Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by Next Gen Skills [SCE 069]

As co-chairs of the Next Gen Skills campaign we write to the Committee with our observations on the need to support skills development and the talent pipeline from schools through to higher education and employment in the Creative Economy.

In July 2010 Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries asked us to undertake a review of the skills needs of the UK’s Video Games and Video Special Effects industries. Though there are important differences between our industries, we recognised that many of the skills we draw on are similar. They combine both art and digital technology, and rely on highly specialist, yet flexible workforce that can adapt to furious rates of technological change.

We quickly found that our concerns about skills shortages were shared across hi-tech creative and digital industries more generally. Armed with 20 recommendations, we launched the Next Gen Skills campaign [1] , an alliance between the digital, creative and hi-tech industries and the UK’s leading skills and educational bodies to ensure the UK develops the computer programming skills it needs for our economy.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) reform and Computer Science

The UK faces serious challenges on this front, particularly with regard to the teaching of Computer Science and ICT at school. Until the recent reforms undertaken by the Department for Education (DfE), little or no Computer Science or programming was taught at GCSE. A poor curriculum and little or no career articulation meant that we were not offering students the opportunity to learn the principles behind the industries which are driving so much new growth. This has also manifested itself in the teaching profession: a ccording to the Royal Society only two thirds of teachers are judged not to have sufficient qualifications to teach even the outmoded ICT curriculum dis-applied in September 2012.

There consequences of this can be seen with the poor take-up of Computing at A-level. In 2011 only 3,517 out of the 782,779 (or 0.4%) qualifications entered at A-level were in Computing and-shockingly-less than 7% (241) of Computing A-level students were girls, the lowest of all STEM subjects.

Over the last year the campaign has made significant progress due to engagement by the Departments for Education and Culture Media and Sport, both of which recognise the need to address this issue. The DfE’s consultation on ICT reform in January this year and subsequent work commissioned by the Department has developed a new draft Programme of Study for ICT which includes computer programming. Major examination bodies have developed or are developing new Computer Science GCSEs and qualifications-removing a major obstacle hindering progress. A strong case for the inclusion of Computer Science in the English Baccalaureate has been submitted by an expert group brought together by the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Suggested areas for Committee scrutiny

These are welcome steps. However, in order to address our talent pipeline problem, there is much work still to be done around creating rigorous courses. It is essential that we do not lose momentum here.

· Inclusion of Computer Science on the English Baccalaureate-Together with Computing At School, the Royal Academy of Engineering, British Computer Society and others we have submitted a paper to the DfE on the case for inclusion of Computer Science on the English Baccalaureate as an additional science. We believe this will cement the status of the subject as a rigorous discipline and encourage school take-up.

· Additional Teacher Training-There are currently around 18,000 ICT teachers teaching in the United Kingdom. Support for bursaries for 50 new teachers and a Network of Excellence to assist with Continuing Professional development announced by the DfE on 19 October will need to be enhanced by additional funding in order to scale reforms adequately across English regions in particular.

· ‘STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) not just ‘STEM’ subjects-Google Chairman Eric Schmidt critiqued British education in August 2011: "Over the past century, the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together." As the NESTA-Next Gen Report shows, the creative economy needs creative employees-labour market entrants who are not just skilled in Computer Science, but also Art and other creative subjects. There is continuing uncertainty over the status of Art in the new curriculum and the indications are that inclusion in the English Baccalaureate has been rebuffed. We firmly believe that the status of the subject as an essential discipline in the education system needs to be defined at Key Stage 4 and 5.

We attach a copy of the Next Gen report for the Committee’s further information [2] , and would be happy to develop our points and experience further.

November 2012


[1] Next Gen Skills is a major new campaign formed from an alliance between the biggest names from the UK digital, creative and hi-tech industries and the UK ’ s leading skills and educational bodies to improve the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of our economy. The campaign is funded and led by games and interactive entertainment trade body Ukie (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other supporters include Google, TalkTalk, Facebook, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, the Design Council, Intellect, IPA, British Computer Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, E Skills, the Education Foundation, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore).

[2] Not printed. Available at www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/NextGenv32.pdf

Prepared 17th November 2012