to worry about ICT teaching in schools

(60 Posts)
ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 20:07:36

My eleven year old son has been having great fun with a raspberry pi. He has played with Scratch and is learning Python. He is trying to get the raspberry pi to work with temperature sensor.

Going round secondary schools I got the impression that ICT curriculum in secondary schools will have very little to excite him. I have worked with ICT teachers who know less than my son.

Am I unreasonable to worry that ICT teaching in secondary schools is little more than learning Microsoft Word?

RedHelenB Thu 03-Jan-13 20:09:23


NothingIsAsBadAsItSeems Thu 03-Jan-13 20:13:03


That is basically all we did in ICT. I learned far more from my dad

threepiecesuite Thu 03-Jan-13 20:14:35

ICT is not taught as a discrete lesson at our high school since last year, it has been absorbed into the curriculum (some ICT staff lost their jobs too).

It largely did consist of learning to use Word and Powerpoint.


PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 20:14:55


My dp is a coder and is concerned.My 9 year old ds is bored big time with his IT lessons already. Happily after raising concerns school are looking into it.think it's one of the things Gov is going to look at,I wouldn't hold your breath though.

Apparently we're waaaay behind other countries.

I think it depends on the school/teacher. Dds teacher has let her choose which language she wants to program in and is supporting her while she writes a game. The others in the class I think are using scratch.

YANBU, there is less in the ICT curriculum than there was 20 years ago, if we want coders rather than PA's.

ByTheWay1 Thu 03-Jan-13 20:17:55

ICT is mainly just about using the computers to assist in learning and presenting of work... this is just as important....

my girls do raspberry pi stuff (they linked it to their electronics kit) at home but still learn valuable stuff in ICT at school...

computer science and ICT are 2 different topics.... at my girls' school computer science starts being taught in Y9... In Y7 they also do computer aided design - (tech drawing and machine control for the modern age), which my eldest loved - it was a term long "topic" in design and technology (metal and wood work/cooking/textiles/computer aided design).

Cherrypi Thu 03-Jan-13 20:18:12

On the positive side as these skills are still rare they should be more employable. If it was core curriculum then everyone could be good at it. Not that that works for Maths.

cinnamonnut Thu 03-Jan-13 20:20:34

YANBU, it is unbelievably easy. We had a course that was supposed to take around a year or two in IT lessons and in the end I just did it all at home in 1 day and got a distinction.

TheNebulousBoojum Thu 03-Jan-13 20:20:53

There are a lot of good, detailed schemes around that many schools have bought into. They are idiots' guides that even an unskilled teacher can follow.
The other main problem is that the technology and software available in schools is often less sophisticated than the stuff the children are using at home.
Isn't ICT going to be removed as a discrete subject in primary when the new curriculum comes in anyway?

abbierhodes Thu 03-Jan-13 20:20:55

Erm...have you posted this exact thread before?

WilsonFrickett Thu 03-Jan-13 20:22:30

YANBU but proper ICT - not just using the computer to present work and the internet to use it - is something that interested DCs can learn on their own, as your son is evidencing with his raspberry pi. I'm not saying it's a perfect situation, but there's loads he can do on his own with a little bit of help and encouragement with you.

::Casts fond look at DP who is wearing his raspberry pi T-shirt as we speak::

5madthings Thu 03-Jan-13 20:23:59

They do stuff with raspberry pi and scratch etc at my sons high school. He is top of his yr and way ahead if we here he should be ICT wise and has been helping teach other students. He got a bit bored at times but the school has been good at stretching him.

It will depend on the school basically.

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 20:28:26

I think the problem is many staff understandably aren't coders and why should they be? I think they need to somehow get more specialised staff in but they'll need to pay more.

Sorry but I don't think coding is that easy tbh.My dp has a gift for it but some of his language qualifications and MSc weren't a walk in the park even for him.He has v good degrees from red brick unis.

