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ICT to be removed from curriculum

Will it encourage schools to teach more or less computer science, if it isn't going to be assessed officially for two years?

The Department for Education (DfE) has decided to disapply ICT from the curriculum from September, following a public consultation.

This has been a concern for stakeholders such as the Open University, which warned earlier this year that some teachers could use it as an excuse to take out all teaching of computing as it would no longer be assessed until a new curriculum is implemented - which could take more than a year.

The DfE said: "Having considered the responses to the consultation, the government has decided to proceed with disapplication.

"In this interim period, schools will still be required to teach ICT to pupils at all key stages, but teachers will have the flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils without central government prescription."

The Corporate IT Forum Education and Skills Commission shares Open University's concerns because of the possible knock-on effects on the UK's IT skills gap, and condemned the government's decision.

John Harris, chair of the Corporate IT Forum and chief architect and head of IT strategy at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), said: "We are very disappointed that the government has not listened to our concerns about withdrawing the ICT curriculum from schools before the new computer science programme is introduced in 2014.

"While we agree that the current ICT curriculum is failing to meet the needs of employers and should be improved as a matter of urgency, we are extremely concerned that the absence of a programme of study or attainment targets for any period of time will widen the gap between the best and worst ICT teaching in schools to an 'unacceptable level', effectively condemning large numbers of children to receiving little or no ICT teaching at all.

He added: "The UK is already facing a major IT skills crisis. Disapplying the current ICT curriculum a full two years before it is replaced by a new computer science teaching programme, which will inevitably take time to become embedded within schools, will lead to even greater problems by 2020."

In contrast, BCS, The chartered Institute for IT, is convinced that the announcement will encourage schools to teach more computer science.

"We're delighted that the Department for Education has confirmed that schools will be free to teach computer science from September. We believe it is of paramount importance that every child has the chance to study computer science from primary schools onwards - with this latest move this will be true from September 2012," said Bill Mitchell, director of BCS Academy of Computing.

The institute is formally launching a network of teaching excellence in computer science - comprising schools and local universities - later this year. So far, 500 schools and 15 universities has expressed an interest in joining the network.

The DfE has now launched a public consultation on the draft regulations that will bring the disapplication decision into force.

The consultation closes on 11 July, and can be accessed here.

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