Author, entrepreneur and government-appointed skills champion Ian Livingstone explains why the UK’s future prosperity depends on getting school kids excited about coding
Computing: Programming is finally going to be introduced into schools. Can you tell us about your part in this and what the government is going to do?
Ian Livingstone: We looked at all the universities around the country and found there was an alarming drop-off in students wanting to study computer science. And so I was talking to [Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries] Ed Vaizey about this problem and he commissioned a report that was later called Next Gen and asked myself and Alex Hope from Double Negative to write a review of the skills issues around video games and visual effects.
So with the help of Nesta (a charity that aims to promote UK innovation), we conducted several surveys and found that the problem in universities was actually caused by a problem in schools, in that ICT is currently taught as largely learning about office skills.
Against all odds we’ve managed to bore our children to death, teaching them Word, PowerPoint and Excel and gave them no insight into how technology is actually created. So we teach them effectively to read, but not to write, we teach them how to use an application but not how to make an application. So our number one recommendation for Next Gen was to have computer science on the schools national curriculum as an essential discipline.
We published in February 2011, but it wasn’t until Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, referenced Next Gen in his famous MacTaggart lecture that people started to sit up and take notice; first with the Prime Minister at Tech City saying that he echoed Schmidt’s thoughts on computer science.