Subject Leader of Computing at UTC Leeds, Damian Whitehouse, joined the UTC in September 2018. He is a very experienced teacher, having worked in teaching and training since 2001.
Damian graduated from the University of Hull with a B.Sc. degree in Software Engineering in 1999, prior to commencing a PGCE to train as a secondary school teacher. Since then, he has taught computer science and mathematics working in three different secondary schools, as well as for a national training provider and a large sixth form college. Throughout much of this time, he has also worked seasonally for the exam board. He is currently a senior examiner of computer science and leads a national team of examiners for the A-level C# programming exam.
During a career sabbatical from the teaching profession, Damian trained IT industry professionals, preparing them for professional Cisco and Microsoft examinations. He also set up a national software developer apprenticeship programme, working with employers in the development industry, including Capgemini and Microsoft.
Damian has helped many students succeed in their computing career: “Many of my previous students have gone on to study for a degree in computer science or software engineering and others have gone straight into employment or apprenticeships as developers.”
As an A-level teacher in a sixth form college, Damian noted that many of his students had had a poor experience of learning computer science at GCSE level. When an opportunity arose at UTC Leeds to teach both GCSE and A Level computer science, he jumped at the chance. He says, “People complain that GCSE computer science is too theoretical, but it need not be the case. Everything about computer science is practical if it is taught by programming. The only way to understanding computer science is to write code and that’s what we do here.”
Damian takes the view that his students should be building software in industry-standard languages so computer science students at UTC Leeds study Microsoft Visual Basic for GCSE and C# along with SQL in the sixth form. With knowledge and experience of these sorts of languages, they are building the skillsets they will need for jobs in industry and can adapt to other languages with ease.
He says, “Teaching students how to program a computer is about teaching them how to think for themselves, that is an awesome job!”.
University technical colleges are different to other schools because of their focus on specialist STEM subjects and the combination of academic and technical qualifications. Damian has noticed a difference in the atmosphere: “Students sitting in public areas are engaged in what they’re doing, they are allowed to concentrate. Everyone is treated with respect and there is a sense of a common purpose. I presume that stems from the fact that students have taken a conscious decision to join the UTC and they share common interests. It feels like a very professional environment.
“The focus of UTC Leeds on preparing students for employment in the engineering and technology sectors makes leading my subject here one of the most attractive subject leadership roles for a specialist teacher. It is a pleasure to be a part of the team of education professionals who provide students with such opportunity and where my passion for, and belief in the importance of, computer science, is shared.”