My sister and my oldest friend are both primary school teachers. (Fantastic primary school teachers, in fact.) Three of my school friends now teach in primary schools. Two of my daughters are at primary school and over the past four years, they’ve been taught by six teachers, mostly excellently.
By association then, I know lots of amazing teachers working hard for their pupils under enormous pressure. I wasn’t surprised at my sister Sophie’s reaction – which was to groan and hold her head in her hands – to Nicky Morgan saying last week that “schools should be better connected to technology firms.” Yes they should. So why Sophie’s negative reaction to such a positive ambition?
I suspect it’s because this kind of top-down drive rarely gets the cut-through it deserves at ground level. My teaching friends are more concerned about low ink in the staff room photocopier, and Isla Robbins being in trouble again; they just can’t see the wood for the trees. The big picture stuff is the preserve of senior Whitehall staff. It doesn’t touch Mrs Curtis in 4B.
At 106, we’ve worked with a tech firm keen to be ‘better connected’ to schools. We’ve also done some research with an organisation called the Stemettes. The corporate will to engage pupils early in their education lifecycle is certainly there; and we know that pupils themselves want to be better educated in all things tech. The missing piece is the front line teachers expected to deliver the curriculum. How best to help them upskill?
Our solution was to create a toolkit – with a film, game, lesson plan and additional materials – for teachers to use to inspire their pupils on working with technology. In this case, we developed it with girls in mind. We created it in a way which made it easy to use and therefore instantly popular.
The longer-term solution, though, is to equip teaching staff with the knowledge to deliver inspirational tech teaching themselves. So Nicky Morgan’s vision is to be applauded. The big-gun tech firms – yes, those ones – are committing £3.6m to a peer-to-peer training programme for teachers, so that they can better plan, teach and assess the computing curriculum.
Our toolkit has been gobbled up by teachers desperate for resource. But we look forward to the day when more teachers feel empowered to deliver their own lesson in tech. Calling Mrs Curtis in 4B: Sophie, the countdown has begun.