DJRFF previews data science course to pupils and parents

Tapton School in Sheffield has given pupils and parents a preview of a radical new addition to the curriculum that aims to inspire the next generation of UK technology entrepreneurs. 

The new course for Year 9s will transform the way computer science is taught in classrooms.

It focuses on data science to give young people the ability to understand and solve real world problems. 

Around 50 Year 8 pupils have chosen the course, which starts in September. 

Pupils and their parents will be given a glimpse of what they can expect at a launch event on the afternoon of June 5. 

The state secondary school is the first to work with the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, a charitable endeavour from the founder and chief executive of WANdisco.

The registered UK charity aims to inspire young people to fulfil their potential through hands-on programmes and targeted assistance. 

Mr and Mrs Richards believe the current emphasis on coding in the classroom is misguided as programming is at risk of automation. 

The foundation has recruited Professor Chris Brady, one of the UK’s best-known business school academics, to work in conjunction with Tapton School to design the course. 

His team at the University of Salford developed the SAM super computer, which looks at football player performance to predict Premier League results.

The first half of the course will teach pupils how to use data to forecast outcomes. 

In the second half, pupils will apply these new skills to scientific challenges in fields as wide-ranging as space exploration, next generation antibiotics and gene sequencing. 

Prof Brady said: “We will ask children what they want to work on, using subjects like football, fashion and film.

“They will choose what fascinates them. We will ask them what they want to know.

“They will start questioning. We want them involved in the design process and answering their own questions.”

The course will be embedded in the school curriculum, rather than run as extra-curricular activity. 

The course will not offer a qualification. Instead, teachers will put emphasis on engagement and enjoyment.  

David Dennis, chief executive of the Tapton School Academy Trust, said: “This is a step change for computing in school. 

“There is insufficient innovation in the subject as currently taught. Computer science in the national curriculum*, with its focus on programming, is not fit for purpose.

“We want to attract the pupils who might not be interested the subject because of the amount of coding involved.

“Coding is easier to assess than creativity, but that does not mean it is the right thing to do. 

“We want young people to experience how computing is changing lives.

“We want to encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in young people now and how it will evolve in the future.”

Mr Richards, who attended the school in the 1980s, said: “We are very excited that so many young people have chosen to sign up for the data science course and cannot wait to see what amazing ideas they come up with.

“We believe that the advancement of computing education, starting at Tapton School, will help young people to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial, just the sort of skills we will need in the future.”

“We need to engage schoolchildren with computing in the same way that British astronaut Tim Peake has been doing with science through the European space education programme.”