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Primary Education News
News 10 minutes with a head of ICT: is it possible to future proof the curriculum?
ICT teachers and brothers, Matt Britland and Mike Britland, discuss the new computing curriculum and debate whether it's balanced enough to prepare students for the workplace
How has the teaching of ICT changed in the past eight years?
When I first started teaching ICT, it was based on using applications and these are skills that are still important now. I remember teaching students how to create video games some four years ago. With the new curriculum, things are going less towards using computers and more learning how they work. This includes programming, networks, algorithms and computer hardware among others. We have gone from one extreme to the other and have completely missed a balanced approach which would be better for our students and would have gone some way to future proof the subject
Is there anyway we could future proof the curriculum?
It will never be possible to completely future proof the curriculum, but things could be improved. I look at the curriculum and it is like taking a step into the past. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some of the new programme of study, such as coding, is important for the future of technology and software. Future proofing should mean ensuring that our students are able to walk into the workplace when they leave school and have the practical and creative skills, as well as some theoretical skills. This will prepare them for a variety of workplaces.
How do schools go about the process of trying to future proof the curriculum?
There should be some guidelines for schools on what digital skills students should be taught across the curriculum, these guidelines could be updated every year. This would help fill some gaps. The problem at the moment is that some schools don't always have someone to advise them how to implement digital skills across the school. Things are moving so quickly schools need someone with their ear to the ground.
How do you think teachers are preparing for the change and are they ready for it?
Some teachers are very excited about it and are busy developing their existing skills and subject knowledge. There are lots of conferences and training courses going on at the moment and I know from experience that these are very popular. Unfortunately, some teachers are burying their heads in the sand and pretending the change isn't happening. They have decided they are not happy with the changes and not co-operating. Some schools are not giving teachers the opportunity to get out of the classroom and attend training sessions, leaving many teachers disheartened. I know of a number of schools who have done away with computing in year 7 and 8, and just run GCSEs in year 9 and above. This is not good, in my opinion.
Is it understandable that schools take this approach if there is a lack of qualified teachers out there to deliver it effectively?
Perhaps, but it is their job to make sure that their teachers can deliver a subject effectively. It is their responsibility to send their teachers on courses or get people into their schools to help retrain members of staff. Without computing in years 7 and 8, how can we expect students to take it at GCSE? Will they even know what computing is?
How will schools go about delivering digital literacy now that there will be no specific subject that will deliver it?
The new curriculum contains a minimum of what schools are expected to teach. If there is time in the curriculum, digital literacy can be taught during computing lessons. However, there are a lot of schools who only give one lesson a week or less to computing ICT, this is barely enough time to teach the curriculum as it is. The other alternative is to teach it across the curriculum, which should be happening anyway. Each school needs to have a member of senior management to ensure that this takes place.
Is there much difference between state and independent schools in relation to ICT provision and facilities?
I think it will very much depend on the school. The last school I worked at had five state-of-the-art computer suites, equipped with new iMacs and wireless projectors and that was a state comprehensive. I have been to independent schools who have not been equipped with the latest technology. It really does depend. Money is tight for many schools and it will depend on who is charge of the schools digital strategy.
How can schools marry the advances in technology with decreasing budgets?
Schools need to do their research. They have access to so many great websites that can be used to create work on and many are free, such as Google Apps for Education. If you take the virtual learning environments you don't need to spend a fortune on them, sites such as Edmodo can easily replace more established and expensive ones. If you look at hardware, this doesn't have to be expensive either. You can pick up a Raspberry Pi for next to nothing (£24) and budget Android devices are also worth getting hold of. The key is ensuring that you know what you are going to do with them – do your research, read blogs and get yourself on Twitter.
Download Matt's new computing curriculum for 2013-2014.