Draft Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements) (England) order 2013

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Andrew Rosindell 

Adams, Nigel (Selby and Ainsty) (Con) 

Barwell, Gavin (Croydon Central) (Con) 

Brennan, Kevin (Cardiff West) (Lab) 

Corbyn, Jeremy (Islington North) (Lab) 

Esterson, Bill (Sefton Central) (Lab) 

Eustice, George (Camborne and Redruth) (Con) 

Holloway, Mr Adam (Gravesham) (Con) 

Jones, Graham (Hyndburn) (Lab) 

Jowell, Dame Tessa (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab) 

Kwarteng, Kwasi (Spelthorne) (Con) 

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma (South Shields) (Lab) 

Lloyd, Stephen (Eastbourne) (LD) 

Milton, Anne (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Moon, Mrs Madeleine (Bridgend) (Lab) 

Morris, James (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con) 

Rogerson, Dan (North Cornwall) (LD) 

Simpson, David (Upper Bann) (DUP) 

Truss, Elizabeth (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education)  

Sarah Petit, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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First Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 1 July 2013  

[Andrew Rosindell in the Chair] 

Draft Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements) (England) Order 2013

4.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Elizabeth Truss):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements) (England) Order 2013. 

Thank you, Mr Rosindell, for the opportunity to debate the Government’s proposals for replacing the subject of information and communication technology—commonly known as ICT—with that of computing in primary and secondary schools in England. 

ICT is currently compulsory at all four key stages. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in February his intention to replace the national curriculum subject of ICT with computing. The report on the consultation on that proposal was published on 3 May and shows significant support for such a change, with the largest single group of respondents being in favour. 

We know that some schools, both primary and secondary, are already doing excellent and innovative work in teaching computer science and programming to pupils as part of the curriculum. 

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab):  The Minister mentioned that the largest block of respondents to the consultation was in favour of the proposal. Will she tell the Committee what the figures were? 

Elizabeth Truss:  The figures from the consultation were 38% in favour and 36% against. 

Until recently, the aspirations of many excellent schools that teach computing have been severely limited by the demands of the national curriculum in the area of technology education. In spite of a revolution in how we use digital technology in society and across the world of work, the numbers of young people obtaining computer science qualifications beyond age 16 have been in steady decline in recent years: between 2003 and 2012, the number of students taking A-level computer studies decreased by 60%, and it currently stands at fewer than 3,500 entrants. 

There has been a similarly dramatic decline in the number of entrants to undergraduate computer science degrees, which fell 23% between 2002 and 2010—from 73,000 to 56,000. During that period, there was a growth in the number of students in other science, technology, engineering and maths—or STEM—areas; as everyone in the room knows, there was also a huge growth in the number of jobs in IT, computing and programming. As well as being concerned about the number of entrants,

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universities are concerned about the number of applications to study computer science undergraduate degrees and the employability of those who graduate from those courses. 

In spite of ongoing efforts by industry, learned societies and universities to encourage more girls to consider careers in STEM subjects, there remains a significant and persistent gender imbalance among those who take technology-related qualifications. The situation is at its most extreme in relation to the rigorous discipline of computer science. In 2011-12, a mere 8% of those entered for A-level computer studies were female, and the proportion of female students who graduated with computer science undergraduate degrees from UK universities was 18% of the total. The situation is vastly different from that in many other countries of the world, where the number of girls doing computer science is rising at a rapid rate. 

Clearly, there is a major problem. The UK’s long-term economic prosperity depends on our ability to be world leaders in developing digital technologies and on how those technologies transform all sectors in the economy. 

Kevin Brennan:  I completely agree with the Minister on the importance of getting girls involved in STEM subjects. Will she explain how the statutory instrument will achieve that goal? 

Elizabeth Truss:  I am coming to precisely that point. There is an issue with the image and the practice of computing in our schools. As for the statutory instrument, we have created a new national curriculum in computing. The previous curriculum, called ICT, was not well regarded by schools or by industry and it is important to signal that we are starting afresh. We are creating a subject that is much more universal and will appeal much more to both girls and boys. That will get the number of students up in a subject that is very important. 

