Female primary school teachers twice as likely to feel they lack digital knowledge, suggests new research

New research suggests that teachers think the main barriers to teaching digital skills and computing are lack of resources and training – with female teachers statistically more likely to find these a barrier

A new survey by the Micro:bit Educational Foundation (MEF) suggests that female teachers in the UK are more than twice as likely to think their lack of subject knowledge was the biggest barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.

The MEF surveyed 127 primary school teachers partaking in a trial of its BBC micro:bit devices.

The unweighted survey suggests that not having the right devices and resources is the greatest barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.

Four in 10 (39%) of respondents cited lack of resources and devices as the greatest barrier for teaching computing, but the issue impacts a greater proportion of female than male teachers (45% versus 29%).

Similarly, a third of respondents (34%) cited lacking resources and devices as the greatest barrier to teaching digital skills – but the problem statistically affected female teachers more than men. Four in 10 female teachers cited this problem – compared to 21% of male teachers.

Lack of teacher knowledge was voted the next biggest barrier to teaching computing after inadequate resources and hardware – and, once again, female teachers perceived this as a greater barrier (28% versus 12%). The same trend emerged when asked about digital skills: 30% of female teachers thought this hampered their teaching, compared to 12% of male teachers.

This first wave of research from the organisation behind the pocket-sized BBC micro:bit computers is the initial stage of a three-part programme that aims to understand the challenges facing primary school teachers and develop appropriate supports for them to integrate teaching computer skills into their planning and delivery of lessons.

The research is needed to support the roll out of micro:bit computers across UK primary schools over the coming years.

The need for digital literacy and computer skills to be taught effectively throughout schools is becoming increasingly important, with the MEF announcing plans last month to donate 57,000 micro:bit devices to UK primary schools in a bid to help the long-term digital skills crisis, which is reportedly resulting in the UK losing out on £63bn in GDP per year.

The research also focused on the wider issue of very few UK primary school teachers having had a training background or qualification in computing, yet the majority (3 in 4) are responsible for teaching computing at their school, with virtually all teachers either currently – or at some point in their career – having taught digital skills/literacy or computing.

The next phase of research in the programme will commence in autumn 2022, with key considerations to be further explored from phase one including “What types of further training would teachers like to have more of, specifically for micro:bit, but also more widely for digital skills and computing? And how can the Foundation best support this?” and “Addressing the gender divide – why are female teachers less confident in teaching digital skills/computing?”

Read more: Thousands of BBC micro:bit coding devices to be donated to UK primary schools

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