IT-centric GCSE on way to boost kids' coding skills

Schools to get IT lessons from the likes of HP, IBM and Microsoft...

Schools to get IT lessons from the likes of HP, IBM and Microsoft...

The government is to create a GCSE that will focus on teaching schoolchildren core principles of computer programming - helping them develop the kind of IT skills employers need.

The new IT GCSE, which does not yet have an official name, will be additional to the current ICT GCSE, which IT industry experts have long attacked for putting kids off careers in IT and failing to excite them about technology.


IT teaching reboot: A new IT-centric GCSE is in the works as government looks to enhance tech skillsPhoto: Shutterstock

The new qualification will cover computational principles, systemic thinking, software development and logic, according to a spokesman for the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The government also plans to develop a new A-Level qualification focused on the same computational principles as the new IT-centric GCSE but will introduce the GCSE first, said the spokesman. There is no timeframe for when the new GCSE or A-Level will be introduced.

Dr Tom Crick, senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, said an overhaul of the IT curriculum is long overdue - describing it as of "strategic national importance" that every schoolchild has the opportunity to study computing.

"It is crucial that there is an emphasis on [schoolchildren] developing the crucial computational thinking, problem-solving and deep analytical skills. These are the skills that employers want, plus they are applicable to numerous industries, not just the sciences," he told, adding: "A continued lack of focus in computer science education could hinder job opportunities for many students currently in school today and have serious ramifications for the UK economy over the next 10 to 20 years."

A landmark IT GCSE qualification is also vital to encourage more young people to study computer science in higher education, according to Crick, who noted that admissions to computer science at that level have been static for years.

The new GCSE will be developed with the help of a programme called 'Behind the Screen', which has been devised by UK IT sector skills body e-skills UK. e-skills is working in partnership with a range of IT employers including the BBC, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte, HP, IBM, John Lewis, Microsoft, National Grid and Procter & Gamble to enhance IT teaching in schools and improve kids' understanding of technology.

Under this programme, 20 schools will be involved in pilots that will include IT employers more directly in lessons and look at ways to enhance the IT curriculum.

Schools that will be involved in the pilot include Bradfield College in Reading, Manchester Grammar School, Park House School in Newbury and Townley Grammar in Bexleyheath. The pilot will kick off this November and run for two school terms, concluding next June, according to the BIS spokesman.