Sowing the seeds of digital success: An interview with skills champion Ian Livingstone

By Danny Palmer
21 Aug 2012 View Comments
Ian Livingstone

Then that opened the doors to meeting [Education Secretary] Michael Gove’s special advisers, and the result was that in January this year Gove made his historic speech - which I hope is transformational - by saying this September the current programme for ICT is going to be withdrawn, and replaced by a curriculum with computer science at its core.

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So we very much welcome Gove’s announcement. It’s a statement of intent and now we have to go about implantation, and that’s a whole new challenge in itself.

How do you see this benefitting the UK IT industry?

Code is at the heart of everything we do in the digital world in which we exist. It’s not just about video games and visual effects, it’s also about designing the next jet propulsion engine, or fighting cybercrime, or running financial services.

Coding is essential to everything, and with traditional manufacturing in decline and financial services in disarray, if the government wants the economy to succeed, you have to empower our creative nation with the skills necessary to serve digital content to global audiences via high-speed broadband, and code is absolutely essential to that.

How is the government going to ensure teachers with coding expertise are in place to educate schoolchildren?

Well, you have to start somewhere. At the moment there are simply not enough teachers who are able to teach computer science, but the BCS has an affiliate body called Computing at School where they already have 1,000 teachers who are able to teach computer science. They can also act as a centre of excellence for local schools in their neighbourhood, they can teach existing teachers. And so we have to set this ball in motion because if we don’t the consequences are quite dire.

It might be a bit haphazard at first, but we have to start somewhere. We’re working with the three examining boards to create a curriculum that is rigorous as far as the Department for Education is concerned, but at the same time exciting and relevant and fun to attract the students to it. We want computer science to be the fourth science, to give everybody the opportunity to study it. They won’t all become computer scientists, but we’ve got to make sure that those who want to, can.

What do you think the impact will be in 10 years?

I would hope that some of the best intellectual property in terms of technology will be coming out of the UK rather than us having to license technology from around the world. Computer science is the new Latin.

 

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