DfE explains ICT curriculum disapplication, telling schools "It is up to you"

By Peter Gothard
12 Jun 2012 View Comments
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The Department for Education has elaborated on yesterday's statement that the government is to remove learning framework and attainment targets from UK ICT education, telling schools that responsibility now lies in their hands, and the government will back off and "let the best happen."

Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum this morning, head of technology policy unit for the DfE, Dr Vanessa Pittard, said, "the Department is less is in charge of ICT than it ever has been, and there's a huge amount of promise. It's a really good time for us."

Further reading

Pittard focused on dispelling concern from education groups, which followed yesterday morning's announcement that the national curriculum will be self-guided until a new structure is introduced in September 2014.

She said: "There was some opposition, and a message that perhaps we should [instead] update the programmes of study, but that's very clearly a minority.

"Let's be clear on exactly what's been talked about: a very clear message that central government is not best placed to define knowledge pupils need to acquire. We need technology across curriculums because it's so fast moving."

In fact, the government's own public research into attitudes to its ICT education reforms revealed a clear split in those for and against, as Computing reported yesterday.

Pittard explained how there has has long been "evidence that the ICT curriculum has become something that needs to be more rigorous and needs to be more challenging," adding that the new measures will provide "space for upping the ante."

Reminding the forum that ICT is still a part of the curriculum at all Key Stages, Pittard said the exisiting curriculum is "still there to be used, adapted, added to, amended, or ignored for something much better."

Pittard pointed out that safeguards will also remain to keep an unstructured curriculum viable. "There will be high expectations of all subjects, regardless of whether they are tested nationally," she said.

"So, school curriculums must be published online year by year, and that addresses accountability. Transparency is a very important principle here; making it transparent to the outside world; to parents, students, [and] other schools."

While Pittard asserted that such action would mean "schools will be looking at other schools' curriculums," she hastened to add that accountability was not "a fight to the finish; it's not about who has the best curriculum. It's about the continuing debate of how the subject is taught; that's absolutely critical."

In terms of maintaining standards until September 2014's new curriculum, Pittard concluded that the answer is to "keep drawing on networks", specifying input the Royal Society has already offered in terms of recommended areas of learning.

"The key is how to be the best, and that's what networks and professional development are really for," said Pittard.

But Pittard was keen to point out that "the government isn't going to specify it. Let's do the brave thing and say: 'Schools, it is up to you. Do it, and then let the best happen'."

Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall, Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education, added: "The government really is letting go, and it's going to happen in every school.

"This is a frightening thing, as we've all been controlled for 30 years. Well, you're the pioneers. There's so much happening and so much opportunity. It's going to be a wonderfully exciting time."

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