Accelerator Programme helps teachers to teach GCSE computer science confidently

By Claire Arbery, The National Centre for Computing Education

The Computer Science Accelerator Programme boosts teachers’ knowledge of computer science and students’ access to expertise, writes programme manager Claire Arbery. 

Computing is vitally important for young people today: it contributes to their personal and intellectual development and their wider understanding of the world. The global economy is increasingly reliant on a digitally skilled and knowledgeable workforce, and many young people currently at school will end up in jobs that do not yet exist.

However, in the UK, most GCSE computer science is taught by non-specialists. The subject is only available in half (52%) of secondary schools in England, and only 11% of students choose to take it, most of whom are male. Girls are outnumbered in GCSE computer science classes by four to one.

GCSE computer science is only available in half of secondary schools in England; girls are outnumbered in classes 4:1

The Computer Science Accelerator Programme has been designed to change these statistics. We want to empower teachers to teach GCSE computer science confidently and to persuade more schools of the importance of enabling their students to study it.

Enhancing teachers’ computer science subject knowledge

Our programme is designed for secondary-school teachers who currently teach computer science at GCSE, or plan to do so. It is flexible and highly personalised to fit into teachers’ schedules, enabling them to study in a way that works for them, delivered through a combination of face-to-face and online courses.

We want to empower teachers to teach computer science more confidently

After completing a simple diagnostic test, which will help to identify any misconceptions or knowledge gaps, participants can choose the courses that best meet their needs. They can select from four face-to-face courses and 12 online courses, and will need to choose at least two of each as part of the programme, though there is no limit to the number of courses they can take.

The programme aims to enhance GCSE computer science teachers’ subject knowledge, extending their understanding of algorithms and data systems, and exploring computer systems. They can then take their learning online and unpick network and cybersecurity issues, create simple systems that respond to and control the physical world using a Raspberry Pi, or learn the essentials of Python programming.

The face-to-face courses are delivered across England, through our network of regional delivery partners. Each course is two days long, with a gap task for participants to complete back at school in between, giving them the opportunity to test out and embed what they have learned. The online courses can be completed at a time and location that suit individuals.

We recognise that it can be difficult for teachers to get out of the classroom to attend face-to-face courses, so we have worked hard to minimise costs. The Computer Science Accelerator Programme and its face-to-face courses are free to secondary-school teachers of computing or computer science in English state-maintained schools who do not hold a post-A-level qualification in computer science or a related subject. Online courses are free to all teachers and form part of the Computer Science Accelerator Programme.

We offer bursaries to state-maintained schools and colleges, aiming to contribute towards the costs associated with attending professional development, including course fees, travel and supply cover. They exist to support teachers through the required 40 hours to complete the programme.

Teachers who successfully complete this programme will receive a nationally recognised qualification — the National Centre for Computing Education certificate in GCSE subject knowledge — a benchmark of competence that will help them to progress in their career. There is also a pathway to chartered status.

Graduates of the Computer Science Accelerator Programme are also automatically entitled to free courses from The National Centre for Computing Education, which will add excellent pedagogy to their subject knowledge. The programme also counts towards NCCE secondary teacher accreditation.

Key benefits for teachers:

  • Update your skills and be recognised for your subject knowledge.
  • Feel more confident teaching this high-demand subject across the curriculum.
  • Choose from face-to-face and online modules to suit your learning needs.
  • Save time on lesson planning and gain inspirational teaching ideas.
  • Call on a team of champions on hand to support you.

Face-to-face courses currently available are:

  • Algorithms in GCSE computer science
  • Python programming essentials for GCSE computer science
  • Data and computer systems in GCSE computer science
  • Networks and cybersecurity in GCSE computer science

About the National Centre for Computing Education

The National Centre for Computing Education provides a comprehensive range of training, resources and support for computing teachers in primary and secondary schools and colleges across England. It is run by a consortium of STEM Learning, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and is backed by £84m in government funding.


Visit cs-accelerator to register.


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