The proposal to scrap the programmes of study for ICT from September has been finalised after a public consultation.
While schools will still be required to teach ICT across all key stages, the decision by the Department for Education (DfE) means that teachers will have the freedom to decide how and what they teach. The move has drawn a mixed reaction from ICT organisations and campaigners.
The plans were originally unveiled by the education secretary Michael Gove at the BETT ICT show in January when he said that he wanted schools to use the freedom from September 2012 to teach more rigorous computer science.
He added: “In particular, we want to see universities and businesses create new high quality computer science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the brilliant computer science content available on the web.”
A statement from the DfE this week confirmed the move: “The government has decided to proceed with disapplication. 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.”
However, the Corporate IT Forum, a group which represents corporate users of ICT in the UK, said it was “very disappointed” with the decision.
The Forum’s Education and Skills Commission – which has been set up to tackle what it says is a growing ICT skills crisis – said disapplying the curriculum two years before the computer science curriculum is implemented will lead to “even greater problems by 2020”.
Commission chairman John Harris, head of IT strategy at GlaxoSmithKline, said: “While we agree that the current ICT curriculum is failing to meet the needs of employers, we are extremely concerned that the absence of a programme of study or attainment targets for any period of time will widen the gap between the best and worst ICT teaching in schools to an unacceptable level.”
However, BCS, the chartered institute for IT, welcomed the decision, arguing that it would allow schools the freedom to teach computer science the way they want to from September.
Bill Mitchell, director of the BCS academy of computing, said: “We believe it is of paramount importance that every child has the chance to study computer science from primary school onwards; with this latest move this will be true from September 2012.”
The government revealed its plans this week for updating the primary national curriculum. The proposals, which are to be consulted upon, retain ICT as a compulsory subject. An announcement on the draft secondary curriculum is expected shortly. Both are due to be implemented in 2014.
Professor Steve Furber, chair of the Royal Society report on computing in schools, said: “The decision to develop a new programme of study for ICT as part of the 2014 national curriculum sends a strong signal to schools that the plan to ‘disapply’ the current curriculum should not be interpreted as downgrading the subject.”
However, he warned that changes to the curriculum will “fail to have the necessary impact” if they are not accompanied by better support for teacher CPD.
He added: “We should not forget that specialist teachers make up just 35 per cent of the ICT teaching workforce at present.”
The DfE has now launched a public consultation on the draft regulations that will enact the decision to remove the programmes of study. This will run until July 11. To respond, visit www.education.gov.uk/consultations.