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Government computing curriculum reforms a step in the right direction

15 Feb 2013

Last week was positive for the IT industry as far as education and skills are concerned. The government revealed its revised ICT curriculum, now renamed ‘computing', the same day it made a U-turn on its plans to replace some GCSE subjects with English Baccalaureate Certifications (EBacc).

The new computing curriculum, with a stronger emphasis on computer science, helps school children think of the subject as one of design, exploration and creation, rather than a subject geared towards helping students become an army of IT support workers.

There has been criticism levelled at the new curriculum for its lack of e-safety learning requirements but it is questionable whether extensive teaching in this area is needed.

The current generation of parents did not spend their earliest years with iPads and smartphones, and so they themselves undoubtedly lack basic e-safety knowledge, but this will soon change.

As more parents understand the risks associated with technology, in the same way they understand road risks and water hazards, they can begin educating children on internet safety themselves. Schools need to provide a basic understanding of e-safety, but their primary role should be education and inspiration rather than protection.

I also support the government's U-turn on its EBacc proposals. Before the U-turn, the IT industry had spent a week celebrating because the government had finally decided to award the subject of computer science special EBacc status. Computer science was to join the list of core GCSE subjects to be given priority in schools, like English, maths and sciences. I was also celebrating, but I am even happier now that the idea of EBaccs has been scrapped altogether. There are dangers with the education sector being allowed to prioritise certain subjects.

Pupils need to be taught how subjects like computing tie into creative subjects like art and design in order for them to progress in careers such as graphic design, UI design, software development and web design.

But pupils are likely to ignore these links if they are told creative subjects are less important, or worse still, some schools with tight budgets may decide not to offer such subjects at all if they do not count towards school league table rankings. The world of graphic designers and software developers would then be a career for rich students only.

While supportive of the new ICT curriculum and the EBacc U-turn, what I think is a shame is all the secrecy that has surrounded the Department for Education's (DfE's) education reforms and its seeming lack of understanding of how such reforms will actually play out.

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