Livingstone "amazed and delighted" by Govt shift on computer science

Eidos life president personally advised Education Secretary on BETT speech

Ian Livingstone said he was "amazed and delighted" after Education Secretary Michael Gove this morning announced the scrapping of ICT in its present form in favour of a focus on programming and computer science in UK schools, beginning this September.

The news came as a ringing endorsement of the UK games industry-led campaign to bring computer science onto the National Curriculum to combat the severe skills shortage in the development sector.

Livingstone, who revealed he had personally advised the Secretary of State on today's speech, commented: "It is fantastic that Michael Gove is personally endorsing the importance of teaching computer science in schools.

This is not an airy promise from an MP - this is the prediction of people like Ian Livingstone who have built world-class companies from computer science

Michael Gove, MP

"I think it's right that the Department for Education is looking to industry, looking to organisations and learned societies to help build a replacement curriculum in computer science - rather than trying to do something they don't understand and repeat the mistakes of the past."

Gove's speech represents a significant milestone in the Next Gen Skills campaign - backed by partners including Google and Microsoft - with the Government adopting the number one recommendation of last year's Livingstone-Hope report, to: "Bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline."

Gove, speaking this morning at the BETT education technology event in London, admitted that ICT in its present form was "harmful and dull".

"Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum," he said, acknowledging that the current curriculum could harm the UK's economic prospects.

Gove further used his speech personally to thank Livingstone and Double Negative's Alex Hope, co-authors of the Next Gen report, adding on the potential of the planned changes: "This is not an airy promise from an MP - this is the prediction of people like Ian Livingstone who have built world-class companies from computer science."

Livingstone said: "What is needed, and has been recognised today by Michael Gove, is the need for a rigorous and relevant computer science curriculum whereby at the age of 11 children should be able to write a small computer animation; by the age of 16 they should be able to write a programme; by 18 they should be able to write their own programming language."

Concerns have been raised, however, over a lack of teachers with the necessary qualifications to implement a new programming-based curriculum.

In response, Livingstone said: "We're now going to ask for the DfE to back a teacher training programme for computer science teachers, and at the same time to provide CPD [continuing professional development] for existing ICT teachers."

Today's news came as Raspberry Pi, the 20 credit card-sized computer for schools, went into production. The system has been created by a Cambridge-based charitable foundation, whose team includes Frontier boss David Braben, and its prospects will have been boosted by the Government's announcement.

"It's time for a reboot so we can recapture that thirst for computing which started in the 1980s and lead to the UK being a market leader in computing, before the education system lost its way in ICT," said Livingstone.

"Britain's schoolchildren deserve the chance to study computer science to give them the skills to create the next Google, Twitter, Facebook or Zynga."

A public consultation on the proposed changes is expected to launch next week and run for 12 weeks.

In a written ministerial statement, Gove said: "If, having listened to the views expressed in the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, I decide to proceed with the proposed disapplication of the ICT Programmes of Study, Attainment Targets and assessment arrangements, it will represent an interim measure that will be effective from September 2012 until September 2014, when the outcomes of the National Curriculum review will come into force."

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Latest comments (13)

Karl Jeffery Founder & CEO, Arooga6 years ago
This is very good news, well done Ian!
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Charlie Andre-Barrett European Digital Sales Manager, Bethesda Softworks6 years ago
Good news indeed ! BRAVO IAN !
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Mark Gilbert Games Designer, Abstraction Games6 years ago
I really hope this improves to the extent where the students are learning about what is currently being used in the industry currently rather than what was relevant 5 years ago, the course needs to be updated at least on a yearly basis.

I actually walked out on my secondary school IT qualification lessons and only did the coursework required along with about 80% of the class, when the school questioned it we told them that we were teaching the teacher and the free time was more use to us as we could use it to do homework for subjects that we needed to learn. They actually accepted this and let us do the exam after only attending the first 2 or 3 lessons of the year.

It's going to need people from the industry to teach this though, the current gen of teachers are likely too old and set in their ways to adapt now. Any ideas how they're going to get these people?
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James Steele Senior Software Engineer, Nintendo of Europe GmbH6 years ago
As somebody who loves tinkering with computers, and loves programming I have to wonder; is this really what we need?

