Scheme To Improve IT Teaching Gains Funding Boost

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The Ministry of Education pledges £2.5m to improve standard of IT and computing teaching in schools

IT teaching scheme Vital Professional Development is set to receive £2.5 million in funding, amid fears that the British education system is failing to provide students with the necessary skills to plug an IT skills shortage.

Vital, run by the Open University, is designed to enhance the standard of IT and computing teaching in English schools and help teachers use IT effectively in other subjects.

The funding from the Department of Education supplements the £5.6 million received by Vital in 2009 and will be used to expand the reach of the programme and to support a new in-house professional development partnership which includes subject-specific web portals to help teachers use IT more effectively across the curriculum.

Dr Peter Twining, Vital Director and Senior Lecturer at The Open University, said: “I’m very excited about the enhancements to the website and our new in-house professional development partnership. These will enable us to work more closely with schools to support them in developing high quality, cost effective, sustainable and targeted staff development that is responsive to their needs in these challenging times.”

Addressing the skills shortage

The initiative is the latest in a series of efforts to improve the standards of IT teaching in the UK and address a possible skills shortage as the IT industry grows at a rate of five times the average rate.

Around 110,000 new vacancies will be created this year alone, but despite improved prospects, the number of computer science graduates has decreased. This problem is exacerbated by an ageing workforce. In 2001, 33 percent of staff were aged under 30, but this figure is now as little as 19 percent.

The Open University recently launched two new IT and computing degrees designed to incorporate work-based learning and be compatible with the current needs of the industry.

The government has also responded to concerns by introducing a new scheme backed by companies such as HP and IBM which will see school children design their own software. If successful, the scheme, headed by e-Skills, will lead to new GCSE and A-level courses.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has been a vocal critic of the British Education system’s failure to ignite young people’s passion for science, engineering and maths and for not making IT a compulsory subject as GCSE level.

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