Royal Society Calls for Specialist ICT Teachers

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New report makes recommendations to improve ICT teaching in the UK

Technology and science body The Royal Society has become the latest organisation to criticise the standard of ICT education in British schools, stating that the biggest challenge in improving the curriculum is the lack of specialist teaches of the subject.

The report, entitled Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in schools, took 18 months to complete and follows news that the government is to overhaul the ICT curriculum in September.

Insufficient teaching

According to The Royal Society, the subject is too broadly interpreted and therefore allows non-specialist teachers to teach the subject in schools, while there aren’t enough teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy.

Teacher training is also criticised, with the report stating that it isn’t sufficient to keep computing teachers up to date with developments. It also says that this problem is compounded by the fact that school infrastructure inhibits the teaching of computing.

The study offers a number of recommendations to rectify these problems, including setting recruitment targets for computer science and specialist ICT teachers and providing training bursaries with the help of industry funding. It also suggests that teachers should be provided with regular refresher courses to ensure they keep to date with advances in the industry.

“Action is needed not only on the curriculum itself, but also to recruit and train inspiring teachers to reinvigorate pupils’ enthusiasm for computing,” said Steve Furber, chair of the Royal Society.

Under pressure

A lack of specialist teachers could hinder the government’s plans to revamp the current ICT curriculum. On Wednesday, education secretary Michael Gove announced that it was going to replace the current programme of study with compulsory lessons in computer science and programming.

This would fulfil a promise made by the government in November to introduce more relevant skills into the classroom, with Gove adding that the current programme of study was “harmful and dull” and was harming the UK’s economic prospects.

Education watchdog Ofsted has called ICT education ‘inadequate’, while the UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries have also been placing pressure on the government to reintroduce coding into schools.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has been a vocal critic of ICT teaching in the UK, having expressed his shock that it wasn’t a compulsory subject at GCSE level and warned that the country was in danger of “throwing away” its computer heritage.

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