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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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Johnny Minkley avatar
Johnny Minkley: Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.
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