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Is £500,000 really enough to train teachers across the UK how to code?

Several teachers in every UK school will have to be able to code before September

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A new initiative to get students across the UK coding from the age of five was launched yesterday by chancellor George Osborne and education secretary Michael Gove. While launching the initiative, the pair announced that government would be backing the 12 month programme, dubbed Year of Code, with just £500,000 in a bid to turn teachers into coders before the new computing syllabus is rolled out across the UK in September.

The government said the money will be awarded to businesses who are prepared to match-fund the investment and use it to run projects that equip teachers with the skills and knowledge they'll need. 

However, half a million pound to train teachers at every school in the UK how to code seems like a relatively small sum of money in the grand scheme of things, particularly when you consider that any training undertaken by teachers beyond their normal working hours will typically require extra wages.

One Year of Code industry partner, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested it would cost several millions of pounds to train teachers at every school in the UK how to code.

It’s worth noting at this point that the government gave the British Computing Society £2 million to set up a network of 400 “Master Teachers” to train classroom teachers, in addition to the £1.1 million given to the Computing at School Working Group to help train primary teachers.

But, according to Anne Snelgrove, labour candidate for South Swindon, the overall investment still falls short of what is needed if the government wants teachers to be in a position where they can teach everything from JavaScript to C++ come September. .

"They're taking the proverbial," she told Techworld via Twitter. "We had more than that per school for TVEI [Technical and Vocational Education Initiative] in the 90s under [former education secretary Ken] Baker."

Snelgrove pointed out that there are 20,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK, meaning each school would receive a mere £25 each in government funding if the £500,000 was divided evenly. If this is matched by industry then that would bring the total figure to £50 per school. 

She suggested that primary schools would need more like £1,000 to train teachers and secondary schools would need as much as £3,000. 

And while the Year of Code initiative is undoubtedly a good start, we will have to wait and see what it delivers. All that has been promised so far is at least one-hour of coding for every pupil in the UK (during a set week in March) and a number of unspecified campaign events that are designed to inspire in the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.


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