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More help needed for teachers

UK'¬ôs first Digital Youth Council student panel meeting puts support for teachers and school staff in the spotlight

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | December 29, 2014 | Technology

Teachers need more training and resources to equip students with vital digital skills, according to a handpicked panel of the UK’s brightest young tech enthusiasts.

Britain’s first Digital Youth Council, founded by Virgin Media Business, met to discuss how technology is shaping their education, and to share ideas about how it can be used to transform people’s lives in the future.

The Council is part of Generation Tech, a national campaign to explore the role of technology in education. The pupils aged nine to 17 said teachers recognised the importance of making digital part of their lessons, but said unreliable equipment and a lack of training were deterring many from adopting new approaches. 

The discussion highlighted the extent to which teachers are being distracted from their core duties by having to address technical issues, or having to ask tech-savvy students to help their peers.

The conclusions of the Council supports the views of the UK’s teachers, disclosed through recent research commissioned for Generation Tech showing that only 15% consider themselves to be “completely tech-savvy”.

Pupils from Saltash.net School in Plymouth described how peer support can be harnessed as a positive force if digitally able students are given special training to help their peers – boosting their skills and allowing the teacher to focus on giving the lesson. 

The group welcomed the computing GSCE announced by David Cameron last week, but said it would be too late for many of them to benefit. One pupil came up with the idea of an after-school catch-up course for people aged 14 to 18 to help plug the gap. 

Gerry Arthurs, director of public sector, Virgin Media Business, said: “I’ve been completely amazed by the wisdom and insight heard round the table today. It shows that pupils not only understand the issues at stake when it comes to technology – they actually have a better grasp than most adults.

“It’s vital that we build on this understanding and support the next generation to ensure the UK stays at the forefront of digital innovation. Undoubtedly this panel includes some business and technology stars of the future – and I am looking forward to supporting and learning from them in the coming months.” 

The day also saw Virgin Media Business present its view of how technology in education and the advancement of digital skills can be improved: The Big Ask.

The Ask, supported by a pledge from Virgin Media Business, is outlined in an animated video and centres around a call for Government to establish a nationwide ‘buddy system’ which will enable schools across the UK to share best practice, expertise, resource and support each other as they seek to find ways to capitalise of the digital revolution. 

The telecoms company has itself pledged to become a ‘business buddy’ for local schools to provide mentoring and share its own insights on digital skills. The Big Ask will be presented to the Department for Education in the New Year.

Code Club were represented at the meeting, and founder Clare Sutcliffe made the following comment on the panel’s findings: “The new computing curriculum was introduced in England this September, and for the first time primary teachers are teaching computer science, including coding, to children from Year 1 upwards.

“We saw a huge demand for teacher training, and a lack of resources available. Code Club Pro offers expert led computing training and resources for teachers. Our aim is for all teachers to feel confident, excited and prepared for the new primary computing curriculum.'

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