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Changes across all industries reinforce need for new computing education

London conference speaks of need for new approach to IT teaching.

Education tech

There is a growing need to tailor the skills of school leavers to the jobs available in the national economy, with a particular emphasis on the importance of IT.

That was the overwhelming message of a conference this morning hosted by social enterprise MyKindaCrowd.

"Every industry is becoming more and more dependent on IT, computing and coding and those skills," said William Akerman, managing director of the organisation which encourages companies to interact with schools and pupils.

"[But] for the last almost 20 years, our young people in schools have been consuming IT. In their IT lessons they have been learning about PowerPoint, Excel ... and all of those things. And really what we have needed is for them to be able to use it and be creative with it."

Elizabeth Truss, under secretary of state for Education and Childcare and one of the conference's panellists, argued that the Government's overhauled curriculum, which will come into effect in 2014, will help to address this problem.

"There is a massive imperative to make sure that all of our young people leave school with those really high level skills," she said.

"The new computing curriculum ... is very exciting. IT starts from age five, so children at primary schools do understand basic concepts like algorithms and I have been to schools and seen them ... programming a robotic car and understanding how that works and what an algorithm is.

"There are great packages out there ... like Scratch ... [where children can build] their own basic programmes. There's also Raspberry Pi, which enables children to go back to basics. So there are easy ways, simple ways that primary school teachers can use packages that are out there for free to help inspire students."

She also pointed to the 25,000 bursary available to computing, science, maths and engineering graduates to attract "the best and brightest" into teaching.

Nevertheless, Akerman revealed that research done by his company showed that, with just eight months to go before teachers start planning for the next academic year, 74 per cent of ICT teachers said they do not think they have the skills to teach the new curriculum.

More than half (54 per cent) said their students new more about computing and coding than they did, while 96 per cent said they would support from industry to acquire and maintain those skills.

"[This] is one of the exciting changes to teaching for as long as I can remember. But it is definitely not [problem solved]," he said.

"We have two possibilities on one hand this is such a change that it could positively affect everyone and on the other a potential crisis because teachers are unprepared and unable to teach the new curriculum," he added.

Truss said the government was "empowering schools to take ownership of their own teacher training" by not prescribing or providing any specific IT training, as part of their push to increase flexibility in schools.

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