An error has occurred in ICT planning, say teachers

21st September 2012 at 01:00
Half fear ditching curriculum will lead to job cuts, poll shows

Half of teachers believe ministers' decision to scrap the existing ICT curriculum will lead to job cuts, according to a survey released this week, while six in 10 said teaching time for the subject will be reduced as a result of the move.

The survey of nearly 2,000 teachers and school leaders revealed a chronic lack of confidence in the coalition's reforms of the ICT curriculum. It also highlighted concerns that overall cuts to school budgets will have a detrimental effect on the subject.

In January this year, education secretary Michael Gove branded the ICT curriculum a "mess" and said secondaries no longer had to follow agreed programmes of study, leaving teachers free to teach the subject as they saw fit from this term.

Mr Gove is keen to replace ICT with a more rigorous computer science subject, which will focus on computer programming and sit alongside the other sciences in a bid to revitalise a subject that he described as "demotivating and dull".

According to the survey undertaken by the NASUWT teaching union, however, the decision to scrap the current curriculum has led 56 per cent of teachers to fear that the changes will mean the loss of ICT teaching jobs.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the study's findings reflected the education secretary's "ideological" approach to education reform, showing little or no regard for its impact on children or the workforce.

"We are not opposed to a review of ICT provision and recognise that there may be areas which need to be developed and improved, but a strategic, properly funded approach is needed, not another slash-and-burn reform leaving a vacuum in provision and loss of talented staff," Ms Keates said. "The test for any educational reform should be whether it will raise standards ... This is yet another hasty, ill-thought-out change."

Mr Gove's call for a curriculum based more on computer science was widely welcomed by the industry, but concerns were raised about how this will be achieved, particularly when the subject currently faces a shortage of teachers. Others highlighted fears that some schools would view the ditching of the curriculum as a reason to divert resources away from the subject. There are also concerns that the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, which focuses on traditional academic subjects, will lead to the marginalisation of ICT.

Miles Berry, chair of ICT lobby group Naace and senior lecturer in ICT education at the University of Roehampton, said there is "deep confusion" within schools when it comes to the reforms, which is reflected in the survey.

"Some schools have seen (Mr Gove's) decision as an opportunity to do exciting things and change how they approach ICT, but others have seen it as an excuse to cut back and deploy teachers elsewhere," Mr Berry said. "So while the results of the survey are not surprising, they are still disappointing."

And he warned that investment is needed for the reforms to be successful. "Trying to make the transition from teaching ICT to teaching computer science is not impossible," he said. "All it will take is retraining, but you can't do that without money."

The Department for Education said it is turning to leaders in the field to overhaul how ICT is taught, with plans to attract more ICT graduate teachers expected to be announced "shortly".

"We want experts like Microsoft, Google and the University of Cambridge to be involved in the development of ICT teaching to properly equip pupils for the 21st century," a spokesperson said. "Exciting developments, like Raspberry Pi and Computing at School, are taking off precisely because schools have the freedom and resources they need to teach an innovative curriculum.

"This sort of online survey fails to take into account how our reforms to the ICT curriculum will benefit children."

Computer says no

56% of surveyed teachers said the ICT curriculum changes will lead to further job cuts.

63% believe the changes will lead to a decrease in ICT teaching time.

37% feel they will hinder innovation.

17% reported that ICT teaching jobs have been lost in their school as a result of cuts to budgets.

43% said local authority support services for ICT have declined.

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