Press release

‘Harmful’ ICT curriculum set to be dropped to make way for rigorous computer science

Gove announces the scrapping the existing ICT curriculum to introduce new courses of study in computer science.

Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced he was scrapping the existing ICT curriculum. In its place, he will introduce new courses of study in Computer Science.

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.

He added:

Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum. 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. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in University courses and be writing their own Apps for smartphones.

This is not an airy promise from an MP - this is the prediction of people like Ian Livingstone who have built world-class companies from Computer Science.

Richard Allan, Director of Policy at Facebook in Europe, said:

Facebook welcomes the Government’s plans to make ICT teaching in schools more interesting and relevant for young people. We need to improve our young people’s skills in this area for the UK to be truly competitive in the digital age.

Businesses also need to play their part in helping to equip young people with the digital skills they need. Facebook recently worked with partners Apps for Good, A4e and Techlightenment to develop a programme to give young people the chance to learn how to design, code and build social applications.

By creating space in the curriculum for teaching courses like this that are innovative and relevant for young people, government will boost the spread of skills that benefit both individuals and employers.

The Education Secretary today also made other statements on ICT and technology in schools, including:

  • funding for new Teaching Schools to enable them to create strong networks between schools to help them develop and improve their use of technology
  • a recognition that we should look at the school curriculum in a new way, and consider how new technological platforms can help to create new curriculum materials in a much creative and collaborative way than in the past; and
  • a focus on improving Initial Teacher Training and Continual Professional Development for teachers in educational technology. The Education Secretary said that knowledge in our schools is of vital importance.

A consultation on withdrawing the statutory Programme of Study from September 2012 will begin next week. The status of ICT within the school curriculum from 2014 onwards will continue to be considered by the National Curriculum review alongside that of all other National Curriculum subjects.

Bill Mitchell, Director British Computer Society (BCS) Academy of Computing, said:

It is essential we teach our children how to create digital technology and software for themselves. BCS therefore welcomes this proposal as a significant first step towards that goal.

Good schools will now be free to teach the underpinning principles and concepts of Computer Science through imaginative and rigorous curricula such as the Computing At School curriculum, which is endorsed by both Microsoft and Google.

Bernadette Brooks, the General Manager of Naace, said:

Naace welcomes the extraordinary step the Secretary of State has taken. The only constant in ICT is change, and teachers will see this as their opportunity to bring innovation and creativity to their classrooms.

To support this, Naace is working with partner associations, teachers, pupils, school leaders and commercial organisations to develop new curricula and supporting materials that will be world class. Our Key Stage 3 outline curriculum will be showcased at BETT2012 this week.

Notes to editors

  1. Written ministerial statement.

  2. You can access the speech on the speeches section of our website..

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