We need to be at the forefront of innovation in the development of new digital technologies. We have such a strong heritage on which to draw. We should take inspiration from the many British pioneers involved in ICT, such as Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician who is often regarded as having written the world’s first computer programme; Alan Turing, the father of computer science, whose breakthroughs at Bletchley Park helped to hasten the end of the second world war; and Tim Berners-Lee, who gave the world the world wide web. 

Digital technology is a cornerstone of STEM subjects. It is estimated that, over the next seven years, about 2 million new jobs will come from sectors that rely on technology, mathematics and science. We face a huge shortage in the number of people in the work force who have the appropriate technology skills to fill those jobs and to grow the high-tech, high-value industries in which the UK should and must be globally competitive. 

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab):  I have listened to the Minister and read the explanatory notes, which talk about changing the subject name. Is the Government’s view that doing so will make the difference? Is there anything more to that or any evidence to back it up, or is that simply the Government’s view? The important point is about the underlying reason for the change. 

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Elizabeth Truss:  I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point. It is the view not only of the Government, but of well regarded organisations such as the Royal Society and those involved in the development of our new computing curriculum. It is important to move away from where we are with ICT, which has resulted in fewer students taking this important subject at A-level and at university, and to create new momentum around a new subject. 

Dame Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab):  The hypothesis is compelling: of course we want to see more young people—men and women—equipped for the digital age, from which so much growth in the economy will come and in which so many new jobs will be found, but I still struggle to see what will be different in precise content terms. What will young people learn under the computer science curriculum that they are not learning under ICT, and how will that be directed to make it more gender-attractive—to increase the participation of young women—as is so clearly the Minister’s aim? 

Elizabeth Truss:  I thank the right hon. Lady for her point, which I will talk about in the rest of my speech. 

Two important recent reports—from the Royal Society on computing in schools, led by Professor Steve Furber, and from Alex Hope and Ian Livingstone on the computer games and visual effects industries—arrived at the same conclusion: that the existing ICT curriculum in schools is a major part of the problem. 

The existing curriculum, which was last updated in 2007 for secondary schools and in 1999 for primary schools, has led us away from teaching pupils to program computers and develop a deep understanding of how computer technology actually works. For too long and for too many pupils, the ICT curriculum has meant a focus on basic IT user skills and a lack of emphasis on the more challenging and interesting aspects of the subject. 

Successive Ofsted reports on ICT teaching in schools have stated that, particularly in secondary education, such important topics as control technology and statistical process control are often given insufficient attention or missed out completely. Experts contend that the existing ICT curriculum does not prepare pupils adequately for higher-level study in technology-related subjects, and it certainly does not inspire young people to choose computing A-levels. 

As Alex Hope and Ian Livingstone have argued, the situation is weakening the flow of talented and appropriately skilled employees into the computer games and visual effects industries and into many others that rely on IT—so many jobs now rely on an ability to understand how computers work, not just on how to use them. That is having an impact on the UK’s global competitiveness in such economically significant industries. Digital systems are integral to the work of virtually all sectors of the economy, and high-level computing skills are required to develop and maintain the hardware and software on which so many businesses depend. 

Computer science is not just a minority pursuit, which is what it always used to be seen as; it has universal application. What we want to get across in our new computing curriculum is that we expect all students

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to study this skill, so that they can not only use computers, but understand the architecture of computing and how to make or fix their own computer programs. Computing is as relevant to studying history as it is to fixing a car, and we want pupils to understand the electronic systems we all rely on, as well as the architecture and future of the world we all live in. If all young people are to be able to make a full contribution, it is important that they have these skills. 

Computer science is not an isolated, inward-looking discipline, but a subject that enriches the study of other curriculum subjects. There is a close relationship with mathematics, and the Government are focusing on getting more students to do mathematics at a high level and ensuring that attainment in mathematics is higher. There is also significant scope for students to apply their knowledge in subjects such as design and technology. 

Last September, we withdrew, or disapplied, the existing ICT curriculum. Subsequently, we have worked in association with leading subject experts drawn together by the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to develop an ambitious and challenging new curriculum with computer science and practical programming at its centre. 

The new curriculum aims, from key stage 1 onwards, to develop pupils’ understanding of the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science. It will also provide pupils with opportunities to write computer programs in a number of programming languages. They will continue to develop their skills in using a range of digital tools to carry out tasks and to meet the needs of known users, becoming digitally literate. For the first time, pupils in primary school will be taught how to be safe on the internet, how to keep personal information private and how to use technology respectfully and securely. 

