Computing in schools

A report last year by the education regulator Ofsted revealed that computer lessons in schools are inadequate, failing to equip students with skills that are relevant in the modern workplace. Subjects such as Information and Communications technology (ICT) were deemed to have fallen below standards in 20% of Secondary Schools in England. Particular areas of criticism were reserved for teaching and the curriculum, with a lack of expertise and relevant subject matter highlighted in a rapidly evolving subject area.

The report found that pupils were given brief overviews but little opportunity to develop skills and an overall understanding of areas of ICT relevant to many contemporary work environments such as programming and databases. In failing to adequately cover such important topics schools are jeopardising pupils’ careers prospects. Poor teaching of such a crucial subject which is not compulsory for GCSE students has also seen an alarming drop in the numbers of pupils taking ICT. Indeed, between 2007 and 2011 there was a 64% reduction in students opting to study ICT to GCSE level, at a time when the uptake of vocational computer courses is on the rise.

This report from Ofsted comes in the wake of an equally damning assessment from Next Gen, an independent review of skills needed for the UK video games industry, and comments from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt which highlighted education as the primary threat to Britain’s success in the digital media economy. This is particularly concerning at a time when large numbers of young people are unemployed with poor job prospects and with economic rebuilding dependent upon us embracing a new economy.

Looking ahead to solutions to the problem of computing education, chief Ofsted inspector Miriam Rosen said: “In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, young people need to be given the opportunity to learn ICT skills in an interesting, challenging and relevant way. The government is expected to publish its technology strategy for schools, its blueprint on how ICT should be taught in schools in the New Year. The report is expected to recommend wholesale changes in the way that computing is taught to school-age children.