Education & Family

ICT teachers welcome new computer programming lessons

Child using laptop
Image caption A pupil from Thornhill Primary in London testing new software at BETT

Information and communications technology (ICT) teachers say plans to shake up the curriculum in England are "exciting" but "challenging".

Current ICT lessons will be scrapped from September and replaced by an "open source" curriculum in computer science and programming.

One teaching union called the plans "a slap in the face" for ICT teachers.

ICT teachers at the BETT show for educational technology in London agreed the current curriculum is out of date.

Others said they would need extra training to teach computer programming.

Sue Le Bas, from Boxgrove Primary in London, said: "I think this would be exciting for primary pupils but I would need a crash course to be able to do it.

"I think we could develop the skills. We need to prepare our children for the future and the current curriculum is not doing that. It's 15 years old."

Anthony Latham, from Heronsgate Primary, also in London, said: "Anything which makes learning more accessible is a positive thing.

"I am not always Gove's biggest fan but I agree with this. Too many ICT lessons are dull."

'Logical thinking'

Graham Fee, a maths teacher at Hemsworth Arts and Community College in Wakefield, already teaches programming at an after-school computer club.

"Students are interested as I do a lot of computer programming myself. I produce a lot of maths games.

"ICT lessons seem to do a lot of PowerPoint and Word, but students are more motivated by more interactive things like programming.

"There's a lot of logical thinking involved. It's good for the students' thinking skills.

"If they have a vision of what they want to create, a little game or something, they can see how the maths applies to the game."

Mr Fee thinks that some of the software packages already available from companies like Microsoft will help train less specialised ICT teachers to teach programming.

"The new software out there is less focused on programming language and more on the logical thinking behind it," he said.

However other teachers were less positive. Patrick Stewart, an IT co-ordinator from a London primary school, said pupils struggling with basic literacy and numeracy would not benefit from learning computer programming.

William Cooper, from Godolphin and Latymer School in west London, said that many IT teachers lacked the skills to teach the new curriculum.

He said that many pupils would enjoy learning how to create afresh but many would benefit just as much from learning how to get the most out of the thousands of new devices and applications sold each year.

'Beyond office skills'

The ICT subject association, Naace, said the changes would be a challenge, but one they were ready for.

Miles Berry, of Naace, who also trains primary school teachers in ICT at Roehampton University, said: "We're going to enjoy the freedom.

"It will now be a case of 'It's up to you and your school to design an ICT curriculum that's exciting, creative and challenging'.

"Teachers will see this as an opportunity to move beyond the office skills - of course, many teachers have been doing this for some time."

Image caption Many teachers lack the skills to teach a new computer science and programming curriculum

Mr Berry did not think ICT teachers would regard the changes in the curriculum as an increased workload.

"I wouldn't see it as more work, but I would see it as more interesting work. Surely this is going to be more fun for us."

'A slap in the face'

The response from the teaching unions was mixed. The National Union of Teachers welcomed the new emphasis on a creative and challenging curriculum.

But NUT general secretary, Christine Blower, warned against piecemeal changes and excessive target-setting which, she said, "can lead to teaching to the test, resulting in all creativity being knocked out of schools".

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, called the plan "a slap in the face for ICT teachers".

"This is no way to promote the value of a subject that is critical to education in the 21st Century, she said.

Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the timescale of the change, by September, was completely unrealistic for awarding bodies and schools.

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