Tech setback

Logan demands action as computer teaching falls

Mark Logan and EIE
Mark Logan: ‘we need to take ownership of the problem’ (pic: Terry Murden)

The Scottish Government’s chief entrepreneurial adviser Mark Logan has called for urgent action after new research revealed that computer science teaching in schools is in decline.

Think tank Reform Scotland found more than 32,000 children – one in eight of all secondary pupils – attend a secondary school with no qualified computer science teacher. This rises to around 50% in rural areas such as Dumfries & Galloway and the Highlands.

There were 66 schools with no computer science provision. A further 25, each with more than 1,000 pupils, have only one teacher.

Despite government pledges to invest in teaching the subject, the report says there has been a 25% fall in teachers dedicated to it over the last 15 years.

Mr Logan called for a greater focus on computing in the school curriculum as a key strand in his 2020 report to former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on developing the digital economy.

The Scottish Technology Ecosystem pointed out that a better understanding of technology and a broader skills base is central to Scotland’s future economy, and called for computer science in schools to be treated like maths and physics.

Reform Scotland notes that “Despite the prominence and welcome given to the Logan report, little has changed in terms of school education.”

In a foreword to the report, Gareth Williams, founder of Skyscanner and a Reform Scotland Trustee, said: “Modern economies are becoming software-led. A new UK bank like Monzo has more in common with Scottish companies like Skyscanner in the travel sector, or Wood Mackenzie in the energy sector, as a company than it does with, say, the RBS of 25 years ago.

“This is a key reason behind the growing necessity that we educate ourselves – and especially our children – in the area of computer science.”

He added: “Computer science is not a geeky sideshow, but is now foundational to a successful modern economy. 

“Despite this, as this Reform Scotland report shows, the provision of computer science education is reducing in Scottish schools, with the number of computer science teachers decreasing each year for the past 15 years. As this report points out, it’s not simple to hire more teachers in this subject, but it can be done.”

Commenting on the research after attending the Holyrood education committee, Mr Logan said: “It should no longer be a point of debate as to whether this amounts to a crisis for Scotland’s tech sector of the near future.

“This decline is fully reversible if our education authorities and local authorities act together now, with renewed urgency and a sense of ownership of the problem.’

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