As we overhaul the content of programmes of study, we are also changing the name of the subject, from “ICT” to “computing”, and that is what many Members’ interventions have been about. As the Royal Society report contends, the very title “ICT” has become part of the wider problem of technology education in schools, because it carries negative connotations of a dated and unchallenging curriculum that does not serve pupils’ needs and ambitions. 

The Government concur with the view held by the Royal Society, which is also shared by Microsoft, the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, among others—that the subject should be renamed at the same time as the content of the curriculum is changed, to encourage schools and teachers to develop new and fresh approaches to teaching it. 

To answer the question asked by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood about how we attract more students, and particularly more girls, to the subject, I should say that it is important to allow teachers to innovate in different ways so that children are excited about the opportunities the subject offers. 

Kevin Brennan:  Will the Minister give way? 

Elizabeth Truss:  I have given way a number of times. I want to progress and answer some of the questions raised. 

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Kevin Brennan:  I will only talk longer if the Minister does not give way. 

Elizabeth Truss:  I am delighted to hear that. 

The name we have decided on for the new curriculum subject is “computing”. Again, we agree with the Royal Society and others that that is an appropriately broad umbrella term, which covers all the aspects covered in the new curriculum. At each key stage, the programmes of study include content that relates to computer science—the academic discipline that relates to how computers and computer systems work and how they are designed and programmed. In addition, the computing curriculum includes content relating to digital skills—the basic ability to use computers effectively and safely. It also covers information technology, which is the application of digital technologies to meet the needs of users. We believe the term “computing” covers all those categories, without being too strongly associated with any single one. 

Kevin Brennan:  I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; I was being a little facetious before. However, my question is important. She mentioned several of the 38% of organisations in the Government’s consultation that were in favour of the change of name, which is what the order is about. However, she has not mentioned any of the 36% of organisations against it. She said the organisations in favour of the Government’s change are well regarded. Are the organisations against it not well regarded, and who are they? 

Elizabeth Truss:  I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point. I think we can say that organisations such as the Royal Society and the British Computer Society are well regarded. There is general consensus among IT companies—I have spoken to a number of them—that more students should understand the architecture of systems and be able to programme. That is our aim in this consultation. 

That is not to say that the curriculum will cover only computer science; it will also cover digital literacy and e-safety, which are important issues. However, we feel it is critical to signal a change away from the situation we have at the moment, in which the number of students studying this important subject is declining. 

Kevin Brennan:  I am sure the Minister did not quite hear what I asked her. She did not mention any of the organisations in the 36% against the Government’s proposed change of name. Who are they and are they well regarded? That was the question. [ Interruption. ] I will give her a chance to get her in-flight refuelling so she can tell the Committee the answer. 

Elizabeth Truss:  Obviously, there were a number of organisations in the 36%, including e-skills UK. Generally, their responses to the consultation were about changes they want to see to the content of the curriculum, rather than the issue of the name. However, as I said, the change of name is about making sure people understand that we are setting a fresh direction for computing. We want more students to do programming, so that they become the new Alan Turings of this country and understand how computers work. 

I am interested to hear whether the hon. Gentleman supports our intention, whether he thinks there has been a mistake in the past and students have not done enough programming in school, whether he thinks that

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has created a shortage of skills in the IT industry and whether he supports the Government’s changes, which will introduce more computer programming in schools. 

We recognise that our proposals are ambitious, and many schools and teachers who will be teaching computer science and programming for the first time might be nervous about the prospect. Fortunately, it has never been easier and less expensive for schools and pupils to get started with programming. 

For example, the Raspberry Pi single-board computer, which costs about £30, provides a low-cost platform for teaching pupils a growing range of programming languages, and is capable of running the same kinds of applications that a desktop computer does. Scratch is an educational programming language developed at MIT, and the authoring tool, which is free to download, is already being used by many primary schools worldwide to teach pupils how to create their own interactive stories, games and animations through writing code. 

Furthermore, we are taking practical steps to ensure that teachers have the skills they need to teach the new computing curriculum. In April, we announced more than £2 million in funding over the next two years for the British Computer Society’s network of teaching excellence, which will enable our best computing teachers to train thousands more to teach the computer science and programming elements of the new curriculum. We will also be signposting teachers to the best resources they can use to teach the new computing curriculum, such as the “Computing at School” website. 

