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 CODING

  • 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
    0

    Comment number 861.

    845.TechRyze , 5 Minutes ago
    "Managing expectations I'm finding, is a massive part of my job"

    That's because people higher up didn't do there job.
    "Change Management" which includes setting expectations

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 860.

    it would have benefitted me to have learned some very basic web design, or how to use a piece of software, or how to troubleshoot perhaps?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 859.

    I've worked in IT in London, New York and several countries in Latin America. Mr Gove is spot on when he says that children should be designing apps not using them. The fact is that IT competition globally is fierce: countries like India and the U.S. produce some extremely talented programmers. This change will provide the right stimulus to allow British children to compete in a global environment

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 858.

    852.Jonathan
    Just now
    To the head teacher looking forward to iPads. Apple being one of the most locked down brands, iPads would be a silly idea. The point of computing is to get to the nitty gritty stuff with a raspberry pi or an arduino, or a good environment like visual studio.



    But they aren't as "impressive looking" as new IPADs when shown off to visitors

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 857.

    @853.Mysticalnubnub
    "To be honest I'm perfectly ok with this. I remember back in year 7, me and my mates were so bored in ICT we would play internet games all lesson when the teacher wasn't looking."

    Ooh, get you. Bet your mates thought you walked on water. Oh, and a Big Mac and fries while I'm here - thanks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 856.

    @annieprouse
    Learning to write code is probably the least expensive thing you can do with a computer.
    They need a computer - let's hope the Raspberry Pi becomes available - £16 each
    They need an editor - Free
    They need a teacher - here's the crux

    In short, they need nothing that the schools don't already have or can't obtain for a very modest cost - certainly a lot less then buying MS licences

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 855.

    @ChaosEmerald #847

    > who pays is not important.

    LOL that has been the crux of your argument, and now it's not important?

    Businesses are used to paying licenses, many very expensive. Not only for dev tools, but for business and infrastructure systems too. It's how the *real world* works....you pay - you get a good product. I'll let you get back to your bedroom coding.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 854.

    "849.suzkid

    Microsoft. Apple. LG. Samsung. Panasonic. Sony. Toyota. Nikon.

    None are British. All experts in digital technology. All massive currency earners for their countires."

    But all use ARM processors, except perhaps MIcrosoft, and ARM is British. ARM dominates the hand-held/ mobile market.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 853.

    To be honest I'm perfectly ok with this.

    I remember back in year 7, me and my mates were so bored in ICT we would play internet games all lesson when the teacher wasn't looking.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 852.

    To the head teacher looking forward to iPads. Apple being one of the most locked down brands, iPads would be a silly idea. The point of computing is to get to the nitty gritty stuff with a raspberry pi or an arduino, or a good environment like visual studio. New hardware would not necessarily required. 791 I hope the usefulness of non directly applicable skills is not new to you

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 851.

    846.Ex Tory Voter
    'Apparently as soon as you turn 40 your brain turns to jelly'

    I thought it was 45 or has a different survey been published since last week ;-)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 850.

    813.matt in the uk
    You don't even need a computer for that !

    - No, you need a good IT teacher. Sadly lacking In my children's experience. A teacher who "taught" the wrong years GCSE curriculem (three children in a row). A concerned group of (IT literate) parents asked (begged) the Headteacher if we could help and support this obviously failing teacher, we were basically told "no thanks".

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 849.

    @839.David H
    Why are we having this debate? Why do we want to improve our ICT? For the sake of it?

    Microsoft. Apple. LG. Samsung. Panasonic. Sony. Toyota. Nikon.

    None are British. All experts in digital technology. All massive currency earners for their countires.

    Britain is far too insular (with far too many egos) when it comes to discussing issues of national importance, education included.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 848.

    There is no shortage of quite capable computer graduates, but most companies want everything for nothing, including all the latest technologies (including those less than a year old, which most graduates can not be expected to have). The IT industry needs to get real, stop winging and start training people with potential and start sharing its own expertise. It can not expect taxes to give it all.

  • Comment number 847.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 846.

    "829.SocialReject

    The IT industry is perhaps acquiring an image problem."

    It has. Apparently as soon as you turn 40 your brain turns to jelly, and there is no on-going professional training. Tens of thousands of us oldies, despite years of experience and having 'proper' Computer Science degrees are chucked on the scrap heap - and then employers turn round and moan about skills shortages!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 845.

    827 DH,

    If they had an appreciation of what is handled by their own machine, and what depends on a network and a server to function, then they'd complain less, and be less expecting of 'magic wand' type fixes.

    Managing expectations I'm finding, is a massive part of my job as a technician. Everybody thinks that swapping their PC for a Mac, would resolve network congestion and server bottlenecks.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 844.

    This is a great idea, the curriculum for IT at the moment is a complete waste of time. A couple of lessons should be enough to teach the basics of Word and Excel, not a whole year like when I was at school.

    Some basic programming skills will be a lot more valuable to pupils later on in life.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 843.

    Oh annie, it isn't about the money - except in the important respect that programmers are paid more than teachers. Go and read about Raspberry Pi and educate yourself before you try and educate anyone elses' children.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 842.

    This is crazy. Using Word and Excel may be boring but that's what most people will need in the real world. Not many will become programmers in the future. Speaking as an ex-programmer, one needs a certain aptitude to do programming, and I foresee I lot of frustrated, upset kids who simply cannot get their heads around the principles. It should definitely be an option, not mandatory.

 

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