Royal Society offers ways to overhaul ICT teaching

Children using laptops
Image caption The Royal Society backs the government's plans to overhaul ICT in schools

The Royal Society has suggested ways the government can overhaul information and communications technology (ICT) teaching in schools.

It follows promises from Education Secretary Michael Gove to scrap the way the subject is taught currently.

The body, which oversees UK sciences, recommends dividing computing into distinct subjects such as computer science and digital literacy.

It said the government must do more to recruit specialist ICT teachers.

Poorly conceived

The report was led by Prof Steve Furber, the designer of the BBC Micro, widely acknowledged as one of the first educational computers.

He was commissioned to investigate why there has been a chronic decline in the numbers of students studying ICT and computing.

The publication of his report is timely, following just days after Mr Gove's speech to educationalists in which he said current ICT lessons were "demotivating and dull".

Mr Gove pledged that, from September the government will introduce a flexible curriculum in computer science and programming, designed with the help of universities and industry.

Prof Furber said something had to be done to halt the decline in those wanting to learn computing skills: "The UK has a proud history of leading the way in the field of computer science and associated disciplines, from the development of the world's first stored-program computers to more recent innovations such as the invention of the world wide web.

"However, from this bright start, we are now watching the enthusiasm of the next generation waste away through poorly conceived courses and syllabuses.

"If we cannot address the problem of how to educate our young people in inspirational and appropriate ways, we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow's job market," he said.

The aspiration, said Prof Furber, was to allow all children with an interest in computing to gain experience of programming and robotics, from basic computer languages in primary schools to web-based systems for those in senior school.

The report also highlighted the lack of specialist ICT teachers. According to government statistics only 35% of ICT teachers are specialists, compared to more than 80% for core subjects such as maths and English.

The government should set new target levels for specialist teachers, the report said.

It urged computer science to be treated as a "rigorous subject", in the same way that mathematics and physics were.

Meanwhile digital literacy needs to be put on a par with reading and writing, it said.

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