Tycoon launches new £1.1m schools initiative in Sheffield to plug tech skills gap

Professor Chris Brady with the foundation's Liz Drayton and staff and pupils from Tapton School
Professor Chris Brady with the foundation's Liz Drayton and staff and pupils from Tapton School
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Pupils and parents at a Sheffield school have been given a glimpse into a new addition to the curriculum after a £1.1million boost from a tech firm boss.

David Richards is donating £1.1m through The David and Jane Richards Family Foundation to empower and improve the lives of children.

David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco

David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco

At his old school, Tapton in Crosspool, a new hands-on course will launch in September which will teach pupils how to use apps to manipulate and analyse huge amounts of data.

It aims to inspire the next generation of technology entrepreneurs and focuses on data science to give young people the ability to understand and solve real world problems.

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Around 50 year nine pupils have signed up to take part and today have been given a glimpse into what they can expect by Pofessor Chris Brady by looking at football data and World Cup predictions.

Prof Brady, professor of management studies and director off the Centre for Sports Business at Salford University, is working in conjunction with Tapton School to design the course.

Professor Chris Brady with the foundation's Liz Drayton and staff and pupils from Tapton School

Professor Chris Brady with the foundation's Liz Drayton and staff and pupils from Tapton School

His team developed the SAM super computer, which looks at football player performance to predict Premier League results.

The first half of the course will teach pupils how to use data to forecast outcomes. In the second half, pupils will apply these new skills to scientific challenges in fields as wide-ranging as space exploration, next generation antibiotics and gene sequencing.

Prof Brady said: "We will ask children what they want to work on, using subjects like football, fashion and film.

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“They will choose what fascinates them. We will ask them what they want to know.

“They will start questioning. We want them involved in the design process and answering their own questions.”

The course will be embedded into the curriculum and students will complete two hours a week.

Pupil Nina Postle said enjoyed the taster session and signed up to take part in the course 'because it was a great opportunity'.

Chief executive of the Tapton School Academy Trust, David Dennis, said: “This is a step change for computing in school.

“There is insufficient innovation in the subject as currently taught.

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"Computer science in the national curriculum, with its focus on programming, is not fit for purpose.

“We want to attract the pupils who might not be interested the subject because of the amount of coding involved.

“Coding is easier to assess than creativity, but that does not mean it is the right thing to do.

“We want young people to experience how computing is changing lives.

“We want to encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in young people now and how it will evolve in the future.”

Tapton School is the first to work with the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, a charitable endeavour from the founder and chief executive of WANdisco.

Mr Richards said: “We are very excited that so many young people have chosen to sign up for the data science course and cannot wait to see what amazing ideas they come up with.

“We believe that the advancement of computing education, starting at Tapton School, will help young people to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial, just the sort of skills we will need in the future.”

“We need to engage schoolchildren with computing in the same way that British astronaut Tim Peake has been doing with science through the European space education programme.”

WANdisco has offices in the Electric Works in Sheffield, California and China, Japan, Belfast, Australia and India.