UK’s new school curriculum

4 June 2013
Alan Berry and Stephanie Fernandes
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ICT in schools

The IET: it is vital that students have the opportunity to gain an insight into computing.

Relevance in a 21st century technology-based society.

As part of the UK Government’s efforts to drive up standards in education, the Department for Education (DfE) recently launched a consultation on the new curriculum. The National Curriculum Framework document is available to download on the DfE website and comprises approximately 200 pages spanning all subjects through Key Stages 1 to 4.

The IET Policy Department, with help from members of the Education and Skills, Communications and IT Policy Panels, has made a joint response specifically around the subjects of ICT and Design and Technology (D&T), also commenting on subjects that support STEM subjects such as maths. One of the strengths the IET always promotes to government organisations is the breadth and depth of expertise that IET members can bring, something other organisations are not able to match.

ICT

The acronym, as most will know stands, for Information Communication Technology. Unfortunately there has been much confusion in education as to what this should cover. The result, and I am sure a lot of parents and members would agree, has been a disaster culminating in students becoming disenchanted with the subject as well as failing to have the opportunity to really learn about computing, communications, how they work and their importance in supporting our everyday lives, no matter what we are doing.

The IET, along with other professional bodies, has stressed to government that, in order for the UK to compete in the global markets with new and innovative products, it is vital that students have the opportunity to gain an insight into computing or computer science, as some prefer to call it. One aspect the IET has raised, is the importance of Communication Systems, how they support the connections to the services we rely on every day in today’s connected world.

Design and Technology

As any technician or engineer knows, Design Technology is a vital element for anyone who builds, designs or maintains systems and equipment. For this reason the IET stressed to the DfE the importance of the subject and its disappointment that the proposed curriculum is not ambitious enough, with the subject likely to be watered down further by the proposal to include Food Technology within the curriculum. The IET believes Food Technology and associated skills are life skills that everyone should acquire and so for that reason are not appropriate for inclusion in the D&T curriculum.

Shortage of knowledgeable teaching staff

The IET has also highlighted additional road blocks that will prevent progress in teaching the new curriculum for both ICT and D&T. These are primarily as a result of the lack of suitably qualified and experienced teaching staff in ICT and D&T. This has been further compounded by the failure of schools to gain knowledge and experience of Open Source resources, most of which are freely available and represent enormous opportunities.

This criticism is not aimed at schools, but the failure of the UK Government over the past 15-20 years in maintaining a curriculum relevant to today’s technology-based society.

The complete IET response can be found at www.theiet.org/policy/submissions/s956.cfm

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