11/04/2012 11:02 BST | Updated 11/04/2012 11:27 BST

IT Experts Warn Against Dropping ICT From National Curriculum

The gap between the best and worst ICT teaching in England's schools will open to an "unacceptable level" if plans to ditch the subject from the national curriculum go ahead, experts have warned the government.

Information technology leaders from some of the UK's largest companies have joined forces to urge the government to keep Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in schools.

Current government proposals will see existing ICT lessons replaced by computer science, which the Department for Education (DfE) claims is a more "rigorous" programme of study than its predecessor. The move, which comes into play in September, will grant schools the autonomy to set their own curriculum.

But the Education and Skills Commission, the group established by The Corporate IT Forum, which includes corporate giants such as McDonalds, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Balfour Beatty, are objecting to the plans.

The commission fears the removal will result in some school providing "virtually no ICT education at all" for the next two years until a new computer-science based curriculum, which has been backed by video games tycoon Ian Livingstone, is installed in 2014.

The group's response to the close of the DfE's public consultation on the subject was published on Wednesday and voices its members' concerns.

Chairman of the commission John Harris, who is head of IT strategy at GSK, warned the current ICT curriculum was failing to meet the needs of employers and should be improved as a "matter of urgency".

Despite agreeing with the government's plans to overhaul the existing teaching programme, Harris says he is "very concerned" about the two-year gap which will ensue after the curriculum is scrapped.

"The absence of a programme of study or attainment targets for any period of time will severely disadvantage large groups of children. This will be a result of significant differences in standards between the schools that put in place good quality replacements and those that do the bare minimum or, in the absence of guidance, nothing at all.

"In other words we strongly believe that something is better than nothing."

Harris added the UK "already has a major ICT skills crisis" - one which he claims could worsen if the commission's warnings go unheeded.

"These proposals, if they go ahead, could widen the gap between the best and the worst ICT teaching in schools to an unacceptable level and lead to even greater problems by 2020.

Joanna Poplawska, performance director at the IT Forum, told The Huffington Post UK the commission also recommended "practical" improvements.

"Students should have contact with the IT profession in the work environment. Organisations in the forum are willing to offer placements and coaching to young people to improve their skills.

"We are concerned there will be too much leeway in some schools who may not teach any ICT at all, leaving potential employees severely lacking with the necessary talents. These issues are not adequately being addressed by the education and skills sector."

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