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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  1. Whilst the current ICT curriculim is failing, its pedetstrisn, repetative and does not inspire or stretch the high acheivers. However, scapping it for an interim persion is rash and foolish. Whilst the best teachers may benefit from freedom to teech what they know will inspire, educate and entertain their students, the poor ones will slack off further. Technology underpinned by computer science is one of the few growth areas in the current ecconomically unceartain times so our government should be making a concerted effort to improve computing education now, not later. Many potential pupils get put off computer science at secondary school level due to lack luster teaching, so if we want to fully harness the technological economy we need to promote the subject well in schools. Taught well, it can be one of the most interesting subjects a pupil will learn.

  2. ICT has been a ‘joke’ subject in schools with similar results!

    There needs to be a change – the subject needs to be split into two:

    ‘How to use a computer’ – taught to all

    Computer science- taught to those who opt in to the subject and taught by the physics/maths departments
    i.e. as a full academic subject.

  3. I can’t help feeling that the CITF folks are miles off the beam and years out of date. Expert teachers, new curricula and so on do all have their place, but the language in the Forum’s advice on the ICT curriculum is tinged with the thinking of the command & control industrial age (that we are so not still in: I’m with Ken Robinson – see Changing Educational Paradigms).

    I believe that helping youngsters to prepare to cope with innovation and technology is a fundamentally different sort of educational problem to most we have had in the past (see my stuff on solving wicked problems). This situation is unlikely to be improved by a traditional, top-down, decompose-the-problem-into-parts-and-solve-each-one sort of approach: I do not think that carrying on with a tweaked version of the existing curriculum, whilst hanging on for a centralised team of educational and industry experts to come up with a new one, is at all the thing to do. We must take an organic approach and quickly get on with ‘growing’ new ways of tackling these issues.

    Crucially, we must focus less on teaching and more on helping people to learn: I came across, and very much liked, this post – Wisdom of the Class – from Mark Steed, a school principal. We must enable front-line people, in schools and industry, to work out what do; promote sharing of the stuff that really works (like crazy); and reward those people as much for successfully sharing as for achieving.

    I think the DfE are right to take the line they are.

    (Or am I just being naive?)

    This comment is also posted here.