Wales' schools 'left behind' in digital age, experts claim

By Arwyn Jones
BBC Wales education correspondent

media captionIn England it will be mandatory for primary and secondary school pupils to study computing and coding

Schools in Wales are in danger of being left behind when it comes to digital education, experts have warned.

Changes to the curriculum in England will make it mandatory for primary and secondary school pupils to study computing and coding from September.

But a similar plan will not be introduced in schools in Wales for at least four years.

Welsh government advisor Dr Tom Crick said the delay would leave students here disadvantaged.

The Welsh government is currently carrying out a review of the curriculum which, among other subjects, will consider a report on the future of ICT education in Wales, co-written by Dr Crick.

But its findings will not be implemented for several years and Dr Crick said that could mean a generation of children could be left without vital skills.

'Significant changes'

"This is a global issue - not just about our competitiveness for Wales," he said.

"We're looking at our competitiveness against other countries who have already made these significant changes and very clear declarations about how they see computing education being very, very important."

Tom Kelly, chairman of the Welsh government's ICT sector panel, said without the necessary IT skills, people in Wales could miss out on jobs in the future.

"There will be people coming from outside Wales into Wales who have got the competencies and the skills to be able to fill the jobs in Wales which, in reality should be filled by people in Wales," he said.

He is also angry the Welsh government has delayed implementing the recommendations set out by last year's ICT review.

Many schools in Wales already teach computer coding and programming but as it is not part of the curriculum, teachers can sometimes struggle with some aspects of it.

'Closing poverty gap'

Former head teacher Simon Pridham has advised the Welsh government on how using computing and programming can lead to better results in literacy and numeracy.

He now runs a company promoting the use of technology in schools and is frustrated things are not moving fast enough.

"Not everybody will want to be a coder or a programmer, and not everybody will want to move into a technology-led industry," he said.

"However, the skills that those three areas actually develop would benefit your numeracy, your literacy, and they'll also hit the government's key priority of closing the poverty gap."

A Welsh government spokesperson said digital literacy would be a vital element in informing its curriculum review and work to develop a teaching framework for it was under way.

"To be clear - we're not marginalising digital literacy, we're mainstreaming it," the spokesperson added.

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