Meet Shaun Whorton, Curriculum Director for Computing

We sat down with Shaun Whorton to talk about his role as Curriculum Director for Computing at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.

So how did you get into teaching?

With my strong subject knowledge and willingness to help younger kids get into the subject that I love, what better profession to get into than teaching. When the government changed the subject from IT to the more specialised Computer Science in 2011, I saw an opportunity to lend my skills and put them to good use in a teaching role.

What is it that interests you about computing?

Computing is all around us and the way society is moving means we’re becoming more dependent on computing in general. The main thing that interests me is having an opportunity to teach students that it’s not just about scrolling, liking and swiping; it’s the technology behind it all. It’s the algorithms and how we get from lines of code to a multi-million-dollar industry.

Why choose to teach computing at a UTC?

I wanted to come to a place that puts the subject at the heart of its thinking. The students have a great breadth and depth of knowledge about different aspects of computing. Getting to teach students who are maybe five years ahead of where we’d put them, and being able to mentor them in their development, has been amazing.

What have you noticed since arriving at the UTC?

Coming here, my ability as a teacher to focus individually on every single student, and offer that level of support, has grown. The amount of time I’ve got to focus my energy on every student in their own niche is fantastic.

What are your strengths as a computing team?

In the department we’ve got over thirty years’ experience within the industry. We all know the subject inside out so we can teach, assess and develop things that you wouldn’t find on a regular curriculum. If a student comes to us and says for example: “Sir I want to become a software engineer, how can I do that?” we can offer practical guidance.

What are your ambitions for your department?

I want us to be a regional hub of excellence. I want us to be able to advertise the fact that whatever you want to do in computing, you need to come to UTC OLP because we have got the best department in terms of results, as well as resources, staff and facilities.

What kind of projects do the students work on in computing?

Our Year 12 students are currently working with staff from waste management group, Veolia, on ways to measure how energy is being used in Sheffield. We’ve got traditional projects as well. One of our Year 11 students has just submitted a game he created for a Bafta nomination and we’re currently waiting to hear back from that.

What has been your highlight of working at the UTC?

My personal highlight has been seeing my students ranked number 3 in the world on Immersive Labs, a cyber security training platform. The platform is mostly used by students at universities to undertake training whilst on their undergraduate degrees. We’re also the highest ranked UK educational institution on HackTheBox, an online cyber security platform used by institutions to train their workforce and universities worldwide.

What do you think are the strengths of a UTC?

Our students will work with a variety of employers by the time they’ve left us at 18, which is invaluable in this climate. We really give them a fully rounded education. Our Year 13 students recently had some apprenticeship interviews and the feedback that came back about our candidates was really positive. Whatever we do, we are doing with students in mind. Whether that’s a curriculum change, how many hours we do something for, or what sort of employers we work with, we’ve always got the students at the heart of our decisions.

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