Governors have a key role in keeping 'computing' on track, writes Dan Bowen

Computing and governorsGovernance is crucial for Computing; get it on track nowIf you were living on Mars for the last few years you may not realise that there is a new curriculum in England. In which case you can join the late starters and download the documentation from the Department for Education (DfE) site.

For those still uncertain how to manage the change, his article develops your thinking, as a school governor, about how to monitor the computing curriculum and make sure your school is on track for its introduction in September, 2014.

These are the key features that ensure  the develop of good governance for your school:

  • Positive relationships between governors and school leaders;
  • Well informed governors;
  • Honest, insightful evaluation;
  • Clarity for the roles for leaders and governors;
  • Regular visits and gathering of information about the school when it is working;
  • Mutual support from all stakeholders;
  • The use of governor networks to fill school gaps (if needed);
  • Self reflection from the governing body (which develops answers to the points above).

Governors need to know their schools. Does your governing body have a sub-committee that can look at the curriculum in depth? When this sub-committee meets about the curriculum it should: 

  • Identify whether the curriculum is broad and balanced. Does it fit the needs of your students? 
  • Does it promotes the spiritual, emotional, moral, cultural, intellectual and physical development of pupils, and thereby of society
  • And does it prepare such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life by equipping them with appropriate knowledge, understanding and skills?
  • Do you have any computing specialists on the governing body?

If you are interested in good governance generally then take a look at Learning from the best (a report from the DfE). From an OfSTED point of view in the evaluation schedule it is states that: “The school’s curriculum promotes and sustains a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. It covers a wide range of subjects and provides opportunities for academic, technical and sporting excellence. (Previously “provides highly positive experiences and rich opportunities for high quality learning.”) It has a very positive impact on all pupils’ behaviour and safety, and contributes very well to pupils’ academic achievement, their physical well-being, and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.”

We can see that this is quite a qualitative judgement that will be tested during an inspection through questions like:

  • How have governors been involved in the new curriculum development?
  • Can you tell me the governor's vision for the school curriculum?
  • What curriculum CPD have you had as governors?
  • How do you ensure that the curriculum is broad and balanced at your school? 
  • How does the curriculum cater for all students at your school?

Governance and computing

So how did we get to this point with computing? If you haven't already read it, it's worth checking out the "Shutdown or Restart" report from the Royal Society which gives a fair account of the challenges presented by ICT as a subject and was an influential factor in the lobbying that took place to change the curriculum for England's schools to Computing.

And Google boss Eric Schmidt slammed UK computing education in his MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival back in August 2011. This also had had a seismic effect on policy makers (see the video below),

My two main current concerns are that:

  • Governors will be victims of the computing 'hype'. There are many stories currently doing the rounds in the tabloid press and on television giving an unclear view on exactly what 'computing' is as a subject. These often focus on programming, game creation and App development. However, these are actually only a small part of the computing curriculum.
  • Specialised computing professionals who are also governors will (albeit innocently) also confuse schools especially in the primary sector. Governors need to be aware of what the curriculum says, and should be wary of headlines that can mislead. Essentially they should read the curriculum for computing and discuss it with the computing lead at the school who may be able to explore it in more detail.

So what can we do?

First, I recommend both primary and secondary governors make time for a thorough reading of Computing in the national curriculum: A guiide for primary teachers, the primary curriculum guidance drawn up by the association for educational computing professionals, Naace, and Computing at School. And then:

  • Identify and establish a computing governor (this does not need to be a specialist, and it may be a governor responsible for the curriculum in the case of a small school):  
  • Check the school curriculum is on track for the September 2014 start;
  • Discuss the school's interpretation of computing curriculum – for example the areas of the curriculum the school doe already and the areas needing to be developed;
  • Discuss the continuing professional development (CPD) for computing the school has already done for the subject's introduction;
  • Discuss ways in which this school will implement this over time and what new CPD needs to be done;
  • Be positive about these changes; they will take time but keep monitoring them;
  • Identify areas of external support for the school and other governors, like Computing at School and its community.

It is important to disseminate all the findings back to the full governing body. You could do this via a governors' curriculum inset and ask the school curriculum lead to present, or alternatively the curriculum lead can feed back to the full governing body.

Governance is a vital concern for a school. However, it is important that it is done in a way that is supportive and generates enthusiasm for what ultimately is the biggest change to computer education in the UK in a decade. Good luck and happy governing!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Dan Bowen was a school governor at Ellingham Primary School, Kingston Upon Thames, where he chaired the curriculum and achievement committee. He is also a local authority adviser and Ofsted-trained additional inspector. He has moved ‘down under’ to monitor the beaches and sunshine!

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