Michael Gove, the Education Secretary has today announced an overhaul of the way IT is taught in schools. This is great news and I hope our school, although not a state school will do the same. I know they already have some plans underway to beef up the computer science element.
I first talked out this subject back in November last year in the wake of companies like Google and Microsoft saying that our IT teaching was putting Britain at a disadvantage for its future in the tech industry. I back this view entirely. As I said in my earlier post, it's especially important for children with Asperger's to be exposed to coding at an early age as many (though not all) have an aptitude for IT and the sciences. Certainly Youngest does and it's important to support and encourage him in a field in which he can excel as an adult. In fact, I suggest they go further and give extension work for more able students as they do in Maths and English.
Below is an excerpt from the Gove announcement:
The move, which is being supported by industry experts including Ian Livingstone – co-founder of Games Workshop, would give schools the freedom to create their own ICT and Computer Science curricula that equip pupils with the skills employers want.
Other experts, including the British Computer Society and ICT professional association Naace, confirm the current National Curriculum Programme of Study is dull and unsatisfactory. Some respondents to a 2008 e-Skills study said that GCSE ICT was “so harmful, boring and/or irrelevant it should simply be scrapped”.
Companies such as Microsoft and Google and Cambridge University are already working with technology education organisations, such as the British Computer Society, to produce free materials for schools. More are expected to follow.
The Education Secretary also said he was keen for high-quality qualifications in Computer Science to be developed, and welcomed industry-giant IBM’s involvement.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said in his speech today:
"As the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, recently lamented, we in England have allowed our education system to ignore our great heritage and we are paying the price for it. Our school system has not prepared children for this new world. Millions have left school over the past decade without even the basics they need for a decent job. And the current curriculum cannot prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change.
The best degrees in Computer Science are among the most rigorous and respected qualifications in the world… and prepare students for immensely rewarding careers and world-changing innovations. But you’d never know that from the current ICT curriculum. This is why we are withdrawing it from September. Technology in schools will no longer be micro-managed by Whitehall. By withdrawing the Programme of Study, we’re giving teachers freedom over what and how to teach, revolutionising ICT as we know it.
Universities, businesses and others will have the opportunity to devise new courses and exams. In particular, we want to see universities and businesses create new high-quality Computer Science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the brilliant Computer Science content available on the web. ICT will remain a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, pending the National Curriculum review.
Mr Gove mentioned that "We could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in University courses and be writing their own Apps for smartphones."
Youngest has been able to use Scratch to create animations since he was about nine, and has moved on - but then he is exceptional. But because he is, I think an individualised approach needs to be taken where, as I mentioned earlier, the most able are progressed as fast as they can manage with extension work. Teaching Youngest Scratch wouldn't do much for him. He's ready to write apps now. But the elephant in the room is - who's going to teach them? Are we going to sack existing IT teachers and employ people who are experts in what needs to be taught or just send the current IT teachers on courses to upgrade their skills. Either way, it needs to be done soon.
It's unacceptable to be told, as I was a year ago that, "We don't really teach coding here." Well you should and I hope this announcement will also resonate with private and specialist schools like ours who are not bound by the diktats of the National Curriculum.
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