An Open Letter to County Counciller Alan Rhodes

Dear Mr Rhodes

I am a resident of Carlton-In-Lindrick and am employed in the IT department at Brinsworth Comprehensive School, a Type II Academy in Rotherham, but also teach Sixth-Form ICT and run several enrichment programmes around computer programming and specifically games. In 2010 I created the Games Britannia festival which started life as a week off-curriculum at Brinsworth delivering workshops and talks to over 450 children and escalated into a full 7-day festival as part of Rotherham’s Children’s Festival in 2012. The Games Britannia festival last year delivered hands-on workshops and lectures to over 1000 children from all over the country (as far away as Kent, Merthyr Tydfil and Dundee) and entertained 4500 members of the public during our weekend expo.

The festival centred around the use of games as a catalyst for learning in the classroom – across the curriculum – from art, to music, to electronics, English and of course programming. In parallel the government had commissioned a report from Nesta called the Next Gen Skills Report (http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/assets/features/next_gen) co-authored by Ian Livingstone OBE and Alex Hope. Next-Gen highlights the massive digital skills gap we have in Britain and the distressing fact that we are not producing enough Science, Technology, English and Maths graduates to fill the jobs that are available.

The  NextGen campaign (http://www.nextgenskills.com/) has accelerated, culminating in many great initiatives and gaining great success with Michael Gove announcing the scrapping of ICT and the restoration of Computer Science into the curriculum, becoming part of the English Baccalaureate performance measure.

There is still so much work to be done. CS remains an option for schools and many are choosing not to introduce it – mainly because of a lack of skilled teachers. I have written to John Mann MP to ask him to contact schools in his constituency, encouraging them to grasp the nettle of Computer Science in schools at all ages (we should be starting in Primary schools) and provide Bassetlaw children with the skills (and a head start) for their world that we know will be even more encased in digital technology than our own.

I am asking the same of you Mr Rhodes, as one of Bassetlaw’s County Councillors. Please use some of your Division Fund to aid or start initiatives within our region. Money could be used to buy libraries a suite of cost-effective Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/) computers which could support weekly or after-school Code Clubs (http://www.codeclub.org.uk/) for children and adults alike. They could even be purchased for our Primary Schools which obviously have tight constraints on budgets for IT equipment.

I have CC’d Keith Turner at North Notts College. There may be a way for NNC to support activities around the region if they have an accompanying outreach programme. Nevertheless, if you are interested in taking this further then I would be delighted to help and support you.

As a resident of Carlton I have just received the latest “County News” newspaper. It talks of a “budget for growth” and “a new strategy to help more young people into work”. What could be more apt than arming our children with skills that all industries in Britain and around the world are desperate to recruit?

Best wishes

Mark Hardisty

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