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S1 E6 - Subject Leadership, Leadership Style and Barriers to Teaching Computing with Allen Tsui

Updated: May 30, 2023

The Subject Leaders Podcast - Aidan Severs consulting Ltd - S1 E6 - Subject Leadership, Leadership Style and Barriers to Teaching Computing with Allen Tsui

In episode 6 of The Subject Leaders Podcast Aidan speaks to Allen Tsui, a primary (and A-level) computing leader and teacher. Allen answers the following questions:

  • What does it mean to lead a subject/be a subject leader?

  • What leadership style(s) should subject leaders employ?

  • What are the potential barriers for teachers teaching computing (and how can they be overcome)?

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Below you can find the transcript for this episode of The Subject Leaders Podcast:


Aidan: We're welcoming Allen Tsui to the Subject Leaders podcast today. Morning, Allen. How are you?

Allen: Hello there. I'm doing well.

Aidan: Good. Can you tell us a little bit about you just to get us started, where we can get in touch with you and so on?

Allen: Sure. So I have been subject lead for computing at an amazing school in East London called Willowbrook Primary. It's part of the Griffin Schools Trust, which is a family of schools across East London, Kent, and the Midlands. Most of your listeners will probably know me from Twitter sphere. My Twitter handle is @tsuiallen. In addition to being subject lead for computing, I also am the moderator or host - I'm not sure which one people prefer to think of - of the #Caschat hashtag, which meets 08:00. P.m. UK time on Tuesdays, where I use the Twitter handle @caschat_UK. And I'm also part of the Computing at School community where I'm the leader for the Waltham Forest mixed community local authority area.

Aidan: So I think our listeners have probably worked out by now that you are going to be talking about computing this morning. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience as a primary teacher and subject lead? Have you led some other subjects or is computing your number 1?

Allen: Computing is my thing, absolutely. So I joined the teaching profession in 2010. I was a pen pushing desk jockey for 24 years before teaching, and it was at that point where my bosses at the government department I was working for said, you know what, Alan, you're actually quite good with people and supporting the professional development of college if we ever see the money run out. And they did in 2010. When the money ran out, they recommended and I thought agreed that teaching should be a thing for me to get into. I wanted to be a secondary computer science teacher, but when I went to volunteer at a local primary as a volunteer reader, you know, the type of adults that go in and listen to the children reading, I loved it so much that I decided to stay in working in primary. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a tough time getting into primary, my primary practise, and it took me something like three or four years to complete my apprenticeship. It was kind of started off as under the old currency of the NQT process, newly qualified teacher process. So I completed that in 2016 and it was at that point that I joined the amazing school I work for now.

My bosses at the time said your kind of passion for Stem enrichment knows no bounds. So they offered me the role of STEM enrichment lead. And in 2020, when my predecessor moved on, they offered me subject lead for computing, which I've been doing since then. And I've been a subject lead for computing at the amazing school I work for since 2020. I love it so much because the school is part of a multi academy trust. As I said, there are two schools within the trust which are secondary. And for those who know about the computing teaching sector, secondary teachers are few and far between. And because of that, the recruitment crisis in schools in London for computer science teachers means that I'm currently also teaching A level computer science along with working across nursery to year six. So it's an interesting job and it's a brilliant job.

Aidan: So what would you consider to be your subject specialism and which are your favourite subjects to teach?

Allen: It would be computing. My school are very unique in that they've taken a view to support the teaching of computing, art, drama, music and PE through specialist teachers which cover classes and deliver classes across the whole school as part of the non contact time PPA provision for colleagues. So I teach from nursery to year six. If I was to choose a topic or theme within computing, that was my favourite, I would say it was actually staying safe online, which might seem a little bit out there, but it's a part of the curriculum that everybody can engage with. And it starts from a very early part of a child's kind of learning where the first lessons I teach in early years in reception are simply to be able to say no and to be able to understand that. To be able to know that they've got trusted adults around them that they can talk to when they ever feel worried, scared or sad. And it goes on from there.

Aidan: Perfect. Now, if the curriculum were being slimmed down, which subject would you fight hard to keep?

Allen: Obviously, computing. And my point on that would be that technology, computing and technology is everywhere for everyone. And it's almost reaching that ubiquity with reading and writing, everybody's got a device. Children as young as three or four can be introduced to learning about computational thinking. Where I work, where the curriculum I've designed, based on the National Centre for Computing Education's framework, allows me to encourage children to show me that they can do mark making on this screen. They know how to use a mouse, they know how to use a touch screen and they are able to find their way begin to find their way around the keyboard.

Aidan: So one last question before we get on to your three specific questions then, today. So what do you love about being a subject leader?

Allen: The fact that my bosses have a brilliant can do and want to attitude and they let the subject leaders where I work pretty much do blue sky thinking in terms of curriculum design, what we teach and how we teach it. So it's a real privilege and honour to be working for such an amazing and supportive team. It does mean that I'm able to look at the curriculum with a very forensic eye and be able to say, well, actually, when teaching the children that I'm currently working with, I'm able to look at their skills base, what their interests are, what they want to learn, and the kind of learning path that I want to be able to take them. Far from many who claim that over the last three years there's been an enormous amount of lost learning and there's a clamour for COVID catch up. I don't see that in computing. What I see is a new emerging group of learners who are very, very confident with technology and devices to the point that from the age of three, they are already some children are already showing me that they have that curiosity and attitude to learning, of wanting to get into very, very simple computer programming, for example.

Aidan: Right, yeah. I definitely think my own children probably use devices slightly more than ever they did before when it was COVID. I think we bought them all tablets and things during that period of time.

What does it mean to lead a subject and to be a subject leader?

What leadership styles should subject leaders employ?

What are the potential barriers for teachers who are teaching computing? And if you've identified or you can identify some barriers, how can those be overcome?

Closing Comments





Subject Leadership

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