While I'm not a fan of what is currently taught in schools in the UK regarding computing, I'm also not a fan of a "blanket approach" to education which assumes that everybody is the same. Previously, everybody was treated as being too dum or not interested in the more technical side of computing, but now we run the risk of making it too technical for the pupils who merely wish to become more proficient at using a computer for more every day tasks.

In short; I would like an approach where schools have differnent tiers of computing being taught, where both the technical and non-technical minded can excel.
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Paul Greasby Advisor, 777 Flight Deck6 years ago
Sounds like they need industry leaders / highly influential figures, teaching the courses too. It's the teacher who has the greatest potential impact on an individual.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
ICT lessons are out of touch and out of date, often teaching topics and skills most people are now born into.. Computer Science is the way forward and could help drive the UK as one of the leaders in computer skills.
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Matthew Jeffery Head of EMEA TA & Global Talent Brand, Autodesk6 years ago
Bloody great news. Many congrats to Industry Legend Ian Livingstone. Great achievement. Now just need the teachers who can teach computing and not what they have been doing ie how to use MS products like Word, Excel & PowerPoint. All the hard work paid off Ian. Great stuff.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 6 years ago
Too bad where we lag is in the art of game design - not the tech. We're up to our eyeballs in tech, and yet the games that get made are bland, driven by "consensus" instead of creative vision, and no creative individuals have control of their making (outside of those with budgets that are tiny).
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Excellent result and hopefully a major step forward. I'm sure with continued efforts and the right pressure actions will come from the words. Let's not let them off the hook now!
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@ Tim - Game design is a bit tricky to foster, teach and nurture. Just look at sound design. In addition, i'm not sure where is the best place to develop the best game designers. Having an appreciation of it at University and college level (for all game related disciplines) is probably a must. Eg. 3D artists, artists, audio, programming, From then on , perhaps it is a case of fuelling a designer to develop innovative games (that could potentially be commercial successes such as portal - which developed from the senior student project nabacular drop via Digipen tech)

Maybe we need a strong pro game industry campus, built from ground up that is both commercially private, self regulated and outside the clutches of established university - that may lead to "me too" churning of game industry workforce, but at least that will help provide a breeding ground that in conjunction with existing university courses, can lead to a overall stronger game related source of UK based talent
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Mark Brendan Lead Game Designer, Jolt Online Gaming6 years ago
@Tim, good designers can't get innovative and interesting games made because the established industry is risk averse and metric and hit driven (which I appreciate you know from other posts and articles I've read by you). It has ever been thus in the 9 years I've been in video games, but with the recent upsurge in indie devs and small studios doing their own thing we'll hopefully see that change.

@Dr. Wong, I know there isn't any agreed methodology to fostering game design, but solid techniques can be taught. I learned some very useful methods of working from a great tabletop designer I worked for about 12 years ago, and I've passed on some of that to other designers that have reported to me or that I've been responsible for mentoring. Trouble is, see point 1 for why that hasn't done anything to progress the discipline of game design in the industry
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Richard Vanner Financial Director / CFO, The Game Creators Ltd6 years ago
We have a solution which could easily be used by school kids. It's a BASIC based language that lets kids code and make games. Check it out at [link url=

We grew up using BBC basic and 8 bit machines. So we know many kids should be able to get to grips with BASIC and start making some simple apps. With App Game Kit then can also put what they make onto their smart phones - real engagment there.

We'll be adding much more to AGK like 3D, more platforms (we are thinking of support the Raspberry Pi too).
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
@Adam Sorry, I disagree a little with that. ICT Lessons are more appropriate for the majority of school students because that's what the majority will use in their working lives. The problem is the rest of the students that have the ability to design and code computer systems aren't being taught the skills they need or indeed might even want to learn to progress to a degree level study, so a shift is needed.

Don't get me wrong, I think the change in focus is a good thing, more people are needed in the field and with this and Raspberry Pi there's hope the UK will increase its IT experts; forcing computer studies / programming as a required curriculum subject isn't the right move though I think - it'll turn more people off than it turns on.
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