We are pleased that our proposals for the computing curriculum have been greeted positively by important organisations including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. It is also important that children know the terminology to navigate the world around them. In the consultation, a majority were in favour of the change. Many of those who disagreed with or were unsure of the change in title were concerned about the content and the challenges for schools in teaching the new curriculum rather than the change in title per se. 

I hope I have reassured hon. Members about the steps we are taking to ensure that teachers are supported in the additional things they will be teaching. The same issues came up in responses to the more recent consultation on the draft order. We are considering those concerns as we finalise the new computing programmes of study. 

Replacing the out-of-date ICT curriculum with an ambitious, forward-looking and newly entitled computing curriculum will restore the status of this important subject in schools and ultimately contribute to the UK’s long-term economic prosperity. Changing the name of the subject will also signal a break with the past and encourage schools and teachers to develop new and fresh approaches to delivering the new curriculum. I commend the draft order to the Committee. 

4.50 pm 

Kevin Brennan:  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship, Mr Rosindell, which I do not think that I have done before from the Front Bench. We are grateful to you for chairing our proceedings. 

The draft order is a simple instrument. It solely deletes the national curriculum subject “information and communication technology” and substitutes “computing”

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“computing” into the registers, although it has been wrapped up by the Minister into the wider issue of the review of the national curriculum. In response to the Minister’s comments, I very much support the direction of travel of what is being done with the curriculum for the subject, although many legitimate questions have been asked by well-respected bodies that do not necessarily agree with everything that the Government are doing. As a responsible Opposition, we will challenge and probe the Government a little to find out whether they are listening to those well-regarded organisations. 

The context of the debate, to which the Minister rightly referred, is the development of the teaching of information and communication technology, which the order will rename “computing”. As a teacher, I taught not only in the pre-national curriculum era and into the post-national curriculum era, but in the pre-internet era—[ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Guildford might find that difficult to believe, but there were few computers in schools at that time. We are now dealing with the evolution of the teaching of computing in our schools. In those halcyon days, way back before the internet so dominated our lives, the syllabus for computing was pretty much an academic, paper-based subject, simply because the hardware was not around in our schools, and there was no world wide web. 

In 1997, therefore, when the previous Labour Government came to power, there was a big push to change the situation in the national curriculum whereby there was a single subject—technology—within which computing was taught. There was an enormous push to increase the capital available to purchase computer equipment in schools and networking infrastructure. We are now emerging from that period with schools throughout the country extremely well networked, and often well resourced with computing equipment and technology, because of that investment. Whole-class teaching became possible with all pupils having access to a personal computer for some part of the curriculum. 

Hon. Members might recall that national lottery money was diverted to train teachers to deliver information through computer technology, which led to the development of ICT across all curriculum subjects, and that was coupled with a realisation of the power of the internet to change people’s lives and to develop business and the economy in the way to which the Minister referred. The need then developed to give all pupils access to the school computer network and for them to understand the use of the internet and the basics of word-processing and spreadsheet programmes. The result was an extension of ICT to all curriculum subjects for content and for the management of the learning and assessment process. For example, students were expected to submit their essays electronically. The situation these days is very different from when many hon. Members were at school. As the Minister rightly says, we are in a completely new era, so we need to ensure that pupils have the skills that are beneficial to them and our economy. The direction of travel is therefore good. 

Elizabeth Truss:  The hon. Gentleman talks about the development of computing over the past 15 years, but is it not the case that the number of students studying computing at A-level and degree level went down during that period? What is his analysis of why that happened? 

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Kevin Brennan:  We did not hear the Minister’s analysis of why the number of students studying other STEM subjects went up during that period, which presumably she will at some point put down to the great work of the previous Labour Government. She blames us over ICT, but she does not want to praise us for the increase in numbers for the other STEM subjects. I suspect the numbers went down because ICT became a subject taught across the curriculum, as I have just described. 

The order simply changes the subject’s name in the national curriculum. As the Minister outlined, there was a formal consultation to which, according to the explanatory memorandum, there were 2,687 respondents, although the consultation report found that there were 2,855 responses. I do not know why there is a difference between those figures, but let us say that the number of responses was in the high 2,000s. 

