Computing experts welcome ICT shake-up

  • @davidcrookes

Computing and videogame experts have welcomed the proposed shake-up in the way computing is taught in UK schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said lessons in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are to be axed from the start of the new school year in September, subject to a consultation.

It will be replaced by computer science, which will be made compulsory for all pupils.

Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of videogame industry body TIGA, said the proposal was welcome but he said schools needed to be well-resourced in order to be capable of delivering Computer Science lessons.

He added: “The Government’s decision on ICT and Computer Science is very positive. Schools will now have greater opportunities to teach Computer Science, a subject of great importance to the video games sector.

"TIGA hopes that schools will take advantage of this opportunity. Some schools could specialise in teaching Computer Science and become centres of excellence in this discipline.”

Mr Gove said students wre "bored out of their minds" by the way computing is currently taught in UK schools.

Speaking to the BETT educational technology trade fair, he said "technology has changed the world, and the workplace" but he said education had barely changed and he pointed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates' warning that "the need for children to understand computer programming is much more acute now".

Under the plan, schools will use teaching resources that have been put together with help from companies such as Microsoft and Google.

Gove said another aim was to create a new Computer Science GCSE and that schools and teachers will be given freedom over what and how to teach.

He said: "Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum.

"Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11 year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch.

"By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in University courses and be writing their own Apps for smartphone

"From September, schools will be given the freedom to use cutting-edge teaching resources designed with input from leading employers and academics such as Microsoft, Google and Cambridge University."

Videogame developers including Cambridge-based indie game creator Sophie Houlden said the move was a positive one. "So happy to hear ICT is getting scrapped," she wrote on Twitter. "Those lessons were a total waste of time when I was in school. Glad I blew them off and made games."

The announcement follows the Livingstone-Hope Skills review that recommended the need for children to acquire computer science skills.

Ian Livingstone, who co-authored the Livingstone-Hope Skills review, reacted to the news on Twitter by posting: "Thank you Michael Gove. Bye bye ICT that was. It's been special. Hello Computer Science. Kids will rejoice."

He told the BBC: "The current lessons are essentially irrelevant to today's generation of children who can learn PowerPoint in a week.

"It's a travesty given our heritage as the most creative nation in the world.

"Children are being forced to learn how to use applications, rather than to make them. They are becoming slaves to the user interface and are totally bored by it."