Livingstone hails Google chairman's "ringing endorsement" of skills review

Ed Vaizey "delighted" by Eric Schmidt's comments on UK education, says Eidos life president

Ian Livingstone has hailed a recent speech by Google chairman Eric Schmidt as a "ringing endorsement" of the Livingstone-Hope video games skills review.

The Eidos life president revealed that culture minister Ed Vaizey was "delighted" that Schmidt's MacTaggart lecture, which was heavily critical of the UK's education system, and echoed the key conclusions of the Government-backed Next Gen report.

Speaking exclusively to, Livingstone said it was "almost spooky" how closely Schmidt's speech agreed with his skills review, adding: "It's as though he lifted his comments straight from Next Gen.

It's a shame that it takes the chairman of a US multi-national to rattle the Department for Education's cage to get our house in order.

Ian Livingstone, Eidos life president

"He bemoaned the throwing away of our heritage of computing starting with the BBC Micro in the 1980s and the BBC's broadcasting of coding for kids. He criticised the fact that computer science is not taught in schools and that the curriculum focuses on using software with no insight on how it is made.

"What he said was a ringing endorsement of Next Gen and gives us belief and encouragement to continue even more vociferously with our Next Gen Skills campaign."

Schmidt's lecture was delivered in Edinburgh last Friday, August 26, and Livingstone said he spoke to Vaizey "immediately afterwards", stating: "He was delighted that Eric Schmidt's opinions echoed those in Next Gen and will use them as a platform to boost the awareness of Next Gen's recommendations."

In his speech [edited highlights], Schmidt said he was "flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools", warned that the UK was "throwing away [its] great computer heritage", and stressed the "need to bring art and science back together."

Bringing computer science into the national curriculum was the number one recommendation of the Livingstone-Hope report, which also stated: "Young people must be given more opportunity to study art and technology together."

Livingstone believes the stature of Google's chairman would now lend momentum to the campaign to get his report's recommendations implemented.

"I would hope that the lecture would help our cause to gain greater traction inside the DfE [Department for Education] and BIS [UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills]," he said.

"Unfortunately we have had no dialogue with [Education secretary] Michael Gove or his special Advisors at DfE, and of course it is the DfE that decides the curriculum. I'm hoping the DfE will think, 'Well if Eric said it, it must be true' and we get to speak to Mr Gove soon.

"But it is a shame that it takes the chairman of a US multi-national to rattle DfE's cage to get our house in order when they had been told already but didn't seem to be bothered about it."

Explaining the significance of his report's conclusions, Livingstone said: " In a world where computing touches everything we do, we cannot build a digital economy with a nation of digital illiterates. Computer science is to ICT what writing is to reading.

"It's vital that education shifts its emphasis from using technology towards creating technology. It's important not just for the games industry but also for all digital and high tech industries from fighting cyber crime to making jet propulsion engines."

The Government is due to issue an update on the Livingstone-Hope report next month. "I'm delighted that the response will be a joint response from DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport], BIS and DfE," said Livingstone.

A spokesperson for the DCMS said: "We're considering the Livingstone-Hope [report] and we'll issue a formal response shortly. We wouldn't comment on particular aspects of the report ahead of our response."

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Latest comments (8)

Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation6 years ago
Technology is and always has been our future. Reform the banks and reform education so that talent is focused on creation rather than destruction. Then we will all benefit from scalable and green growth. Britain has got talent.
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Lets bank on technology instead of traditional manufacturing
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T Lewis Senior Programmer, The Creative Assembly6 years ago
I think we need more people of an engineering and scientific mindset in government. We have a revolving door, hermetically sealed world of Etonians, bankers and lawyers running the show. They seem largely ignorant of how things are invented, developed and made.
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Show all comments (8)
Andy Payne Chair/founder, AppyNation6 years ago
Mr Lewis - amen.
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Kevin Parker Chief Sorcerer, PLAY SORCERY Ltd.6 years ago
How ironic that we are being told about the need for better education from someone who left with a single A-Level and that was in Geography!

>>He bemoaned the throwing away of our heritage of computing starting with the BBC Micro in the 1980s

No mention of the Spectrum or C64, both of which had a much bigger market and which created a more vibrant game industry? There were a lot more developers who learned their trade on non-BBC platforms. Is that because the author is biased towards public sector investment even when the private sector works better?

>>Unfortunately we have had no dialogue with [Education secretary] Michael Gove or his special Advisors at DfE, and of course it is the DfE that decides the curriculum. I'm hoping the DfE will think, 'Well if Eric said it, it must be true' and we get to speak to Mr Gove soon

The good news coming out of the education department is that more students are taking academic subjects at GCSE thanks the Gove's English Bacalaurate. If that continues into the university sector (which he is not responsible for) then the government are on the right track by undoing Labour's dumbing down of the curriculum. It should be noted that Labour oppose the English Bac so presumably they want students to study non acadamic subjects like media studies which do not train students to be good candidates to work in games development.

The only real question is are these reforms too late? Will there be any British developer jobs left by the time todays students graduate? Things don't look good, except for one measure - there are fewer people emmigrating than there were under Labour's Britain.

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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London6 years ago
I suspect the reason the BBC Micro was highlighted is because many schools used them to teach children basic (in both senses) programming, so a lot of people from my generation would have learned how to use and program a computer on that platform. Lots of parents were also suckered into buying BBC Micros for home use as an educational device, when in fact we probably spent most of our time playing games like Elite, Repton and Chuckie Egg. ;)
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Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster6 years ago
I got four B's in ICT, and I spent the majority of my time teaching the teachers how to use commandline, batch files, basic scripting, hell even control panel. Why? Because I did not invest my time on my home PC playing with Word and Excel, and all of the UK's ICT tests are based on that, in fact the best aspiration you should have if you pass that exam well is the worlds greatest Microsoft tied Desk Jockey.

Perhaps the most useless excuse of a lesson in the whole education system, the worst thing is you can make all that useless education count as four (4!) or your GCSE's making for an easy pass with no useful skills gained.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 6 years ago
A computer programmer basically can do anything at this point. Every facet of what we do can be simulated, refined or created through computer science.
It's tough because no one's growing up with these skills. Who's going to be the one to kick-start it?
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