BETT: Gove to scrap ICT curriculum

By Computing Staff
11 Jan 2012 View Comments
Education secretary Michael Gove

In a move that has been lauded by the IT industry, education secretary Michael Gove told delegates at the BETT conference in London today that the current ICT curriculum will be scrapped from September and replaced with one focused on computer science and programming.

He also described the current ICT curriculum, which teaches students to use computing applications such as spreadsheets, as "harmful and dull", according to the BBC.

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The current curriculum will be replaced by one based on"open source" designed with the help of universities and industry.

Computer games entrepreneur Ian Livingstone, an adviser to Gove, envisages a new curriculum that could see 16-year-olds creating their own apps for smartphones and 18-year-olds able to write their own simple programming language.

A consultation on the new computing curriculum will begin next week.

In line with moves already under way in the industry, Gove said that he wanted universities and businesses to help devise new courses and exams.

Technology giant HP launched a degree in October, and IBM announced recently that it was collaborating with the University of West Scotland to develop skills in predictive analytics.

The move also follows the widely reported comments of Google's CEO Eric Schmidt at The MediaGuardian Edinburgh festival last year, where he expressed disbelief that computing was not part of the UK's core curriculum.

"I am flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools.

"Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage," he said at the time.

These comments followed the release of the Next Gen report in February 2011, which exposed the poor quality of ICT teaching in schools. The government responded to the report in December.

In a move that coincides nicely with the announcement, the Edexcel exam board has announced that it is to pilot a new Computing Science GCSE in September 2012.

The board has been working with leading technology companies on the pilot for several months and if it is successful the course will be made available to all schools in the UK.

Edexcel owner Pearson is also developing a BTEC course for schools and colleges in information and creative technology, that includes the study of games design and the principles of programming.

President of Pearson UK Rod Bristow said: "The Next Gen report made it abundantly clear that computing skills are crucial to the UK's economic success.

"In the age of the laptop and the smartphone, it should be obvious to everyone in education that young people want to be able to develop their own software, write their own programmes and turn those ideas into great technology companies.

"We need to give them the basics to go on and study computing and get jobs in the technology sector."

Intellect, the ICT trade body, said in a statement that it welcomed Gove's announcement as it had recommended the introduction of computer programming last year when it responded to the Department for Education review of the National Curriculum.

Intellect's head of government and education John Hoggard said: "The announcement today is a vital first step to ensure continued growth and competitiveness of the UK. We will continue to push for schools to build students' skills through embedding technology into the teaching of all other subjects."

Similarly, the sector skills council for business and IT, e-Skills UK, also welcomed the announcement, with the body's CEO stating that it was a "vital and historic step towards creating a new approach to teaching IT in schools".

The new curriculum may look to draw from information collated by e-Skills during its ongoing Behind the Screen's project, which aims to create a new IT GCSE and delivery methodology.


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