As the Minister revealed following my intervention, although not before, a bare majority in the consultation was in favour of the name change—38% compared with 36%. To put that another way, 62% of those who responded did not say that they were in favour of the Government’s change. Those who disagreed argued not just about the content of the curriculum, as she hinted, but that the term “computing” implied too narrow a focus and that changing the name might give the wrong impression and create confusion for schools and parents. Concern was also expressed about how well ICT will be supported across the whole curriculum. There was a further one-month consultation on the technicalities of the order that, as she said, pretty much repeated what had been said in the previous consultation. 

I asked the Minister to name some of the organisations in those 36% against the proposal—after all, there was only a bare majority. In a careful and thorough textual exegesis of the Government’s explanatory memorandum, I searched for any mention of an organisation that had the temerity to oppose the Government’s proposal, but I could not find one. Of the 36% against, not one organisation is mentioned in the explanatory memorandum, although other organisations are mentioned. Obviously, I had to dig for myself, and I found out that one of the organisations that expressed a lot of concern about the order is Naace, which is the professional association for the UK technology education community in our schools. Naace does not agree with the name change, which it pointed out was not part of the brief of the expert panel on the curriculum when the review was commissioned. The name change was a very late change by the Department for Education. 

Although, as the Minister said, the British Computer Society supports the name change, opinion is clearly divided within the community for teaching computing and ICT on whether the change is a good idea. Although this is not the subject of today’s debate, concern has also been expressed about the new curriculum. 

When the Government decide that they want to make the name change outlined in the order—they have the right to make that decision—it does not help their case to obfuscate by drawing a veil over anybody who does not agree with what they are doing. That was why I am worried that the Minister did not tell the Committee about the percentage who were opposed, and it is why I am worried that the explanatory memorandum does not mention by name any of the organisations opposed. 

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I asked the Minister whether those organisations were well regarded, and I will be interested to hear from her whether Naace is well regarded by the Department for Education. I am sure a note will be winging its way to the Minister to say whether it is. It deserves to know that its remarks have been listened to and taken on board and that, even if the Government do not agree with it, they respect its point of view and have listened carefully. It should know that the consultation was genuine, rather than an attempt to write out of history the opinions the body expressed. Will the Minister indicate whether that organisation is well regarded, since she specifically referred to others being so? 

The explanatory memorandum also says: 

“The Government also agrees with the position set out in the well-regarded Royal Society ‘Shut Down or Restart’ report”. 

I am sure that that is well regarded, and the Royal Society is a great British institution. However, this is an explanatory memorandum, not an editorial. The Government need to understand that the purpose of an explanatory memorandum is to inform a Committee to enable it to scrutinise properly what the Government are doing, not to editorialise and leave out half the consultation from the discussion. 

Let me ask the Minister several specific questions about the order. She mentioned the important question of the professional development of teachers. She will know that concern has been expressed, including by the British Computer Society, about schools’ ability to deliver the new curriculum from September 2014. Will she please outline in more detail what reassurances she can give that schools will be ready and that teachers will have had the necessary professional development and additional training by that time to deliver the new curriculum? 

Will she also say something about the use of ICT across the curriculum, because concern about its development was expressed in the consultation? Pupils will still need ICT skills relevant to internet use and, topically, internet safety, but I understand that that is not part of the Government’s thinking on the teaching of computing. Will internet safety and being safe online form any part of the new computing curriculum? If so, to what extent and what will be taught? How are skills such as data processing and using spreadsheets to be taught? 

There seems to be little in the curriculum on the social and economic effects of IT and, perhaps more importantly, on safety, privacy and responsible use. Will computing be taught purely in a technical fashion, or will some broader understanding of its impact on the economy and society be taught as part of the new computing curriculum, which is being renaming by the order? 

In relation to infrastructure, there continues to be a lot of publicity about schools using new technology such as iPads and hand-held devices. What can the Minister tell us about how schools are making the necessary infrastructure investment to manage the masses of IT to deliver the new curriculum? Does she envisage that we will need to attract a gross increase in new teachers to the profession to deal with the expected increase in demand for the new computing subject that she has outlined? 

