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Digital literacy as important as English and maths, Parliament warns

Schools should teach “digital literacy” alongside reading, writing and maths if the country is to address the urgent digital skills shortage, a Lords report has warned today.

The House of Lords Digital Skills Committee has called on any future government to address the growing shortage of young people capable of filling jobs in the technology sector by making digital literacy the third core subject alongside literacy and numeracy.

The cross-party committee said that although the introduction of the computing curriculum in September last year was “welcome”, doubts remained over the workforce’s ability to teach it.

Too many teachers are “not confident or equipped” to provide their pupils with the relevant skills, and fewer than half of secondary ICT teachers have a relevant qualification beyond A-level, the report says.

The report adds that the country is reaching a “tipping point” in the digital skills gap and warns that not enough is being done to meet the needs of industry.

Baroness Sally Morgan, chair of the committee, said the report should act as a “wake-up call” and that, as a country, “we’re not learning the right skills to meet our future needs”.

“The report makes it clear that our approach to educating people of all ages needs a radical rethink,” Baroness Morgan said. “From an early age we need to give digital literacy as much importance as numeracy and literacy.

“While we welcome the introduction of the computing curriculum, we are concerned about the ability of teachers to deliver it, with more than half our IT teachers not having a post-A level qualification relevant to IT.”

The committee also called for new and existing teaching staff to be given “significant contact” with the tech industry in order to see the “latest technologies in action”, and pass such knowledge on to their students.

Any future government after the general election should create a “digital agenda”, the report adds, with the focus of turning the UK into a “leading digital economy” in the next five years. A new cabinet minister post should be created in order to “steer” the digital agenda, it says.

Related stories: 

Computing curriculum will not meet needs of industry, research warns -13 October 2014

Jimmy Wales fears nine years of computing will be too much for pupils - 28 September 2014

Fears mount over readiness to teach new computing curriculum - 13 November 2013

How to master the new primary computing curriculum - 1 October 2014  

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