AN EXODUS of highly sought-after computing science teachers is undermining the future prospects of Scotland’s pupils, a new report warns.

According to the Royal Society hundreds have left the profession in the last decade with numbers dropping from 802 in 2005 to 598 in 2015.

The 25 per cent decline comes at a time when overall pupil numbers have only dropped by 11 per cent.

Loading article content

The result is 17 per cent of secondary schools in Scotland have no computing subject-specialist at all, the report said.

New recruits are also in decline with the number of first-year students on computing teacher training courses dropping by 80 per cent over the last nine years.

Herald View: Schools face catch-22 over computer teaching crisis

The report concluded: “The demand for computing skills is increasing as we move towards a more technology focused world.

“To prepare pupils for the future, schools need to ensure there are opportunities provided to all young people to study the subject.

“As long as computing is perceived as a specialist subject, the uptake of the subject will not increase rapidly enough. Pupils should be encouraged to study the subject.”

The report said computing education across the UK was “patchy and fragile”.

Herald View: Schools face catch-22 over computer teaching crisis

Professor Quintin Cutts, from Glasgow University’s School of Computing Science, said the new curriculum in Scotland was a “world beater” and called on parents to get behind the subject.

He said: “Law and medicine have often been the professions of choice among parents when thinking of their children’s future.

“Parents should now consider computing science as a reliable and valuable profession in its own right, or else as an essential underpinning for almost every area in higher education and today’s economies.

“Parents should ask their schools how they are supporting the new curriculum.”

Mr Cutts went on to call for better training in both primary and secondary schools.

He added: “We recognise the urgent need to upskill existing computing science teachers and train new teachers.

“Teachers also desperately need additional guidance to teach the new curriculum.”

Kate Farrell, a spokeswoman for the Computing at School Scotland group, said more lucrative careers were putting off graduates from entering the teaching profession.

She said: “It is tough to recruit new students to train as computing science teachers because the alternative career path is to work in industry in extremely well paid posts.

“Web and software developers are the most in demand, with the average salary for a software developer being £39,000, and entry-level web developer posts paying £25,000 compared to £22,416 for a probationer teacher.

“We are also in danger of losing good teachers with many years of experience in computing science education if there continues to be this disparity in salaries and an almost complete lack of promotion opportunities.”

Herald View: Schools face catch-22 over computer teaching crisis

She said the group was “greatly concerned” by the fall in the number of computing science teachers and called on the Scottish Government to look at ways to “retain and value” the existing workforce.

The report also noted a gender imbalance in computing science with female uptake at National 5 just 20 per cent of the total.

However, the report noted that the number of pupils taking National 5 computing science qualifications had remained relatively stable with small increases at Higher and Advanced Higher level.

It called for £60 million to be invested over the next five years across the UK.