ICT Curriculum Scrapped By DfE

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Removal of curriculum two years before new programme of study is greeted with mixed reaction

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that the current programme of ICT teaching in English schools is set to be removed as part of a wider review into the national curriculum.

Schools will continue to teach ICT, but they will not be told what pupils should study until a new ICT curriculum is implemented in 2014.

The decision has been met with a mixed reaction from business leaders, who are concerned about a possible IT skills shortage.

Early retirement

“Having considered the responses to the consultation, the Government has decided to proceed with disapplication,” said the DfE. “In this interim period, schools will still be required to teach ICT to pupils at all key stages but teachers will have the flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils without central Government prescription.”

“The Department for Education has now launched a public consultation on the draft regulations that will bring this decision into force,” it added. “The consultation will run for one month, until 11 July 2012.”

In January, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the current ICT curriculum was to be scrapped in September and replaced with compulsory lessons in computer science and programming from 2014. It had been argued that the current method of teaching was insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform.

The BCS, which recently sought the help of 250 skills for a new ICT Teaching Network, welcomed the decision.

”We’re delighted that the Department for Education has confirmed what schools will be free to teach computer science from September,” said Bill Mitchell, Director of BCS Academy of Computing.  “We believe it is of paramount importance that every child has the chance to study computer science from primary school onwards; with this latest move this will be true from September 2012,”

“Computer science is an intellectually challenging subject that will appeal to academically minded students,” he added. “As well as ensuring schools introduce this as a GCSE option it’s also vital that every child is competent in the use of technology (i.e. digitally literate) by the time they leave school.”

Could get worse

However the Corporate IT Forum Education and Skills Commission criticised the decision to disapply the curriculum a full two years before a new programme of study was in place, arguing it would exacerbate the IT skills shortage.

“We are very disappointed that the Government has not listened to our concerns about withdrawing the ICT curriculum from schools before the new computer science programme is introduced in 2014,” said John Harris, commission chairman and chief architect and head of IT strategy at GlaxoSmithKline. “While we agree that the current ICT curriculum is failing to meet the needs of employers and should be improved as a matter of urgency, we are extremely concerned that the absence of a programme of study or attainment targets for any period of time will widen the gap between the best and worst ICT teaching in schools to an ‘unacceptable level’, effectively condemning large numbers of children to receiving little or no ICT teaching at all.”

I a recent poll TechWeekEurope readers believed that the answer to the growing IT skills crisis is training in the workplace and better education.

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Steve McCaskill is deputy editor of TechWeekEurope and joined as a reporter in 2011 having previously written for Steel Media. He covers telecommunications, networking, public sector IT, along with sports technology.

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