Overview of The Network of Excellence

As the name suggests, the Network of Excellence is based on striving for quality in teaching through a community of practice that involves interactions which are:

In days of online delivery and time poverty, we maintain that professional development is a very human and not mechanical process, based on professional relationships and confidence levels of the people involved.

From the outset the aim of CS and thus the NoE has been to build fires of activity in local communities led by peers, supported by academics and other professionals. Change management has been problematic for many teachers of Computing moving from the old ICT curriculum to the new computing programme of study. For most the keyword is confidence. The target for all our activity has been to raise that level of confidence in the teachers' own ability to teach computer science 1.

Professional development takes many forms including training, workshops, peer collaboration, online courses and networking activity, mentoring and coaching. The NoE has sought to build on the principles of local, face to face support using mentoring, peer to peer support and cascade of subject knowledge via accessible role models namely the Master Teachers. This has been supported through the pre-existing online CAS community site.

The number of teachers participating in our activity has grown from approximately 2000 midway through 2012 to just under 18,000 in March 2015. The teachers in our network have had access to a variety of professional development opportunities inc:

The aim of any teacher professional development programme is to impact on teaching practice in the classroom. Positive impact here will have a corresponding impact on both student motivation and student achievement. The professional development model of the Network of Excellence is founded on the concept of “Master Teachers” as key stakeholders in shaping development opportunities in their local communities.

This includes the ideas of cascading good practice, working within a supportive community and empowering professionals. It is to be noted that a new Master Teacher is not chosen for this role because they are already a ‘master’ teacher; rather, by their participation in the programme they grow to become a specialist lead in their locality offering support to other teachers wishing to develop their own professional skills and subject knowledge. Our premise is that good professional relationships between supportive peers underlie the best and most effective teacher professional development.

The NoE Model

The Network of Excellence model consists of six strands:

The model has been implemented incrementally, gradually introducing new elements with the philosophy behind our approach being to support teachers to become empowered and confident in a new discipline; to do this we need to look at professional development in its widest sense. Our basic premise is that good professional relationships between supportive peers underlie the best and most effective teacher professional development.

There have been many changes in a short space of time in the area of Computing, including the introduction of several new GCSE qualifications, the change of name from ICT to Computing, and the introduction of elements of Computer Science into the curriculum from KS1. Whilst the pace of change is exciting, it is also daunting for many teachers and there is a need for subject knowledge training in new elements of the discipline with which teachers are unfamiliar. This training has grown from the ground up and within CAS is delivered by Master Teachers and universities. Other organisations are also starting to offer training courses and whilst there is so much demand for subject knowledge training, this is to be welcomed.

The Master Teacher, along with the Regional Hub Leader, are the catalysts and subject champions in the local community of practice. They are recruited and trained by the Network of Excellence to provide support to other teachers in their region through:

The aim of CAS is to facilitate excellence in the teaching of Computer Science in school. The journey to excellence will be different for different teachers; also we recognise that the computer science element of their teaching may have more or less priority depending on their professional role. However the work done by the Network of Excellence has already seen the emergence of inspirational teachers who not only excel within their own classrooms but are willing to make significant contributions to the wider community of computer science teachers within CAS and beyond.

Cascading good practice and a deep understanding of appropriate subject knowledge is a key part of the Network of Excellence. There are three main conduits for the cascade process:

All who engage with the NoE are actively encouraged to join CAS and contribute actively to the forum discussions and other help that is available there.

[1]: The new computing curriculum is composed of computer science, IT and digital literacy. Computer science is completely new to virtually all teachers and hence is the focus of our activity.

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