I was a teacher but I could sooner speak fluent Mandarin than code/program. I think if I'd had the basics started at an earlier age then it could have been a possibility though.


My DH works in the computer industry and there is already concern over the lack of programmers - people don't learn any more. A raspberry pi will be great for him to learn on, though. Hopefully he can find some help on the net? There must be teenage computer 'geek' forums?

I'm sure IT at school can be great, but I don't think it's typically about programming or that sort of thing, more about word processing and spreadsheets and skills like that. Those are useful skills, but maybe not if you are really into IT as a subject in its own right.

ubik Thu 03-Jan-13 20:29:45

Wasn't there a Guardian campaign about this?

I would be delighted if they started teaching children coding in schools:DP works in IT and started coding with his first computer back in the early 80's. It was irritating to see people like Toby Young banging on about learning Latin in schools while it seems glaringly obvious that learning programming, building databases etc is a skill which could give our youngsters a fighting chance at a well paid, challenging, enjoyable career.

There was an interesting article I read about the curriculum artificially seperates subject choices into 'science' and 'arts' and DP found it very hard to combine computer science higher with an art higher. Later at university it was impossible to combine English literature and computer science.

Yet many top designers at Apple have some art/design background rather than pure science/IT. Certainly he is rare in being able to design and to programme.

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 20:31:12

Yes we live in a nice part of the country,a very desirable area and they struggle to get decent staff.Really struggle.2 years I think it took to get the last guy.They offered a good salary for the area too.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 20:32:02

My DD has learned some scratch at school in ICT but next year (yr10) will do Computer Science GCSE not ICT. I'm not sure many schools offer it yet though - they've only just started at DDs school this year. As your OP implies, ICT teachers won't necessarily be able to teach programming.

BoneyBackJefferson Thu 03-Jan-13 20:35:04

ICT in schools is microsoft office (generally) the Gov is trying to implement computer sciences (programming etc.)

The main problem is that ICT is not taught by programmers or anyone with any direct knowledge of the programming industry, mainly because they can earn more and get less stress from being in industrial jobs.

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 20:35:42

Ubik that is worrying.

Backtobedlam Thu 03-Jan-13 20:38:38

I would expect ICT to be spread across the curriculum (it certainly is in my dc's primary) teachers are not necessarily ICT experts so I'd imagine that in school they focus on the basics that children will need for research/writing essays, maybe the odd presentation, whilst in education. Like many other subjects, if you want to learn it in more depth there are out of school classes or further education. I think there would be such a huge difference across a class in ICT it would be difficult to teach much more than the basics.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 20:39:23

ubik - seems to me that computer science should indeed be allowed to be mixed with any other discipline. The downfall for some people who do computer science degrees is that they may not have anything particular to write about - if you want to work on scientific coding, you get your PhD and frankly picking up enough programming ability to do something useful is relatively easy (you need specialists for databases etc to be sure but that's not the be all and end all).

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 20:44:12

There isn't a huge difference,none of them can program.You can't use that as an excuse anyhow as there are huge ranges in everything.

We need programmers just like we need scientists,engineers etc.We're only going to need more and more and the way we're going as a country the sector will grow and grow but we'll have to employ more and more from overseas which brings huge problems re security,language barriers,quality etc. These are also jobs our youngsters could have.

pickledsiblings Thu 03-Jan-13 20:46:33

Have you heard of this organisation OP - CAS? They have written a curriculum for schools to avail of. Perhaps send your DS into school armed with it smile.

Euphemia Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:24

In my experience in primary, ICT equipment is really patchy. Some schools will have an ICT suite with one computer per child, others one between two. Some have PCs, some Macs. Some have a trolley of laptops to wheel from class to class. Some have one, two or three computers in each classroom; others have pods of six in a communal area.

It makes it very hard to plan a proper ICT programme, especially with councils cutting back on support and maintenance budgets.

