A balanced curriculum?

Rebecca Paddick met with some industry experts who had quite a few things to say about the new computing curriculum

Stone Group’s eskills roundtable discussion, held at the Haymarket hotel in London on Tuesday, debated a number of key issues surrounding the new computing curriculum, which will replace ICT across UK primary schools this September.

As the only representative of a trade publication I was lucky enough to meet with industry experts from Nesta, CAS, Intel and e-skills UK, to name just a few, and debate the impending programme of study.

The discussion opened with Chris Sharples, head of ICT at Lady Lumley’s School based in North Yorkshire. He highlighted an imbalance in the new programme of study. “Young people live in a multi-media world and they need to learn how to be confident and competent in that world, but people keep forgetting that this is a computing curriculum that we are talking about not just a computer science curriculum, just the programme of study would suggest otherwise.”

The same concern was also highlighted by Joanna Poplawska, executive director of the Corporate IT Forum, Education and Skills Commission. She said that members of the IT industry had voiced concerns of the perceived emphasis on computer science.

However, Miles Berry, board member of Computing at School (CAS), said: “What was ICT is now relabelled as computing. Yes there is a move in emphasis from working with information communication to an understanding of the processes of computation, but it is still the same broad balanced understanding of digital technology.”

Miles pointed out that programming has always featured on the national curriculum, but swiftly added that beyond key stage one it looks as though it was “more honoured in the breach than in the observance.”

In terms of what we have in the new curriculum, Miles added that computing is understood as three vital areas, digital literacy, information technology and computer science. “And you have that in the new programme of study,” he stressed. “The bullet points aren’t labelled and they are not colour coded but it is really clear which elements are which.”

Tim Riches, CEO of DigitalMe also added some positive points to the new programme, “We should highlight that it is a very short list – only two pages long, so there is a huge amount of interpretation allowed and expected. There is actually a huge amount of flexibility to create fantastic content for young people.”

What do you think of the new curriculum? What can we do to address a perceived imbalance? Email the editor with your thoughts.

More on the roundtable discussion will feature on the ET website over the next few days.

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