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Livingstone hails "quantum shift" in Government thinking on computer skills

But Eidos life president admits success in campaign "won't happen overnight"

Ian Livingstone today claimed the Government's response to the skills review he co-authored represented a "quantum shift" in its thinking, showing that it "finally recognised that computer science is an essential skill for the 21st century".

Speaking to at the launch of Next Gen Skills, a campaign to lobby the Government on educational reform, Livingstone called on more businesses to get on board, insisting: "The more noise we make the better, and the quicker it will happen. It's absolutely essential for the future of this country".

The games industry-led campaign, backed by partners including Google, Microsoft, Guardian Media Group and TalkTalk, showed, said Livingstone, "that this is a major, major issue. Facebook today said they want to sign up - these are major companies that don't back any old campaign. This affects their future as much as ours in the games industry".

Trade body UKIE is spearheading the coalition, and its chairman, Andy Payne, said he was "very encouraged" by the Government's response. "We believe the Government is serious. The Government has woken up."

The fact the Department of Education haven't been engaged previously, shows that it is a large, unwieldy instrument

Ian Livingstone

The response, issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said the Government recognised that "the current ICT programme is insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform", but fell short of any making any specific commitments.

Livingstone admitted that it "would take a number of years" for any changes to the national curriculum to be made, adding: "I hope common sense and the national interest will prevail."

Payne said: "This is important for the future of UKPLC, our children, and probably our children's children. It's not just about video games - this is all about technology for the future, giving people the opportunity to create rather than just consume."

During the launch, held at Google's London HQ, a spokesperson for the tech giant said: "A lot of the conclusions [of the Livingstone-Hope review] are massively relevant to us. Computer science is at the core of everything we do. We're massively supportive of the report."

Critics highlighted the fact that the Government's reply came via the DCMS, while the Department for Education [DfE] remained silent on the issues.

"The fact the DfE haven't been engaged previously, shows that the DfE is a large, unwieldy instrument - but it's finally percolating through, the importance of what we're saying," said Livingstone.

Livingstone claimed Education Secretary Michael Gove's special advisor, Dominic Cummings, was "totally on board with our arguments and reasoning, and fully understood the need to have computer science on the curriculum."

"[Culture Minister] Ed Vaizey saw this issue was important," he added. "Now we've made enough noise for DfE and BIS [the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills] to take notice. we expect future negotiation to be with the DfE." Livingstone said he had a further meeting scheduled with Gove's team next week.

"Other key Government departments are now hooked into the conversation," commented Payne. "It's up to us now to keep on coming up with the evidence."

UK development trade body TIGA was not present at the launch, nor announced as a partner, but Payne insisted: "The games industry is completely united on this. We're always in dialogue with TIGA".

"ICT is boring our children to death," said Livingstone. Without better teaching of computer skills, he added, "we will not be able to build the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles in the UK".

Next Gen Skills builds on the conclusions of the Livingstone-Hope review, which were echoed by Google chairman Eric Schmidt in a recent lecture - and Schmidt's comments were later backed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

"We've got a lot to thank Eric Schmidt for," said Livingstone. "If there's an understanding at the top because of what Eric Schmidt said, that's great for us."

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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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