SCC: Improve Digital Skills Education for Young People

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What this petition is about. 
Digital skills and knowledge are becoming increasingly essential for many jobs and career as the digital economy and the importance and pervasiveness of online retailing/social media grow. Yet digital skills education in Suffolk lags way behind neighbouring counties and is rated extremely poorly: 140th out of 152 local authorities in the UK for its provision even of basic Computer Science Education.

Why is this? 
Less than 1/3rd of Suffolk Schools offer Computer Science as part of their GCSE curriculum, and less than 6% of pupils opt to take the subject, possibly as a result of inadequate motivation by educators who are teaching the subject as a second or even third subject due to there being a shortage of qualified and suitably experienced Computer Science teachers nation-wide. In addition there is little to no pre-secondary teaching available in Suffolk, even for those who show a natural aptitude for the subject - often pupils with additional needs who find ‘traditional’ learning difficult. 

In their report Suffolk Employment, Economy and Skills Summary 2017, Public Health Suffolk noted three key challenges for Suffolk: 
Top 3 challenges:  

  • Encouraging larger companies to locate in Suffolk, and increasing productivity and GVA per head 
  •  Growing and retaining skill levels in Suffolk, and attracting higher skilled professional jobs and people. 
  • How we ensure that we do not widen the social mobility gap and help people find sustainable employment.  

These three challenges can be addressed in a large part by increasing the county’s skill levels in a growing digital economy. If as a county we do not have suitable numbers of skilled-up employees to satisfy the larger companies we seek to encourage, they will locate elsewhere. 

Why then is SCC neglecting this area of education that could provide so many employment opportunities for our young people, including those who struggle academically? Lack of skilled educators is no excuse: Suffolk is unique in having another better quality option available: an excellent, fully independent non-profit organisation (Creative Computing Club CIC), based in Ipswich, which has a proven track record at teaching such skills to young people of all abilities. Yet every application it makes for funding from SCC in order to expand its provision to students across Suffolk is turned down with the excuse “ we like what you do but we have no suitable grants that fit”. Yet it is within SCCs power to make grants to any organisation it deems worthy of funding.

We would like to know why and what SCC intends to do to bridge this digital skills gap for the population it claims to represent, including projected expenditure and where that money will be spent. 

CCC CIC: Background 
The Creative Computing Club CIC has worked in Suffolk for the past six years helping young people engage and learn valuable technology-based skills which will be essential to the future digital economy. These skills are essential for the growing demand for digital applications and trade, yet they are not being taught in schools across Suffolk (with very few exceptions and those at a very basic level), and students below GCSE level have little or no opportunity to access such education anywhere else in the county or further afield. Many of the students who excel at these skills are those who struggle in school settings or may have additional needs that are not met by traditional academic study formats. 

What does CCC offer and what are its credentials? 
From robotics to game design, from big data to A.I. the Creative Computing Club has always provided interesting and relevant workshops for young people. The Creative Computing Club works with approximately sixty young people from all over Suffolk on a weekly basis and sometimes up to double that on an ad hoc basis, continually working to improve the possibility of young people entering into a career in technology. Working with local businesses, it has placed many young people in work experience and internships which have eventually lead to part-time and even full-time employment. 

The Creative Computing Club community has had considerable success in working with young people of all abilities and requirements and had measurable success as shown in the September 2017 impact report. The report illustrated the 45% of young people who attend Creative Computing Club have additional needs which are often not catered for in mainstream education and that the Creative Computing Club has helped them thrive. 

On a regional level, the Creative Computing Club has won and been nominated for numerous awards; Raising the Bar Unsung Hero Award (Winner) and was nominated in the East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards 2015 in the Raising the Bar category. On a national level, the clubs director has been nominated for two BAFTAs for his work with the club; which is listed in the EdTech50 2018 awards alongside multi-million international organisations.  

The Creative Computing Club has also been listed in Nesta's Make Things Do Stuff Directory and shortlisted for BBC's Make it Digital Ones to Watch. It has run projects with GCHQ, the International Space Station and the European Space Agency, Goldman Sachs and the Government Digital Service; providing unique opportunities for the young people that attend which just cannot be replicated. 

Further to the informal qualifications like Arts Awards, BSA Crest awards in 2015 the Creative Computing Club starting offering iGCSE Computer Science lessons to students whose schools can't or won't offer the qualification. The course is run over a nine-month period and produces around 15 students every year with an average grade of an A with students as young as 14 qualifying. 

In 2017 the Creative Computing Club built a separate charity to purchase computers for young people on low incomes in Suffolk even further improving the opportunities for young people in Suffolk. 

Despite the Creative Computing Club CIC focusing its efforts completely on Suffolk and its considerable success and contributions to education in Suffolk, it has received NO funding from Suffolk County Council despite various applications for assistance. With Suffolk ranking as one of the areas of the UK with the poorest digital skills provision,  why has the Suffolk County Council continually failed to provide any direct funding whatsoever to this valuable local service?

Isn’t this a private company? Why does it need funding? 
Creative Computing Club is a Community Interest Company, meaning it is a non-profit making organisation. Whenever it has had an excess of income it has distributed this to educational establishments in Suffolk in the form of technology that those schools could not otherwise afford. It is truly an asset to Suffolk in many different ways and should be supported by our local authorities. 
As a CIC it is entirely dependent on funding from parents of students and other donations, or grants from public and private bodies. As provision of education falls within the remit of SCC and this represents an area in which that SCC provision is shown to be lacking, we believe that SCC should at least engage with CCC to investigate how its own provision can be enhanced through partnership, or through the provision of funding to allow CCC to expand and offer its services to those who cannot afford to pay course fees. 

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