Key figures from the IT industry and the education sector have called on the government to introduce both a computer science and a digital literacy GCSE in its revamp of the current IT curriculum.
The government said in January that it would review the current IT curriculum, with the old system set to be scrapped from September, as children were found to be "bored" by the subject. Children also lacked the key IT skills needed by employers.
At an event hosted by IT trade body Intellect on Tuesday, senior industry leaders called for a dual-steam approach to IT at GCSE level.
"Up until Key Stage 3, there needs to be a focus on IT literacy but then at Key Stage 4 there needs to be a GCSE on offer geared towards IT, and another more general digital scientist type GCSE for those that don't want to specialise in IT in their career," said Peter Twining, a senior lecturer at the Open University.
Twining's views were endorsed by Cisco education practice director, Michelle Selinger; Oracle director and E-Skills board member, Caroline Stuart; Pearson learning technologies director, Stephen Fahley; and head of IT industry engagement at the Open University, Kevin Streater.
The speakers said the more specific computer science GCSE should include the basics of programming, cyber security, and other such skills much in demand by the IT industry. The more general digital scientist GCSE should be geared towards students who need a core understanding of IT to excel in other subjects.
At the moment little is known about the government's plans to reform the IT curriculum. Whitehall has confirmed that it will reconsider ICT within the curriculum in 2014 and that the new curriculum will no longer be micro-managed by Whitehall.
Teachers will be left to decide how they teach the subject, while universities and businesses will be given the opportunities to help design courses and exams.
Speakers at the Intellect event warned the government against scrapping technology GCSEs altogether.
"We need IT GCSEs to remain because that is what is recognised by the league tables," said Twining.
"Both the computer science GCSE and the digital scientist-type GCSE should both be core GCSEs."
Twining also warned that while the government spends two years considering how to reform the IT curriculum, the lack of IT targets may mean schools lose focus on the subject altogether.
"The current IT curriculum is being taken away to free up teachers to make their own decisions on how to teach the subject. But the outcome of this may be that schools just don't think they need to do it anymore," Twining said.
"If schools are not assessed, then there is not pressure for them to deploy specialist teachers or maintain IT rooms."
In related news a new e-skills audit, released today, has shown that UK schoolchildren rank fifth in Europe when it comes to showing off their IT prowess, with a quarter of 16 to 24 year-olds having written a computer program.
Privilege escalation bug already being exploited in the wild
NASA's Voyager 2 probe set to reveal secrets of space beyond the heliosphere as it goes interstellar
The probe is now more than 18 billion kilometres from Earth, with equipment enabling it to reveal some of the secrets of interstellar space
Four glaciers located west of massive Totten glacier have lost almost three metres of ice in height since 2008
Ceres, located in the asteroid belt, has a carbonaceous-rich upper crust, SwRI study claims