The Next Gen Skills ‘Get Schools Coding’ Call to Action was welcomed at Ukie’s summer reception by the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP. The document sets out the principles we want policy makers to sign up to and lists some of the resources available to support the development of Computer Science in schools locally.

We are making the Call because being able to programme computers will be fundamental to the digital age, the UK won’t be able to compete unless policy makers and schools respond to this call and reform how they teach ICT and Computer Science.

The Next Gen report demonstrated that firms in our major digital hubs already source talent from overseas because of skills shortages at home.

This is mainly a failing of our education system – from schools through to universities – which needs to be urgently tackled if we are to remain globally competitive. More schools need to be taking up Computer Science at GCSE from September and in order to do this we need to support the training of a new generation of Computer Science teachers.

Data from the DfE we have researched further confirms the challenges we face:

- the poor take up of Computing at A-level – more evidence that pupils and educators don’t see the value or suitability in existing qualifications and that major change is needed if we are to repair the talent pipeline in hi tech skills.
- the massive gender divide – only 7% (241) of Computing A-level students are girls.
- Schools currently lack enough qualified teachers to teach even the existing ICT courses, let alone a new Computer Science course: two thirds of teachers are judged not to have sufficient qualifications to teach ICT in schools today.

Following consultation earlier this year, from September 2012 the Department for Education will allow schools to move away from the traditional Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology GCSE, giving schools the ability to change what they teach and to innovate. This will allow curricula to be refreshed and make room for the fundamental principles of Computer Science to be taught in classrooms.

Major examination bodies are developing new GCSEs to meet this demand from September, and over 500 secondary schools have expressed interest in CAS Network of Excellence.

What we are asking for now is local action and a strategy to encourage more schools to take up Computer Science from September 2012 – to ask schools what they need to do more. ”In Wales concerted action is being taken to create a strategy and an infrastructure to support change, with £3m announced last month to help teachers and schools skill up.

London, major English cities and English regions have no such strategy – please help us change this.

- Next Gen Skills is a major campaign formed from an alliance between the biggest names from the UK digital, creative and hi-tech industries and the UK’s leading skills and educational bodies to improve the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of the UK’s economy. The campaign is led by games and interactive entertainment trade body Ukie (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other supporters include Google, TalkTalk, Facebook, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, the Design Council, Intellect, IPA, British Computer Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, E Skills, the Education Foundation, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore).

- The recent Livingstone Hope Next Gen review of creative industry skills produced by NESTA highlighted that computer programming and coding, the most important skill required to create the digital devices and software of the future, is not currently on the national curriculum. In his speech to BETT on 11 January, the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove responded to the call by industry by starting a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from September this year to allow the development of innovative, exciting and rigorous new ICT and Computer Science courses in advance of the launch of the new National Curriculum in 2014. The government confirmed on 11 June that this would happen.

- Data sets are taken from the Department for Education A-level examination results of 16-18 year olds in maintained schools (including LA schools, Academies, CTCs, FE) by Local Authority and subject – Number of entries Table 15a in GCE A-level examination results of 16-18 year olds by Local Authority and subject, 2010/11, England dataset can be used as a comparison with other subjects.

- Wales took a major step forwards for Computer Science on 21nd June with the announcement by Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education and Skills, at Technocamps at Swansea University that the government would be investing £3m in supporting digital leadership. The announcement has put Wales at the forefront of change in the United Kingdom meeting a key demand of the Computer Science community to create an infrastructure to support and train teachers.

- The Next Gen Skills Get Schools Coding Call to Action can be accessed on the Next Gen Skills website.