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School tech education plans slammed by Corporate IT Forum

Gap between best and worst teaching 'will widen'

The Corporate IT Forum's Education and Skills Commission is warning against the government's plans to withdraw the ICT curriculum from schools. The public consultation on the proposal closed yesterday.

The Corporate IT Forum, the body that represents the largest corporate users of ICT in the UK, fears the removal of the curriculum - in response to critcism that it does not meet future employers' needs - will result in some schools providing virtually no ICT education at all for two school years.

The Open University also criticised the government's plans last month. There are fears many schools may axe ICT altogether as classes will not be assessed whilst a new ICT curriculum is devised.

"The gap between the best and worst ICT teaching in schools will open to an 'unacceptable level' if the plans go ahead," the Corporate IT Forum's Education and Skills Commission says.

The Commission is responding to the Department for Education's public consultation on proposals to "disapply" the current ICT curriculum.

The Commission is urging the government to keep the current programme of teaching in place until a new, "more challenging" computer science based curriculum is implemented in September 2014.

There had previously been widespread criticism from employers, the British Computer Society and major technology companies like Google that students were mainly being taught basic office productivity applications, rather than programming skills and the science behind ICT.

Commission chairman John Harris, chair of the Corporate IT Forum, and chief architect and head of IT strategy at global pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, said: "We agree that the current ICT curriculum is failing to meet the needs of employers and should be improved as a matter of urgency. But we are very concerned that the absence of a programme of study or attainment targets for any period of time will severely disadvantage large groups of children."

He said this would be as a result of significant differences in standards between the schools that put in place good quality replacements and those that do the bare minimum or, "in the absence of guidance", nothing at all.

In other words, he said, "we strongly believe that something is better than nothing and while the school curriculum content needs to change to prepare young people for study in IT related subjects at university, there should be no disapplication ahead of substitution".

Harris pointed out there was already an ICT skills crisis. He said: "These proposals, if they go ahead, could widen the gap between the best and the worst ICT teaching in schools to an unacceptable level, and lead to even greater problems by 2020."

The Commission is calling for a curriculum to be introduced in consultation with universities and employers. It wants ICT teachers to have regularly refreshed study materials, placements for ICT teachers within technology companies, and the recruitment of expert teachers pooled across school groups.


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