https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/08/gcse-computing-holiday-clubs-and-free-school-meals/

GCSE computing, holiday clubs and free school meals

teenagers working on computers, looking pleased with what they are doing

Today our blog looks at stories on computer science, holiday clubs and free school meals.

Computer Science

Today, Wednesday 8 May, the University of Roehampton released a report analysing the uptake of GCSE computer sciences and other computing qualifications in England. The report says that there has been a steep decline in computing provision. This was covered by BBC Online, TES and Forbes.

We are aware of the importance of computing which is why we made it a compulsory part of the national curriculum – our statement below clearly sets out our position.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

As the report notes, this government acknowledges the importance of computing – to create a workforce that has the knowledge and skills we need to drive the future productivity and economy of this country. That is why we made computing a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

We have also continued to offer schools a range of support to improve the teaching of computing since its introduction and are investing £84m over the next four years to upskill up to 8,000 computer science teachers and drive up participation in computer science.

Entries for computer science GCSE continue to rise, increasing from just over 4,000 when it was introduced in 2013 to over 70,000 in 2018.

Summer Holiday Clubs

Today, the department announced that we will be putting over £9 million towards holiday clubs to benefit around 50,000 disadvantaged children this summer. This was covered on broadcast by Sky News.

The holiday clubs follow a successful £2 million programme last summer, which saw charities and community groups provide nutritious meals and family activities for more than 18,000 children across the country.

Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families, said:

School holidays should be a chance for children to have fun experiences and make lasting memories – and no child should miss out on that. That’s why we have quadrupled funding for free summer holiday clubs this year, with the aim of reaching around 50,000 of the most disadvantaged children across the country.

Yes, these clubs will ensure children get a nutritious meal – but they will also offer the chance to socialise with friends and take part in activities such as sports and healthy cooking classes, to keep pupils active and involved in their communities throughout the six-week break from school.

Free School Meals

Today, the Guardian, the Independent and the Mirror reported on research by the charity Citizens UK, which claims that pupils on free school meals are losing out on £65 million a year of unused allowance, which is retained by schools and catering companies.

The £65 million figure quoted assumes all schools have private catering arrangements where unspent funds are retained by caterers – we therefore do not recognise the figure to be accurate.

Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi said:

It is important that all pupils have access to healthy and nutritious meals at school and we would encourage all eligible children and parents to claim their free meals.

Free school meals are intended as a benefit in kind, rather than a cash benefit, and our primary interest is that schools meet their legal duties to provide nutritious free lunches to eligible children.

School governing boards are responsible for organising their meal provision – whether it’s in-house, through local authority catering services, or private providers – and there is evidence of innovative ways in which schools are allowing pupils to carry over their benefit.

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