Education Secretary labels ICT in schools a 'mess'

ICT in schools a 'mess'

Britain’s Education Secretary has called ICT in England’s schools a ‘mess’ and has confirmed plans to scrap the current curriculum for the subject.

Schools, teachers and industry leaders had described the current curriculum as “too off-putting, too demotivating, too dull”, Michael Gove told education technology event BETT in London. In a speech to the conference, he confirmed plans to scrap the current ICT (information and communications technology) curriculum from this September to allow schools to decide what to teach. The subject will remain compulsory in primary and secondary schools in England for now, although it may not be after the Government's national curriculum review.

Gove said submissions to the current curriculum review from technology groups said the current ICT curriculum was "unsatisfactory", with many worried that "it doesn't stretch pupils enough or allow enough opportunities for innovation and experimentation". "They're telling me the curriculum has to change radically," he said.

"In short, just at the time when technology is bursting with potential, teachers, professionals, employers, universities, parents and pupils are all telling us the same thing. ICT in schools is a mess."

Gove, who said the proposals would be consulted on from next week, also revealed that he wanted to see new "rigorous" computer science courses in schools. He announced that if computer science GCSEs were developed to meet high standards, he would consider making the subject part of the Government's flagship English Baccalaureate.

Under the proposed changes, schools will be free to use lessons and resources that have been developed by experts, the Department for Education said. It could mean teachers focusing on how computers work or the basics of programming and coding.

The existing curriculum will remain on the internet for schools to use as a reference, but they will not be forced to follow it.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), welcomed the "belated recognition that a curriculum for the 21st century needs to include technology".

He added: "Nevertheless, school leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated by the stream of contradictory and seemingly ad hoc announcements about the curriculum and qualifications.

"We have only just heard that changes resulting from the national curriculum review will be postponed until September 2014.

"Now we are told that the ICT curriculum will change from this September, which is a completely unrealistic timescale for awarding bodies and schools."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said it welcomed the chance to be involved in the consultation.

"The consultation on ICT should however be considered in the context of the current review of the national curriculum and any changes made to the ICT curriculum in schools should happen at the same time," she said.

"Piecemeal changes only disrupt the preparation that teachers have to make when initiatives are introduced."

ICT association Naace said: "Naace has no doubt about the importance of a broad, rigorous technological education for all children and agree wholeheartedly with the Secretary of State that our curriculum should prepare our students to be at the forefront of technological change and about technology's power to transform learning beyond the school, as well as in the classroom."

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