From design to digital technology

28 September 2020

Nigel Ferry, who moved from teaching design and technology to computer science, recounts his professional development journey and the impact on his career.

What made you choose to teach computing?

I didn’t have any direct experience of teaching computer science, but I come from an industry background where I worked for a company that made electronic circuits for automating CNC machines, so I’ve always been interested in it.

I’ve been teaching design and technology for ten years, but when I saw that the specification for GCSE computer science had changed, I thought I would have a go at making the crossover from D&T to computer science. I was conscious that there is a shortage of computer science teachers with the right skills, knowledge and experience to teach it.

How did you find out about the Computer Science Accelerator programme?

I’m very lucky because my school is a Computing Hub, so it is easy for me to access excellent training. My senior leadership team are very supportive and encouraged me and another colleague to enrol on the programme at the same time, so we ended up completing the programme together.

How did you find the start of the programme?

I completed the diagnostic test and went to speak to my head of department (I am now a computer science teacher!) We looked at the courses on offer together and decided which ones would be the best fit. I ended up doing 11 courses, 9 of which were online – way more than the required amount – because I loved doing them! Changing my career and making the leap from D&T was such a huge decision and I really wanted to be the best CS teacher I could be.

What was the combination of online and face-to-face training like?

The online courses were excellent and were easy to fit around my family and work life. The resources, and the way that the information was presented and described – it was all tremendous! I chose the face-to-face courses to plug the gaps in my knowledge and I would have done more of them, had it not been for Covid-19.

The programme gave me a good breadth of knowledge and it was pitched well. I was on face-to-face courses with lots of people who were already teaching computer science, but there was something for all of us. It was really useful to hear about the issues existing teachers were having and discussing how to overcome them together, but equally it was good to work alongside teachers who had no prior understanding of computer science. We all got a good grounding in the subject and there was a range of content to test all levels as well as plenty of opportunities for discussion.

How did you find the final test at the end of the programme?

I had a few things going on at the time of the final test and I didn’t have as much time to revise as I might have liked, so I felt like it was going to be an honest appraisal of how much I had learned. It was excellent, really rigorous. It covered a lot of content and there were lots of different sorts of questions to really challenge you. But it felt like a fair test and I did pretty well!

“As a result of the programme, I am now a computer science teacher! The programme has given me the confidence to realise the skills that I have.”

How has the programme made a difference to your career?

I had thought I was going to take my time, making the move from D&T to computer science, but a vacancy came up and I made the decision to just risk it. And, as a result of the programme, I am now a computer science teacher! This year, because I was completing the course, I was given a top set year 9 class and I’ll be taking on GCSE classes next year. It felt a bit daunting to begin with – it’s quite a change from being in a D&T environment, but the programme has given me the confidence to realise the skills that I have.

And, combining this new knowledge with my experience in industry, I feel like I can offer a lot to my students. I’m now starting to explore A level content. I know that it is a big jump, but I’ve got the confidence to do it, and I’m really motivated now!

Has there been any impact on the rest of your school?

As for my students, my year 9's have really benefited. I now have a whole load of new strategies about how to tackle certain elements of the curriculum, and a better understanding of the things that students struggle with.

We have also had a lot of discussion in the staff room about the CS Accelerator and I have a number of colleagues who are interested in taking it next year. I’m going to be mentoring a student teacher next term and my new knowledge is definitely going to come in helpful with that.

I have added significant capacity to our department, so my head of department is able to focus on the Computing Hub more, but he’s also been impressed with my understanding and knowledge of computer science, so hopefully I will have the opportunity to get involved with that too!