Computer Science Finally Becomes Core School Subject In Britain


The government is to make Computer Science a core subject being taught in British schools

Education secretary Michael Gove today announced that computer science will be included in the Ebacc from September 2013, meaning that ICT courses will effectively become the fourth science option for pupils.

The government seems to be heeding the message from industry figures that technology and IT teaching should have greater prominence in British schools.

Computer science coming in

Ebacc, or the English Baccalaureate, is one of the measures used in school league tables in England. It recognises where pupils have secured a C grade or above in a core of academic subjects, including English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language. The sciences will now include computer science.

“The change is being made because of the importance of computer science for both education and the economy,” said the Department for Education. “The previous ‘harmful’ ICT curriculum was removed last year and will be replaced soon with a new programme of study focused on computer science.

“Today, the education secretary announced that computer science will be added to the list of separate science options (so there are now four separate sciences instead of the traditional three) in the Ebacc.

“Pupils who sit any three of the four separate sciences and get at least a C in two of them will get the EBacc. For instance, a pupil who sits physics, chemistry and computer science and gets at least two Cs will fulfil the science requirement of the EBacc. This change has no effect on those doing the ‘traditional’ three separate sciences, it is just another option. The ‘core plus additional’ option is unchanged.”

School, education, children © Stokkete Shutterstock 2012For a long while now technology firms have been calling for more computing studies within British schools to address the growing high tech skills shortage.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has previously accused the British education system of failing to ignite young people’s passion for technology and said ICT should be made a compulsory subject at GCSE level..

Likewise Steve Beswick, UK director of education for Microsoft, has previously warned that there was a decline in the number of students taking IT-related A-levels, based on figures back in 2011.

Government promise

The government has taken these criticisms on board and has long planned to increase IT skills teaching in British schools. It acknowledged the current method of teaching ICT in schools was insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform. Last November, it promised to introduce more relevant IT skills into the classroom with its NextGen proposal.

And just after Christmas Michael Gove said that the current system of ICT teaching was harmful to the UK economy, promising to overhaul the system.

“We need to bring computational thinking into our schools,” said a Department for Education spokesperson. “Having Computer Science in the EBacc will have a big impact on schools over the next decade. It will mean millions of children learning to write computer code so they are active creators and controllers of technology instead of just being passive users. It will be great for education, great for the economy, and will help restore the spirit of Alan Turing and make Britain a world leader again.”

Google also welcomed the development.

“This has been a good week for computer science education in the UK,” said a Google spokesperson. “Yesterday we were pleased to be able to make a donation of 15,000 Raspberry Pi’s to school pupils in the UK. Today’s announcement that computer science will be part of the EBacc marks a significant further investment in the next generation of British computer scientists.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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