Changes to ICT: long overdue or headline spinner?

Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced a radical shake-up of the ICT curriculum, along with a focus on training for teachers to make sure they have the skills and knowledge needed to use technology confidently. So is it a long overdue change, or an unrealistic headline spinner? Are ICT lessons really ‘boring’ – and is the government simply ‘washing its hands of ICT’, as some have suggested? Read more, and share your views on the blog.

The government is opening a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for ICT from September this year.

Open source curriculum

ICT will remain compulsory at all key stages of the curriculum, and the existing Programme of Study will remain available for reference, but schools will no longer be forced to follow it.

Speaking at the BETT education trade fair, which focuses on educational technology, he announced plans to embrace and capitalise on technological developments for learning, teaching and assessment.

“Technology is already bringing about a profound transformation in education, in ways that we can see before our very eyes and in others that we haven’t even dreamt of yet,” he said (taken from his speech as reported by the Guardian. “It’s clear that technology is going to bring profound changes to how and what we teach. But it’s equally clear that we have not yet managed to make the most of it.”

Universities and businesses are also being encouraged to create new high quality Computer Science GCSEs, which may be considered for inclusion in the English Baccalaureate.

Current lessons ‘dull’

Describing the current curriculum as “demotivating and dull”, quoted in the Financial Times, Gove explains “Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch.”

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, quoted in the Guardian, added: “Ofsted found that in two-thirds of secondary schools, ICT teaching is only satisfactory or poor. As well as updating programmes of study, we need better teacher training, higher standards, and continual assessment of what pupils are being taught.”

IT Industry welcomes the news

Many industry figures have welcomed the news of a shake-up. Talking in the Independent, Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of videogame industry body TIGA, said:  “The government’s decision on ICT and Computer Science is very positive. Schools will now have greater opportunities to teach Computer Science, a subject of great importance to the video games sector.”

‘Slap in the face for ICT teachers’

However Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, has called the plans “a slap in the face for ICT teachers”, saying there is no evidence that ICT teaching is dull, uninspiring and poor quality.

Concerns have also been raised over the ‘unrealistic’ timeframe:

“School leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated by the stream of contradictory and seemingly ad hoc announcements about the curriculum and qualifications. We have only just heard that changes resulting from the National Curriculum review will be postponed until September 2014. Now we are told that the ICT curriculum will change from this September, which is a completely unrealistic timescale for awarding bodies and schools,” said Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

‘Not a “one size fits all” solution’

“Many schools have introduced innovative ICT courses which grab pupils’ imagination and this best practice needs to be shared. Most important now is that young people have the ability to use new technologies intelligently and develop media literacy, such as selecting and critically analysing information. These skills need to be built into the whole curriculum and not just discrete ICT lessons. For some, a focus on programming and developing applications will be important and appropriate but this should not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for everyone.”

Your view

What do you think of these new plans? Is it a long overdue change, or an unrealistic headline spinner? Share your comments here.

• Previously on Eteach: Teaching ICT post-BECTA – Eteach interviewed an ICT teacher about his role, and his teaching ideas, including whether the National Curriculum constrains schools in the types of software they use, and the way children are taught the subject.

3 thoughts on “Changes to ICT: long overdue or headline spinner?

  1. Why has the govt suddenly got on the ICT bandwaggon and decided its no longer applicable and fit for purpose? As a qualified D&T teacher and a parent i find the governments stance totally contradictory or plain daft, each the year the UK allows in some 100,000 immigrants from a variety of countries whose sole purpose is to fill the job vacancies that cannot be filled by the indiginous population, these vacancies are not high tech ICT derived jobs but skilled manual positions which are still taught elsewhere in the EEC but not here because the young have all been brought up to believe that getting your hands dirty is low paid and socially unacceptable and you should be going to work in a nice clean office. The future of the UK is being based on the supply of new and better technology but if we design it here where are the engineers and electricians to actually make it? and if sending it off to low labour markets to be built why not design it there as well, what future for employment then? As a final note my sons college has been teaching building skills for 15 years (bricklaying, plastering, joinery etc) they have local building companies knocking at their door every year asking if there are any students with potential who could be thinking of going into building when they leave as there is an opening for an apprentice ot two starting later in the year, hows that for teaching what is required in the local community and not what the government dictates?

  2. It is the government that stipulates what has to be taught, so it is their fault if the subject has declined. However for those students that go on to further and higher education have to know how to use the application software, so that they can produce their assignments.

    They have also only talked to one business sector, and as per normal, gove has made a knee jerk reaction. Also the exam boards syllabus of work state what needs to be taught for each qualification.

    Teachers are an easy target for the government to attack, as is always the case. Teacher bashing has become the governments prime focus.

  3. the ICT taught in schools is reasonably adequate, but I am an ICT Skills trainer at a university and it sucks. They have non-qualified staff lecturing the students with no hands on practise, which means when they go out into the ‘world’ there knowledge is limited and therefore the employer will need to fund the training. An overhaul is needed, but it does need to be thoughtout carefully and not a knee jerk reaction.

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