Google To Fund Teachers And Raspberry Pi For English Schools

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Chairman Eric Schmidt says there have been improvements but IT education is still in a “sorry state” and pledges Google’s help

Google is set to fund specialised computer science teachers and teaching aids, such as Raspberry Pi computers, for English schools, chairman Eric Schmidt has said.

Schmidt has been a critic of the standard of IT teaching in the UK and, despite a planned overhaul of the curriculum, it appears the search giant is planning to take a more hands-on approach.

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Speaking at the opening of an exhibition celebrating the life and career of Alan Turing at the London Science Museum, Schmidt acknowledged that progress had been made since he last spoke, but still described computer science education in the UK as being in a “sorry state”. Last August, he said that the UK was throwing away its computing heritage by not making it a compulsory subject at GCSE level and by not providing enough support to college students.

He announced that Google would provide funds to charity Teach First, which puts ‘exceptional graduates’ on a six-week training programme before deploying them to schools where they teach over a two year period, with many exercising the option to stay on after that. He added that it was vital to expose children to computing early on if they were going to forge a career in it, revealing that only two percent of all Google engineers said they were not exposed to computer science at high school.

The scheme is currently limited to the East Midlands, Kent and Medway, London, the North East, the North West, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.  Schmidt promised that 20,000 students from “disadvantaged communities” would benefit.

He drew parallels between the Raspberry Pi and the BBC Micro, released in the 1980s, adding that he was convinced that with the right support, it could be just as successful. Launched in February, the Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized, single board computer aimed at improving computer programming skills in children. It costs just £22 with the first devices arriving at schools in Leeds last month.

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