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The Minister will have noticed an article that appeared in The Sunday Times on 30 June that expressed concern about the recruitment of teachers. It was written by Sian Griffiths, the education editor, and said: 

“In some subjects such as physics, religious education, chemistry, computer science, design and maths, the shortfall is acute.” 

It commented specifically on the Government’s reforms to teacher training and on concern that the new system is not filling the necessary places in those subjects. Did the Minister see the article? Does she think that today’s order and the associated curriculum changes will lead to a big increase in the demand for teachers? If so, how will that be met on the supply side, if, as The Sunday Times says, there is an “acute” shortfall in recruitment for computer science? 

Finally, will the Minister expand on what she said about gender? She made a big issue—I had not anticipated this being raised in a debate on the order, as it only changes the title of the subject—of the Government’s intention to increase the number of girls studying the subject. I presume that she was talking about an increase in not only the number of girls, but the proportion of them studying computing. Will she give us more detail of what she will do, apart from changing the curriculum which, in and of itself, will not attract more girls, and apart from changing the name from ICT to computing? As the father of a 19-year-old daughter, I am not sure that changing the name will necessarily result in a sudden attraction to studying the subject. What is it about the change that she believes will achieve that, and what additional action will be taken to fulfil that very laudable aim? 

5.7 pm 

Elizabeth Truss:  I was interested in the hon. Gentleman’s recollection of his internet career. When I was at school, the internet was just developing, and I was fortunate to have a teacher who was very interested in IT. He used to teach us to programme on BASIC, on the BBC Micro at the time, and we were exploring the world wide web, which came into being in the ’90s. That shows that in many schools in our countries, teachers are interested and motivated by computing and technology, and we need to unleash a lot of that latent ability. My fear about the previous ICT curriculum was that it diverted some of those teachers away from what they were naturally interested in and into teaching how to use computers, rather than the development of the science of computing and, in particular, of programming, which is, of course, the basis of a lot of computer science. 

Kevin Brennan:  A thought for the Minister on an issue that might be of concern is that many individuals that she mentions—people with those sorts of skills—have often had their time diverted away from teaching into running school computer networks. On a serious point, perhaps the Department needs to consider that tendency in relation to the new computing curriculum, because there will be resource implications if such people are being drawn back from that work and into the classroom to teach more lessons than they have recently. 

Elizabeth Truss:  The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. One thing that we are doing—I will come on to this point later—is giving schools more

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flexibility about how they use their resources, so that teachers can be freed from those tasks to do things such as inspiring the next generation in computer programming, which is a laudable aim. There was an opportunity, over the past 20 or so years, for British schools to grow up, with the development of the internet, and to some extent, we did not take it. That resulted in declining numbers of students doing computer science at university and doing the subjects at A-level. Having said that, I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that we are now moving in the right direction, and that we need more of these skills in our economy, so that is all to the good. 

The hon. Gentleman asked me specifically about the organisation, Naace. Its members have been directly involved in developing the new computing curriculum and are in favour of the increased focus on computer science. As he made clear in his remarks, a lot of the comments about the name change were related to the content of the curriculum. We are reviewing the national curriculum to ensure that it includes the content that teachers, experts and industry want. 

Obviously, a balance must be struck between the various elements of computing—using software, designing software, creating computer networks and understanding computer systems—and it is important that we achieve that good balance. The curriculum will give a lot of flexibility to teachers to do as they see fit in their school. Some pupils may be more interested in pursuing particular avenues, and in some schools the curriculum may fit with other subjects in a particular way, so we are keen to provide schools with flexibility. 

Generally, I think we can say that the previous curriculum was too focused on the applications and not enough on creating and developing them. I think the broad agreement is that we are now moving in the right direction. Sometimes there is a difference of opinion about how far we should go in that direction, but I reassure hon. Members that there will be flexibility for teachers to follow what is appropriate for their particular audience. 

The hon. Gentleman also asked about how we will support the development of computing in schools. Clearly, there is a capability need, which is why we are providing the £2 million of funding between 2013 and 2015 to help extend the network of computer science teaching excellence, run by the British Computer Society, in computing at school. 

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con):  I worked in the software industry for 20 years. Will the Minister say something about the importance of the link between schools and business, particularly in relation to computer science? Business can play an important role, not only in specifying the curriculum but in providing stimulus and educational tools for children. 

