed chair of the Government’s new National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), which works to improve the teaching of computer science in schools.

Simon Peyton Jones, one of Britain’s leading computer scientists, will lead the organisation as it tries to increase the number of young people who choose to study the subject at GCSE and A-Level.

The 61-year-old will become the first chair of the NCCE following its creation in November last year, backed by £84 million of Government investment.

Peyton Jones said: “The NCCE offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to firmly establish computer science as a foundational subject discipline that will enable all our young people to be active participants in the complex digital world that surrounds them.

“I am delighted to have a role in translating the big vision of the new computing curriculum into a vibrant reality in every classroom in the country.”

Known across the world for his work on the Haskell programming language and as a lead developer of the Glasgow Haskell Compiler, Peyton Jones joined Microsoft Research Cambridge in 1998. The lab is one of many across the world that influence the products Microsoft releases, as well as contribute to work in fields ranging from healthcare to economics.

Peyton Jones is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and chair of Computing at School, which aims to promote the teaching of computer science in classrooms, is an Honorary Professor of the Computing Science Department at Glasgow University and has written two books about the implementation of functional languages.

Via a consortium made up of STEM Learning, British Computer Society and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the NCCE is working with schools across England.

The NCCE will operate through a national network of up to 40 school-led Computing Hubs to provide training and resources to primary and secondary schools, and an intensive training programme for secondary teachers without a post A-Level qualification in computer science. The centre will also develop an A-Level programme to better prepare A-Level students for further study and employment in digital roles.

Simon Peyton Jones

Simon Peyton Jones is known across the world for his work on the Haskell programming language

While 12% more pupils took the computing GCSE in 2018, the numbers of pupils studying Information Communications Technology fell by 44%. The latest figures show that nearly 23,000 fewer pupils left school last year without a qualification in a computer-related subject, a drop of 17% from the previous year.

National figures also show that 57,245 boys sat the computer science GCSE last summer, compared with only 14,683 girls. That means 30,000 fewer girls sat a Key Stage 4 computing subject in 2018 compared with four years earlier.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “This appointment reflects the Government’s determination to raise academic standards so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our outward looking and dynamic economy.

“Mr Peyton Jones brings incredible experience and expertise to this role. This will be vital in making sure the centre, which is backed by a consortium made up of some of the country’s most exciting tech organisations, is able to train teachers in the latest digital skills.”