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Chi Onwurah: I welcome the measures that the Minister has mentioned on improving the teaching of maths, computing and STEM subjects more generally. That is very important, but will she say what she is doing specifically to support girls into ICT?

Elizabeth Truss: Because we are making the subject universal, girls will be doing programming as well as boys. That is important. As the hon. Lady said, it is important not to gender divide this technology, which underlies the whole of our society and politics. We have programmes for getting girls to study physics, such as the Stimulating Physics Network. However, our view is that so few students are learning programming skills at an early age that the best thing to do is to have a universal programme that reaches everybody.

A lot of organisations work in this area—the hon. Lady mentioned some of them—such as the Computer Club for Girls, the Code Club, the Computing at School network and Apps for Good, the chief operating officer of which in the UK, Debbie Forster, is an excellent role model for girls in the industry.

There is a particular issue with girls that we need to address. However, I believe that our focus on ensuring that teachers are trained up so that they understand the career opportunities in IT and know what programming is and how to teach it to young children will be critical in shaping the future and in shaping young girls’ expectations of their potential.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising these issues.

Julie Hilling: Before the Minister moves on, will she say more about careers? There is now a deficit in the careers advice for all young people, but particularly for girls. Such advice often rests with teachers, who might not have any experience of industry, having gone from school to university and back to school. How will she bridge that gap and provide more careers education that allows young people to understand the vast range of jobs in engineering, and in ICT specifically?

Elizabeth Truss: I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. Our approach is to engage with industry through the British Computer Society to ensure that there are

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more direct links with schools. It is helpful for students to see a local business person in the classroom and to understand what they do and what opportunities are out there. It is therefore helpful for businesses to engage directly with teachers. We have made the new national curriculum much more flexible so that teachers can design their own curriculum that is based on the national curriculum, but that reflects the resources available locally and engages with the master computer science teachers that we are creating.

Chi Onwurah: Will the Minister give way?

Elizabeth Truss: No, I am sorry, but I have already taken a number of interventions.

It is now up to schools, working with industry, to engage all pupils, particularly girls, and ensure that they have the opportunities they need. ICT skills need to be universal and something that we as a society do. Computer science will be taught in the national curriculum alongside subjects such as maths, English and languages, because we believe it to be vital.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central for raising the issue. The need for more girls doing IT, physics and maths should be higher up the agenda of our national ambitions, so I am grateful to her for drawing attention to it. Demand for high-level skills in computing will only grow in the years ahead, and it is vital that we tap into the 50% of the population who are not currently doing as much IT as they could. We must also improve the general level of programming skills across the spectrum.

In work, academia and their personal lives, young people will depend on their technological literacy and knowledge, and we have a duty to ensure that they have the right skills that will serve them well in their future study and career.

Question put and agreed to.

6.46 pm

House adjourned.