School ICT to be replaced by computer science programme


Schoolboy app developer Nick D'Aloisio: "More web design and programming lessons needed"

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The current information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum in England's schools is a "mess" and must be radically revamped, the education secretary has announced.

From September it will be replaced by a flexible curriculum in computer science and programming, designed with the help of universities and industry.

Michael Gove called the current ICT curriculum "demotivating and dull".

He will begin a consultation next week on the new computing curriculum.

He said this would create young people "able to work at the forefront of technological change".

Speaking at the BETT show for educational technology in London, Mr Gove announced plans to free up schools to use curricula and teaching resources that properly equip pupils for the 21st Century.

He said that resources, developed by experts, were already available online to help schools teach computer science and he wants universities and businesses to devise new courses and exams, particularly a new computing GCSE.


  • Computer programming is the process of writing code - the set of instructions that computers rely on to complete tasks
  • There is a huge variety of programming languages, including C++, Visual Basic and Java
  • Many children interested in code begin with the languages behind simple games or animations

The education secretary said the inadequate grounding in computing offered by the current curriculum was in danger of damaging Britain's economic prospects.

He called for a revival of the legacy of British computer pioneer Alan Turing whose work in the 1930s laid the foundation of the modern computing industry.

"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 or Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations," he said.

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

'Slaves to the interface'

Mr Livingstone, co-author of last year's Next Gen report which highlighted the poor quality of computer teaching in schools, told BBC news: "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," he said.

Other experts voiced concerns about a shortage of teachers qualified to deliver the new curriculum.

Bill Mitchell, of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: "It is tremendous that Michael Gove is personally endorsing the importance of teaching computer science in schools.

"There are, of course, significant challenges to overcome, specifically with the immediate shortage of computer science teachers."

While Prof Steve Furber, chairman of an imminent Royal Society report on computing in schools, said non-specialist teachers might find the plethora of alternative teaching resources confusing.

"We look forward to hearing more about how the government intends to support non-specialist teachers who make up the majority of the workforce in delivering an excellent ICT education without official guidance on lesson content," he said.

'More web design'

Nick D'Aloisio, a schoolboy from London, developed his own app to simplify searches on the internet while studying for his GCSEs.

The 16-year-old said web design lessons in Year 9 helped sparked his interest.

"That was a useful introduction into the world of programming and design," he told BBC News.

"And so I think if we can get in schools across the country more web design, more programming lessons, even if it's very basic, we can raise awareness among students of the world of applications and how anyone can pretty much code a successful application these days."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg MP said: "It is right to identify that the ICT curriculum needs to be reformed to fit with the times.

"That's why Labour said last year that pupils need to understand the mechanisms and coding behind computer programmes - not just learning how to use a word processor, enter data into a worksheet or design a power-point presentation.

"As well as updating programmes of study, we need better teacher training, higher standards and continual assessment of what pupils are being taught."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    I welcome a push in technology so these guys can go to university and become developers driving this industry.However a word of warning..this is for the 13 yrs above only once they learn the basics!

    Reading Writting and performing arts (Not music) should all be taught before acquiring skills to work.Teaching people on technology which will be out of date is pointless

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Children teach themselves IT. And they use computers constantly. My kids' ICT curriculum seemed to have been designed in the 80's for people who wanted a "word-processor." Gove is right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    To those worried teachers who think they don't have the equipment - you need computers. They don't need to be new or fast - they just need to be able to edit text.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Politicians should keep their noses out of the education system. Continual re-organisation and an obsession with targets has severely damaged the education being given to our children and the teaching profession.

    Professional bodies and specialists should ensure that the IT curriculum reflects the subject in its entirety It currently doesnt - why not? This is the question that needs to be asked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    to - 695. annieprouse
    It's not about getting your hands on the latest gadgets to play around with. It's about understanding the logic and organisation. You could teach most of the concepts with a paper and pencil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    Open source curriculum with the freedom to make mistakes? I'll carry on teaching ICT then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    695.annieprouse "I can't wait for my class of 24 seven year olds to get their hands on ipads!"

    I have an Ipad and I love it, it's a great internet reading machine.

    It is not however a great content creation tool, let alone programming tool.

    I sincerely hope the Dept. of Education does not waste money on such things for kids or teachers. All you need is a bunch of PCs and some training!

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    The problem with teaching programming effectively to children is the same problem facing the teaching of A level Computing at the moment; though there are some very good tutorials available for learning to program, it is useful to have someone on hand with a good knowledge of the language being taught. Unhappily, many of those with Computer Science degrees find it more lucrative to program.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    @773. fatal-error. I'm sure if you spoke to the many programmers who Apple have made millionaires through their App Store ecosystem you would get a very different view. I would back a winner on this one, and Apple has been winning consistently for the last 10 years! iPad isn't the only way forward, but mobile tech like that should absolutely be part of the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    The misuse of the word 'programme' everywhere is driving me crazy today. The Government may well be changing the educational 'programme' but it won't be in order to get students writing computer 'programmes'! I am also worried by the implication that CS = programming, programming is just one part of a far wider ranging subject. Many theoretical aspects of CS require no programming at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    ICT SKILLS are invaluable; to use Windows is the ICT aspect of many jobs So,have ICT Programming as an option choice. I was taught Computer Science, I have never used it since. Students should be given the choice, this would enable them to develop their skills in whichever area, after all, do you really need to know how a program was built in order to use it? I drive but I am not a mechanic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    For goodness sake Gove, IT business applications do not rely on graphics - Excel, Word and Powerpoint can be made interesting under proper topics of numeracy and literacy, not to mention a proper understanding of database applications and business processes and methodology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    "It takes so long to get a curriculum passed and exams approved that any ICT qualification given by schools will already be years behind technology."

    Possibly so but S Korea can do it. So too China, Japan, Taiwan, India. India produces more IT-literate graduates than the rest of the world put together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    About time! This is one area where we truly have been left behind the rest of the world. Kudos to some schools, like my partner's, who have been teaching the pupils to code and shame on those teachers commenting negatively about budgets, 'cutting-edge' equipment and training. It doesn't need to cost anything if you use your brain and surely you can learn one lesson plan ahead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    It is interesting to see teachers get voted down for pointing out the shortcomings of this scheme. Let's get real, the government, like its predecessors, never does anything worthwhile. It just dresses up con-tricks in fancy clothes designed to fool, spending less on public services in order to give more to their commercial pals. This scheme is bound to miss the mark by a mile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    nieuw divil

    Yes lets teach kids to think with their penis' and not their heads, genius.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    One of the interesting aspects of computer programming that many people don't seem to understand is cost wise, using open source software such as linux the set up costs are incredibly small (many Linux Distributions will run on ancient hardware). No need for massive licensing fees, no need to buy a new expensive computer every 3 years. The expertise required is the limiting factor though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Interesting that an Editors Pick point should be a about the hand-wringing liberal 'how dare you offend me' type whinge

    @nieuw divl
    Not an IT person, then, or not seeing the value of it in the modern world? Finance gets romance, not the other way around. Put down the XBOX controller and read something...

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    It takes so long to get a curriculum passed and exams approved that any ICT qualification given by schools will already be years behind technology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Blimey, IT courses have been severely dumped down since I was at school. We were taught BASIC and PASCAL on a BBC. This is an excellent idea to stretch minds and develop skills.


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