Hi tech skills coalition the Next Gen Skills campaign today hailed progress to reform the outdated ICT curriculum and re-introduce Computer Science in schools to address the UK’s skills shortage in this area.

The education secretary, Michael Gove announced today (Friday, 19th October) that current information and communications technology (ICT) teacher training courses will be axed from next year.

Instead, new computer science courses, designed with help from top technology firms will be introduced. The new courses, which will start from next autumn, will also include input from industry experts and professional bodies, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

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 our economy. Since its launch in November 2011, the campaign has argued for a reform of ICT studies at GCSE; a ‘golden hello’ for teachers and the introduction of Computer Science and Art on the E-Bacc – measures which the government is now responding to.

The Next Gen report demonstrated that firms in our major digital hubs already source talent from overseas because of skills shortages at home. Industry figures, such as Google’s Eric Schmidt, have criticised the UK education system for not teaching children how to make software – only how to use it.

Subsequent campaign research confirms the challenges the UK faces in hi-tech skills:

- the poor take up of Computing at A-level – only 3,517 out of the 782,779 (or 0.4%) qualifications entered at A-level in 2011 were in Computing.
- 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.

Since then major developments are helping to turn the education system around:

- Following consultation earlier this year, from September 2012 the Department for Education has allowed 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 have developed new Key Stage 4 qualifications to meet this demand from September, and over 500 secondary schools have expressed interest in CAS Network of Excellence.
- There has been a massive expansion in ‘informal’ or ‘collaborative’ learning via hack days and after-school clubs, essential to learning to code at an early age.

Next Gen Skills co-chair Ian Livingstone OBE said:
“We’re delighted that government has listened to industry’s call to address the UK’s computer science deficit. Amazing progress has been made over the last 18 months; from scrapping the dull and outdated ICT curriculum to announcing an exciting new approach to teaching Computer Science in schools, and plans for new teacher training courses. Having dedicated, high-calibre computer science teachers in schools will have a powerful effect. They will enable children to be creators of technology rather than being simply passive users of it. Whether it’s making games, fighting cyber-crime or designing the next jet propulsion engine, computer science is at the heart of everything in the digital world. Hopefully the next step will be to have Computer Science on the new E-Bacc to further inspire a new generation of computer programmers.”

Ukie CEO Dr. Jo Twist welcomed measures to support a new generation of Computer Science teachers as the ‘key piece in the jigsaw’ of turning around education in hi-tech skills in English schools:

“We are pleased that the Government has responded to the striking 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 ability to programme computers will be fundamental to the digital age, the UK won’t be able to compete unless policy makers reform how they teach ICT and Computer Science. We welcome steps to address this failing in our education system – from schools through to universities – which needs to be urgently tackled. More schools need to be taking up Computer Science at GCSE and in order to do this we need to support the training of a new generation of Computer Science teachers. Next to curriculum reform, teachers are the key piece in the hi-tech skills jigsaw.”


Notes to editors
- 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). Read the NESTA-Next Gen report here.
- 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

- Ian Livingstone OBE is one of the UK’s founding fathers of interactive entertainment. In 1975 he co-founded Games Workshop and launched Dungeons & Dragons in Europe. In 1982 he co-designed Fighting Fantasy, and co-wrote The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first in the series that sold in excess of 16 million copies in 25 languages. Following a full listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1995, he served as Executive Chairman of Eidos plc until 2002, and is now Life President. At Eidos he helped to secure many of the company’s major franchises including Lara Croft:Tomb Raider. In 2011, he co-authored ‘Next Gen’, transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for video games and visual effects.