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 Sheffield entrepreneur launches his first computer science course at Tapton School

Dozens of pupils have started a computer science course at a Sheffield school following a £1.1million investment from a tech firm boss.

WANdisco chief executive David Richards has donated the money through The David and Jane Richards Family Foundation to launch its first computer science course for state school pupils.

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

It comes amid a shortage of skills in the sector and at a time when schools are calling for fairer funding from the Government.

READ MORE: Sheffield tech tycoon backs petition to redress "chronic lack of funding" in city schools

Around 50 year nine students at Tapton School, in Crosspool, have started the course and will focus on data science to give young people the ability to understand and solve real-world challenges. 

David, who is a former pupil at the school, and his wife Jane launched the charity to encourage young people to fulfil their potential and inspire the next generation of UK technology entrepreneurs. 

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

The couple believe the Government’s current emphasis on coding in the classroom is misguided.

They want to role the course out in more state schools.

Mr Richards said: “We believe 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.

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

WANdisco chief executive David Richards backs the fair funding petition

WANdisco chief executive David Richards backs the fair funding petition

“At a time when state education funding is under pressure and the tech sector is experiencing skills shortages, we are proud to be playing our part in helping young people to fulfil their potential and have successful and rewarding careers.

“We are excited about the launch of our new computer science course and look forward to rolling it out to other schools in the future.”

The foundation recruited Professor Chris Brady, one of the UK’s best-known business school academics, to work in conjunction with Tapton School to design the computer science course. 

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

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

Pupils at Tapton School taking part in the new computer science course

Mr Richards has backed The Star and Sheffield Telegraph campaign which is calling on the Government to redress the funding situation in city schools.

More than 8,000 people have signed the petition after headteachers have warned of a growing crisis in Sheffield which could see staff losing their jobs, class sizes increased and schools cutting down to opening for four-and-a-half weeks.

READ MORE: Beehives introduced at Sheffield primary school thanks to tech firm boss

The Government’s new national funding formula, aimed at redistributing funding to historically underfunded areas, helps the situation a little and will lead to an overall increase in funding for Sheffield by 2020/21.

But headteachers are struggling to balance their budgets over the next few years.

When he signed the online petition, Mr Richards said: “I received a fabulous education in Sheffield in the 1970s and 80s that formed the platform for a career where we are now fortunate enough to give back to the system.

“I know first hand the chronic lack of funding in Sheffield schools - yes the pot is getting bigger but not at the same rate as pupil growth.”

To sign the petition visit www.change.org/p/fair-fund-for-sheffield-schools