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.”
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.