While the debate raged this week around the draft primary national curriculum Programmes of Study for English, maths and science, another part of the government’s plans attracted less notice. Ministers have decided to disapply the duty on maintained schools to teach the existing information and communication technology (ICT) Programmes of Study and associated Attainment Targets and assessment arrangements.
There is good news here: First, teachers will have the flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils in ICT and computer science, and to demonstrate what works. Second, ICT is now acknowledged to be an important subject that should be taught to all pupils and that will be part of the national curriculum.
Admittedly this good news has the potential for a bitter aftertaste if the experience of the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review is anything to go by. But one has to hope that the new statutory Programmes of Study to be introduced from September 2014 will reflect the views of the industry experts, IT organisations and the teaching profession with whom the government has pledged to work closely.
Ian Livingstone, who co-authored the Next Gen report that Mr Gove showered with praise when he announced his dream of a new approach to ICT in schools back in January, has welcomed the government’s announcement and stated that “the Government should set out a vision for Computer Science so that every child learns the concepts and principles of Information Technology and Computer Science from primary school age onwards…”
Initially however we will have to build a vision for computer science where every teacher learns the concepts and principles of computational thinking, so that they can open up the promise of the digital playground to those they teach. Emphasis has been placed upon making sure that ICT and computer science teachers have the specialist skills and knowledge to teach their subject, and this is an important first step.
There is however, more, much more, that can be done if we really empower all teachers with clear computational thinking skills. These skills will give them the confidence and expertise to help their students to get the best from their increasingly sophisticated digital infrastructure. More importantly, it will give teachers and learners the ability to appropriate the power of technology and precipitate the revolution in our education system that is long overdue.