National Centre for Computing Education: how Arm is ready to respond to a new national drive to improve computing in schools

What is the NCCE?

With an investment of £84m by the UK government the National Centre for Computing Education is unique opportunity to transform computing education in the UK. Led by a consortium of the British Computing Society, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and STEM Learning, the aim of the Centre is to transform the provision of computing education in schools through teacher training and support, as well as teaching and learning resources.

Why Arm is well placed to support the NCCE

Arm technology is at the heart of a computing and connectivity revolution that is transforming the way people live and businesses operate. Our advanced, energy-efficient processor designs have enabled intelligent computing in more than 130 billion chips. More than 70% of the world’s population are using Arm technology, which is securely powering products from the sensor to the smartphone to the supercomputer. Together with our 1000+ technology partners we are at the forefront of designing, securing and managing all areas of compute from the chip to the cloud.

Arm’s activities in computing education range from supporting our people to volunteer to funding organisations that have projects focused on computing in schools.

Our Arm Education team is specifically tasked with supporting teachers, professors and students from schools and universities in STEM education. Arm Education began with the Arm University Program (AUP) over five years ago. AUP education kits, comprising online computer engineering courses, software and hardware, are used by over 1500 universities worldwide. In 2018 Arm launched the Arm School Program, which aims to work with partners to close the STEM skills gap. The values that underpin the Arm School Program include a commitment to evidence-based practice.

How and why is the NCCE being established?

One year ago, The Royal Society published a 110-page report on the state of computing education in UK schools. Its title, After the reboot, was a reference to the sea change in the subject when a new National Curriculum in Computing was introduced in 2013. Before this, students in UK schools had learned about computers through word processing, spreadsheets and database applications. Now, computing included topics such as programming, computational thinking and computer architecture. The fundamental idea behind this change was a desire to present computing as a subject, like Mathematics and the Sciences, that you need to engage with in order to understand the world around you.

The report made eight key recommendations, centring around the severe shortage of trained computing teachers, the gender gap and educational research.

In a carefully choreographed response, in his budget later that month the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a new £84 million National Centre for Computing Education. One of its primary aims is to increase the number of trained computing teachers in the classroom. The opportunity was put out to tender within a few months.

Fast-forward one year, and the winning bidders has been announced and were ready to share their plans with stakeholders drawn from across business at an event held at The Royal Society to mark the anniversary of the publication of After the reboot. The successful coalition, comprising STEM Learning, Raspberry Pi and British Computing Society (BCS), were represented by Julia Adamson of BCS. During the bidding process, the Arm School Program submitted a letter of support to this coalition and we have stayed closely in touch about progress.

The Arm School Program also made a presentation at the Digital Skills Partnership event, sharing with other businesses how we support computing education nationally and globally, through Arm Education, Sustainability and Team Arm.

At the close, businesses were asked to ‘pledge’ to support computing education in one or more of five ways, discussed in the next section.

How Arm is supporting the NCCE pledges

Here’s a brief overview of just some of the ways we are supporting the key pledges and are well placed to expand this further working closely with the NCCE in the future.

1. Volunteers: Encourage your employees to volunteer for computing education initiatives in schools and club

Women in STEM Team Arm event

Last year Arm staff around the world volunteered over 10,000 hours in outreach activities. Nearly two-thirds of this time was spent in schools, encouraging and supporting school children to get hands-on with technology and pursue STEM pathways.

  • Volunteering is coordinated centrally through our employee community engagement programme, Team Arm.
  • Team Arm offers volunteers the opportunity to join STEM Learning’s STEM Ambassador program.
  • 29% of people at Arm volunteered last year; two-thirds of this was educational outreach.
  • Many education volunteers spend their time in schools; running regular Code Clubs, mentoring or delivering STEM workshop.

2. Enrichment: Provide talks, mentors, visits, facilities or technology to enrich the student experience of computing in schools

Arm organises enrichment opportunities for secondary school students, including work experience, mentoring, company visits, and careers talks carried out by Team Arm volunteers and the Sustainability team:

  • A work experience program for Year 10 students local to Arm Headquarters (this is a 30-hour accredited program accredited by Industrial Cadets, coordinated by the Engineering Development Trust)
  • Opportunities for ad-hoc in-company work experience for 13- to 18-year old students throughout the year
  • Volunteers across Arm regularly visit schools to deliver careers talks as part of our outreach program.

3. Content: Provide or support the development of computing educational materials for students, teachers and schools

Last year Arm launched the Arm School Program which, as part of Arm Education, aims to work with partners to close the STEM skills gap. One of the two pillars to the Arm School Program is Content and Training.

The Arm School Program is currently planning and launching a free-to-access Virtual Learning Environment, which will include curriculum-linked computing courses.

Arm School Program content and training:

  • Pilot and launch in 2019
  • Free-to-access curriculum-linked courses
  • Formative and summative digital assessment
  • CPD with supporting webinars

Arm School Program VLE login

The initial focus of our content development is on creating courses in physical computing using the micro:bit.

The Arm School Program also recently worked with Raspberry Pi and Computing at School to relaunch the Computing At School Cambridge local community. ASP developed the event program, including a workshops on SonicPi, Javascript library use, micro:bit resources and a presentation by First Tech robotics.

Computing At School Cambridge Hub launch

4. Funding: Provide financial support to computing education programmes

Arm currently supports several computing education initiatives in UK schools through funding and volunteering:

  • The second pillar to the Arm School Program involves supporting teaching communities of practice and educational research. As part of this work we are funding the rebrand of Computing at School (CAS) and the re-design of the CAS community website. The website is  a space where teachers can find support from peers and share resources. There is strong evidence that communities of practice reduce teacher attrition rates, so our work should make a real contribution to improving Computing in schools.

 Computing At School logo

  • Arm is launching a national partnership with Uptree; a professional network for young people. This includes sponsoring Uptree’s Young Coder of the Year award, which will recognise high potential students demonstrating a passion for digital technology.
  • We support Computing and STEM-related initiatives such as: Micro:bit and World’s Largest Lesson Global Challenge; The Engineering Development Trust (specifically Go4SET, Engineering Education Scheme and EES-Applied, which are all accredited by Industrial Cadets) and STEM2020 (a partnership with the Smallpeice Trust and Villiers Park Educational Trust) and two 5-day residential courses for 6th form students in Computing & Robotics (one at Southampton University, another at Villiers Park Educational Trust).

5. Advocacy: Speak up for the importance and value of a world-class computing education for every child

One of the five pledges that the NCCE is seeking from business is around advocacy: speaking up for the importance of a world-class computing education for every child. Arm is a strong advocate for computing education, both at the policy and public level:

  • Arm is currently advising on the development of two T-levels: Engineering and Manufacturing: Design, Development and Control and Software Applications Design and Development.
  • Recently Arm launched Generation Arm 2Z in the UK and US, which is a project aimed at increasing the number of children who identify as makers of technology, rather than just consumers.

Arm Generation 2Z

What’s next?

Along with our colleagues in BCS, STEM Learning and Raspberry Pi, who are leading the National Centre for Computing Education, the Arm School Program looks forward to contributing to a federated effort across education and business to improve the provision of computing education in UK schools.

We are currently developing a Virtual Learning Environment that will offer teachers and learners rich, interactive educational content, based on Arm-based technology, including Micro:bit.

Watch out for more updates from our team as we move towards piloting and launching our first resources.

Find out more about the Arm School Program and how its already working with key partners to close the STEM skills gap below.

Arm School Program