Subject renaming sparks row

11th June 1999 at 01:00
IT teachers think changes to ICT will only confuse, butcurriculum changes are welcomed. Chris Johnston reports

A move to rename information technology (IT) has been attacked by the subject's teachers, who insist the proposal will lead to more confusion.

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, wants ICT (information and communications technology) to replace IT to "avoid the confusion caused by the use of different acronyms". The decision was revealed in the review of the national curriculum released last month.

The National Association for Co-ordinators and Teachers of IT (ACITT) fears that the effort gone into explaining to schools the difference between the body of knowledge, skills and understanding in IT as a subject, and the benefits of using ICT across the curriculum, will be wasted if the change goes ahead.

Sheyne Lucock, an ACITT executive committee member and an IT inspector, said ICT is a term used only in the education community. "Rather than clarify, it's actually going to create a lot more confusion," he says.

A Department for Education and Employment spokesperson said the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority believed ICT was the term being used by industry and that the change would lead to less confusion.

Despite the proposed name change, the curriculum review states that qualifications will "continue to have the title IT". Lucock says teaching a subject with a different name to the qualification students received would cause many difficulties.

He believes the proposal was a genuine but misguided attempt at simplification. "Any IT specialist will tell you that IT automatically includes communications - you don't need to put it in the title of the subject to make that point."

ACITT hopes that responses to the proposals made during the consultation period, which ends on July 23, would encourage ministers to reconsider the change. Lucock says no indication of the move to rename the subject had been given before the curriculum review materials were released.

Other proposed revisions to the IT curriculum include:

* no reductions in the requirements of prescription in the programmes of study.

* clarifying requirements by using non-technical language and organising them across all key stages under four headings: finding things out; developing ideas and making things happen; exchanging and sharing information; and reviewing, modifying and evaluating work as it progresses.

* incorporating requirements relating to ICT-based control, monitoring and measurement in other subjects for a more balanced focus on related information concepts, such as automation.

* an increased emphasis on information sources and communication.

* aligning the key stage 4 requirements with the IT key skill units.

The document also proposes strengthening the statutory use of ICT across all subjects to reflect its growing importance as a key skill for learning, training and employment.

Where ICT is now regarded as essential for a subject, specific statutory requirements will be included. But the review notes that: "Care has been taken when identifying specific ICT requirements to avoid placing unreasonable burdens on schools in terms of resources or rendering the curriculum unmanageable."

Professor Stephen Heppell, director of Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University, welcomed the increased emphasis on ICT as an integral part of school subjects, the strengthening of "information sources and communication" and the switch to less technical language. "The new document represents a step in the right direction. It offers a real improvement allowing pupils the chance to show just how good they can be with the right tools and opportunities," he says.

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