Schools handed free rein on ICT teaching
Teachers will be given more freedom to teach computing before a new curriculum is rolled out in 2014
Schools will be given freedom to teach ICT how they choose, after a Government consultation found the current programme "not fit for purpose".
Education secretary Michael Gove admitted in January that computer teaching needed an overhaul, and following a consultation this spring, the Department of Education will remove all rules around ICT teaching as an interim measure as it works to create a new curriculum by 2014.
The programmes of study and "attainment targets" for ICT will be "disapplied", meaning teachers can teach the subject as they choose for the next two years.
"In this interim period, schools will still be required to teach ICT to pupils at all key stages but teachers will have the flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils without central government prescription," the department said.
The subject will continue to be a National Curriculum subject, and between this year and 2014 schools won't be required to change how they teach the subject, but will be free to do so "if they wish", the department said in a report.
Miles Berry, subject coordinator for ICT Education at Roehampton University and chair of IT body Naace, told PC Pro the move wasn't a surprise. "We know many teachers are eager to respond to the opportunities this provides to develop an up-to-date, creative and challenging curriculum tailored to the needs, interests and aspirations of their pupils, perhaps basing what they do on Naace's ICT framework and/or the Computing at School curriculum," he noted.
The Government consultation heard from more than 300 education experts, revealing that:
- 66% thought classes should be more challenging;
- 37% said ICT programmes of study weren't "fit for purpose";
- 30% are worried about the quality of IT teaching;
- 2% thought ICT should be taught as part of other classes, rather than being a standalone subject.
"It's interesting that today's announcement comes alongside Gove's rejection of the National Curriculum Expert Panel's recommendation that ICT and D&T [Design and Technology] be relegated to the 'basic curriculum' in 2014, perhaps recognising that in the third millennium the right to a broad technological education isn't something which can be just left for individual schools to determine," he added.
Not fit for purpose
The consultation found half of the 333 education experts that responded were in favour of the move; a third were fully against the plans, but most of those were in favour of some changes to the system.
"Overall, there was a broad consensus amongst respondents that the existing Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets for ICT were no longer fit for purpose, and many teachers responding to the consultation welcomed the opportunity to develop and deliver more ambitious ICT provision, including computer science," the report said.
The consultation also revealed a desire for better training for teachers, citing high numbers of "non-specialist" ICT teachers. "Some respondents identified a risk that in some cases a school's ICT curriculum would be based on the skills level of the teacher rather than the ability and interests of the pupils," the report said.
The Government's proposals around ICT may have been misunderstood, the report found, with some believing it meant ICT was being "downgraded". "The Government has made it clear that it considers ICT to be an important subject that should be taught to all pupils," the report noted.
A follow-up consultation is being run until 11 July.