Lack of funding to spark 'lost generation' of tech experts

DataIQ News

The UK risks losing its competitive advantage in a world being transformed by technology unless The Government beefs up its computer science education programme.

That is the stark warning issued by tech giants Google and Microsoft following the publication of a new report from the Royal Society, which they have sponsored, that shows more than half of schools across England do not even offer GCSE computer science.

Authored by Professor Steven Furber - the man who created the BBC Micro and the Arm microprocessor - the study makes grim reading for any company relying on the next generation to answer the data industry's skills shortage.

Professor Furber said: “The rate at which technology is transforming the workplace means that we live in a world where many primary schoolchildren will work in technology-based roles that do not yet exist, so it is essential that future generations can apply digital skills with confidence.

“Overhauling the fragile state of our computing education will require an ambitious, multipronged approach. We need the government to invest significantly more to support and train 8,000 secondary school computing teachers to ensure pupils have the skills and knowledge needed for the future.”

The research concluded there needs to be a ten-fold increase in funding to unlock young people's potential and the Royal Society is urging the Government to promise over £60m to such efforts over the next five years.

A new curriculum that introduced coding lessons for primary school children was introduced in 2014. But, the report warned that this was just not enough.

“For pupils to thrive, we need knowledgeable, highly skilled teachers. However, computing teachers have told us that they feel the government rushed in a new curriculum without giving them the support or money to deliver it. The report paints a bleak picture in England, which meets only 68% of its computing teacher recruitment targets and where, as a result, one in two schools don’t offer computer science at GCSE, a crucial stage of young people’s education," said Professor Furber.

Microsoft UK chief executive Cindy Rose added: "Microsoft is dramatically scaling up its digital skills programme in the UK and we believe now is the time for the Government to do the same. The risk, if we don’t make these investments now, is that too many young people struggle to access new opportunities, and the UK loses its advantage in a world being transformed by technology.”

Meanwhile Google UK managing director Ronan Harris also waded into the debate, insisting: "Whatever school they attend or what field they plan to go into, every student should have the opportunity to understand the principles and practices of computing. This will broaden their career opportunities and is critical to developing a globally competitive workforce for the 21st century."