Elizabeth Truss:  I completely agree with my hon. Friend. That is exactly what we are doing in freeing up the curriculum to enable more such applications to take place. We are working with the design and technology curriculum to ensure that there is a wide range of industrial application, so that schools can work with local businesses and that there can be more integration in terms of how the subject is taught. 

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The funding will establish a network to recruit 400 master teachers in computer science over the next two years, each of whom will pass on their skills and subject knowledge to 40 schools, so that by 2015, computing teachers in 16,000 primary and secondary schools will be in a position to deliver the computer science and programming elements of the new computing curriculum. In addition, the National College for Teaching and Leadership has established an expert group to develop sign-posting of resources. It has been identifying high-quality teaching materials that are freely available, and is looking at ways in which initial teacher training can ensure that teachers have the right skills that they need to teach the courses. 

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in January that from 2014, computer science will be included in the English Baccalaureate secondary school performance measure. It will be added to the list of separate sciences, which will encourage more students to study computer sciences, developing the pipeline of computer sciences of the future. That will ultimately mean that more students will go into teacher training with computer science capabilities. 

The hon. Member for Cardiff West asked about internet safety in the curriculum. Keeping our children and young people safe on the internet is a top priority for the Government. That is why, for the first time, pupils will be taught in primary school how to stay safe on the internet, how to keep personal information private, and how to use technology respectfully and securely. We are working with computing teachers to ensure that we get the curriculum and terminology right, so that children are taught those important skills. It is important that they learn those at a young age, so that they are empowered to deal with any issues that they encounter when using social media sites and computers. 

The hon. Gentleman asked about teaching resources and teachers. We offer bursaries in subjects such as maths and physics, and I believe we also offer them in computer science. We are also giving head teachers much more flexibility over how they deploy resources in their schools, so that they can attract teachers in subjects with large shortages. There are issues about the number of maths teachers in schools at the moment. Our approach is not only to encourage more people to enter the profession in shortage subjects, but to train up teachers who are, for example, teaching the current ICT curriculum, and we are using the master teacher network to enable them to get up to speed with the new curriculum. 

The hon. Gentleman asked about infrastructure. Data from the British Educational Suppliers Association indicate that school spending on technology infrastructure is rising year on year in primary and secondary schools. We have achieved that by devolving budgets and powers to schools so that they can deploy their spending in the way they see fit. 

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the use of ICT in other subjects. It is for teachers and head teachers to decide how best to deploy their resources and to use them across different subjects. The new national curriculum talks very much about the “what”—where we want students to be once they reach 11 or 16—but it is very much the teaching profession’s role to decide how that happens and to create innovative and inspiring lessons that motivate students. ICT will obviously be part of that, and some subjects, such as design and technology

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particularly lend themselves to using it; indeed, that is specifically mentioned in the design and technology curriculum. 

I am pleased the hon. Gentleman supports the aim of getting more girls into computer science. The number of girls studying maths, physics and computer science is an issue that disproportionately affects this country, and we should be very concerned about that. We have a low number of girls studying those subjects at advanced level, compared with other European countries and particularly countries in east Asia. We should be particularly concerned, given the high earnings premiums many such subjects command. 

We are making space for grass-roots organisations such as Computing At School, Code Club and Apps for Good to develop support for schools. Many of those initiatives are increasingly popular with boys and girls, but they target girls in particular. The main aim in what we are doing is to say that computing should be a universal subject. Programming a computer should be a universal skill; it is something everybody needs to know, regardless of their future destination, because so many

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jobs depend on it. It is not something just for geeks or particular groups in school; it is something everybody will need to know. That is how we sell it to girls and, indeed, boys—we need many more boys to take the subject seriously later on in school. 

It has just been confirmed to me that bursaries of up to £9,000 are available for computer science teacher trainees. There are also up to 100 scholarships worth £20,000 each for outstanding applicants. We are therefore doing what we can to attract new people into IT. We really see the measures I have described as an important development within the national curriculum. 

We have had a helpful debate. The Government will do further work to develop the implementation of the curriculum and to ensure that what we put on paper actually happens out there in the real world. 

Question put and agreed to.  


That the Committee has considered the draft Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements) (England) Order 2013. 

5.19 pm 

Committee rose.  

Prepared 2nd July 2013