I am today announcing my intention to launch a public consultation on my proposal that the national curriculum programmes of study and associated attainment targets and assessment arrangements for information and communication technology (ICT) in maintained schools in England should not apply from September 2012.
There is a significant and growing base of evidence, not least from Ofsted inspections, that demonstrates that there are persistent problems with the quality and effectiveness of ICT education in schools. Evidence indicates that recent curriculum and qualifications reforms have not led to significant improvements in the teaching of ICT, and the number of students progressing to further study in ICT-related subjects is in decline. Furthermore, the ICT curriculum in its current form is viewed as dull and demotivating for pupils. Its teaching may not equip pupils adequately for further study and work, may leave them disenchanted or give rise to negative perceptions that turn them off the subject completely. At the same time we know that the demand for high-level technology skills is growing, and many employers in the IT industry are concerned that the way in which ICT is taught in schools is failing to inspire young people about the creative potential of ICT and the range of IT-related careers open to them.
However, we also know that ICT teaching in schools can be done well. There are numerous positive examples of schools that are leading the way in developing new and exciting visions for ICT, and of industry-led initiatives which are invigorating ICT teaching in schools. In order to facilitate more innovative ICT provision in schools, I am proposing to make provision under the 2002 Education Act to disapply the existing ICT Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets at all four key stages, and the associated statutory assessment arrangements at Key Stage 3, from September 2012.
Under this proposal ICT would remain a compulsory subject within the National Curriculum, subject to the outcomes of the National Curriculum review. However, schools would be freed of the requirement to adhere to the existing Programmes of Study, Attainment Targets and statutory assessment arrangements.
By disapplying the ICT programme of study from September this year schools will be able to offer a more creative and challenging curriculum, drawing on support and advice from those best positioned to judge what an ambitious and forward-looking curriculum should contain. I am encouraged by the work of subject organisations and others on how universities and business can develop high quality computer science qualifications. I’m keen to explore how government can continue to facilitate this.
If, having listened to the views expressed in the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, I decide to proceed with the proposed disapplication of the ICT programmes of study, attainment targets and assessment arrangements, it will represent an interim measure that will be effective from September 2012 until September 2014, when the outcomes of the national curriculum review will come into force. The status of ICT within the school curriculum is currently being considered by the national curriculum review alongside that of all other national curriculum subjects (aside from English, mathematics, science and PE), and I will bring forward proposals later this year.
The public consultation on this proposal will commence shortly and run for 12 weeks. A consultation document containing full details of this proposal and how interested parties can respond to the consultation will be published on the Department for Education website. Copies of that document will also be placed in the House Libraries.