Looser ICT curriculum 'might be welcomed' by teachers

By Peter Gothard
08 Jun 2012 View Comments
raspberrypi

Michael Gove might be planning the kind of collaborative, "wiki curriculum" approach to the teaching of ICT that would reduce the average Guardian reader to apoplexy, yet he might find a surprising degree of support from teachers on the ground.

For years – going back to the 1980s when Computer Studies O-Level students were taught about punch cards and paper tape – the ICT curriculum has been a source of criticism.

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But at Leeds secondary school Swallow Hill Community College – the first UK school to teach ICT lessons using the £22 Raspberry Pi mini-computer – staff firmly disagreed that putting teaching back into the hands of the teachers was necessarily a negative move.

"I always feel a little bit sorry for the IT teachers, and I'm guessing it's the same in most schools, because I think all of our IT teachers have a background, and a degree, in programming," said assistant principal Bryan Pearce.

However, the curriculum in recent years has become very product-based and far-removed from the kind of programming that many of the teachers will have grown up with.

"They come into schools to teach that, but end up having to teach the things that the curriculum stipulates. So they end up teaching desktop publishing, word processing, and that kind of thing."

Raspberry Pi distributor Premier Farnell's taster class, in which children of 11 and 12 collaborated on networked coding projects, with the cheap and portable hardware used as a closed network server, showed staff at the school how pupils could benfit from a curriculum that is more focused on programming.

"All of our staff are really keen to get started with the kind of programming Raspberry Pi can offer," said Pearce. "It's going to give the students lots of opportunities to do programming – to have a go at it themselves."

Lead practitioner for IT at Swallow Hill, Arianna McCann, added: "I don't think the fact that IT is not going to be compulsory changes things, because we will all move over to computer science and I think it's a benefit."

McCann continued: "It'll teach children a lot more in terms of programming, and give them a better insight into the outside world, so it can only be a good thing to make lessons more computer science-based. But I think there'll still be an element of ICT that we can still do; I think the two can definitely work hand in hand."

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