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Government criticised for not tackling diversity in IT education

Praises a scheme it no longer funds

The government has been criticised for 'ignoring' diversity issues in its response to the Livingstone-Hope Next Gen review.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) only reference to the problem of a lack of girls and women studying and working in IT was to mention its support for sector skills body e-skills UK's 'Computer Club for Girls' initiative - which the government stopped funding in 2009.

"The report makes no reference to the need for more diversity in computer science," said Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for innovation and science.

"We need more girls, ethnic minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds in computer science if we are to expand the skills pool and make it more representative. Apart from a couple of asides and a reference to the Computer Clubs for Girls, the report ignores this."

Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) continues to operate, but as schools have to fund it themselves, or find a sponsor to support it. Around 135,000 girls have so far taken part in the initiative in 3,800 schools.

"Initiatives like CC4G have made positive in-roads into spreading the word to young people about the countless opportunities available in IT and video-related industries.

"But, in my opinion, we need to see more activities like this across the educational spectrum to ensure that women play an equal role in the future success of the video games, visual effects and computing industries," said Maggie Berry, managing director of womenintechnology.co.uk.

Meanwhile, Onwurah was concerned that the Next Gen response - in which the government admitted that the current ICT education in schools is not fit for purpose - was led by DCMS, rather than by the Department for Education (DfE).

"Computer literacy is a key skill in today's world and it is good to see the government acknowledging that.

"But increasing the computer skills level of the next generation will take active, joined-up government working across the business, culture and education departments," she said.

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