Pilgit Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:27

No YANBU. We are looking at primary schools for our DD at the moment and my programmer DH was horrified to see that basic cause and effect type programming is only introduced as a specialist topic in year 6 - he's expecting to have introduced our DD's to that by the age of 6 and have them doing a lot more by 11. When we were at school ICT was logo (anyone else remember that..? I was dreadful at it but better than just how to use the programmes.

Meglet Thu 03-Jan-13 20:51:52

Yanbu (partly because I heard about the guardian campaign and have been reading up on it).

When I was at school pretty much all we did was learn to change the font colours in Word.

I know bugger all about coding but I think I will get a Pi in a year or so and see what we can do with it. i could do circles and patterns on my Spectrum 48k when I was a kid.

IAmLouisWalsh Thu 03-Jan-13 20:52:41

Totally depends on the school, and on the course. BTEC ICT is very different to GCSE, for example.

bealos Thu 03-Jan-13 20:56:19

I've been working on some of the stuff behind the scenes on this. I started up Coding for Kids - a grassroots movement to support extra curricular activities around learning to code and have been part of meetings with Dept of Education looking at the new Computer Science GCSE curriculum - which is definitely a step forward. The challenge is training the teachers to be up to date on current technology and having links with the tech industry.

For primary schools, I think there's a real lack of basic knowledge around the benefits of learning what goes on 'behind the screen' and learning basic computer programming skills needs to start a whole lot earlier than GCSE.

Code Club has started up as a Year 5 and 6 after school club, pairing up schools with volunteers. Get your school involved in it!

OP - get your son involved in Young Rewired State if he's really keen.

YABU. ICT is about being computer literate. It's not training young people to be engineers. We have very low uptake in STEM sciences, and making computer science compulsory will just turn people off. Like maths and physics.

Just for comparison, when I did computer at school, it was about algorithms (eg bubble sort, merge sort), binary/hex numbers, floating point numbers, data structures, flowcharts. I really don't think it's relevant to most people's life. I don't believe the language you use, even if you use a programming language is important. Programming is really about problem solving (hence the teaching with flowcharts). Syntax is just a minor thing. If you (or your child) want to understand the difference I'm refering to, is great.

Btw, I don't believe we need more programmers. And it really isn't that well paid. Many left for the city. Even with the financial crisis, I can think of two in my team in the last couple of years.

"YABU. ICT is about being computer literate."

MS Office is hardly helping computer literacy.

In terms of usefulness they'd actually be better off teaching children computer maintenance (hardware AND software) seeing as we are now so reliant on computers.

PolkadotCircus Thu 03-Jan-13 21:07:06

One my dp earns a pretty healthy salary.Like all things you need to keep up to date with the new stuff as it comes out and keep at the top of your game.We live in Devon( not exactly the IT capital of the world)dp has never had a problem finding work down here even in this current climate and he's paid way above the average salary for down here.

He constantly keeps as eye out on jobs and there are consistently a high demand across the UK.One day he may have to do the city thing but surely in all sectors you can't sit still for too long.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 21:08:18

OLTT - I sort of agree with some of that - but while we may not need more 'programmers' as such, its surely a good thing if people are confident to write code to solve problems in whatever field they're in. The STEM types maybe are the ones who will be more likely to do it as a hobby or not see it as difficult - I don't think it should be tied to those subjects.

I don't think computer science should be compulsory but it should be available to those that want it.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:10:18

As an IT teacher, I was so pleased to see the reintroduction at our school of GCSE Computing. We had been forced to teach OCR Nationals as it meant the whole year cohort could get a GCSE equivalent, which sadly as we now is a knock on from the league tables (different argument)

Anyhoo, although I am pleased with this, I am worried that dropping ICT from the curriculum will leave some students not being able to complete basic tasks on a computer. GCSE Computing really is only for some of the more able students, coding is harder than people think and forcing all students to do it will turn some of computers for life.

ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 21:15:42

My son has had mixed provision for ICT at primary. Last year his class was taught bt a student teacher who was an ex programmer.

I think there would be a lot to be said for teaching kids computer maintaince, although the days of building your own computer are long gone.

I feel that secondary schools need to differentiate ICT lessons. There is no point in teaching programming to someone who can't read.

Grimma yes I think my point is we shouldn't be so narrowly focussing on just computer science. There's a need for more people doing STEM subjects generally. By the way, I work for a very well known multinational and graduates only need a numerate degree to get into our graduate program. I know it's the same for that other very well known US multinational nearby. The skills that STEM subjects teach are fairly transferrable, at the graduate level at least.

Polka not sure what role your partner is in. It could vary from IT support to DBA! But believe it or not, we have more trouble hiring testers and system support than developers. I think programming is simply the most visible role.

GirlOutNumbered I am worried that dropping ICT from the curriculum will leave some students not being able to complete basic tasks on a computer. GCSE Computing really is only for some of the more able students, coding is harder than people think and forcing all students to do it will turn some of computers for life.

That's exactly what I'm worried about. By the way, I don't think we are more 'able'. If you have met the people I work with (including me), we are all fairly dysfunctional grin.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 03-Jan-13 21:30:53

>I feel that secondary schools need to differentiate ICT lessons. There is no point in teaching programming to someone who can't read.

Yes and no, depending what you mean - the best algorithm developer I know is very dyslexic. He thinks in maths and code more fluently than English.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:33:33

haha, yes I am certainly not 'more able'! In our school however, we are only going to offer it to certain students though. This is all to do with the new eBacc, so our students will be guided through 5 pathways. We have persuaded SLT that we also need to provide ICT and so they have told us that we can deliver OCR Nationals to those students who are not 'suited' to the eBacc.

Not sure how I feel about this. However, we just have to fit in with whatever the Government are shouting about.

FWIW, my Dad who works for a large company says that they now have to look abroad for their programmers, or actually train graduates themselves as they are so rubbish!

bealos Thu 03-Jan-13 21:34:49

OneLittleToddlingTerror you say I don't believe we need more programmers which is entirely valid, however I do think we need to think about the next generation having a good understanding of computational thinking and knowledge way beyond Microsoft programmes.

We are not talking about creating an army of computer programmers here, but giving our children the knowledge to competently brief and understand the development of a website, for example, and to know what are the most appropriate types of technology to use in the needs and challenges that might face them in their day to day working lives.

GirlOutNumbered Thu 03-Jan-13 21:38:55

bealos I certainly agree with your point on them understanding the development of websites etc. Last year a student would do this at our school using Dreamweaver. They would also use Flash, Fireworks, all the word packages, Serif, CAD, Scratch, Photoshop etc etc.

Starting September, they will get nothing. Unless they opt for GCSE computing and if they do, they will certainly miss out on all the skills you listed.

It't not right and in so many years time the Government will do another review, realise their mistake and interfere again!!!

cricketballs Thu 03-Jan-13 21:39:43

the problem ICT teachers have faced speaking from experience as I am one! is that until this year we have had to teacher the NC/GCSE specs; in other words we had no control over what we had to teach. This mainly means using office software, although it takes into account audience, purpose etc and to gain the higher levels there is a great deal of more independent though process needed and evaluations.

Since the abolition of the NC in this subject schools re now more free to teach what they feel is relevant. Whilst computing/programming does seem to be the fashionable route to take there are a number of problems that this does cause...

1. due to the NC the vast majority of ICT teachers have no experience in programming/computing as they have qualified in ICT and not computing

2. The computing industry has raised their concerns that teaching within school means that students learn a language that will be redundant by the time they get to university (A Level computer studies is viewed by unis as is A Level law for prospective law students)

3. The teaching of ICT skills should not be ignored for its relevance - using facebook does not mean that people have ICT skills that will enable them to use ICT in the workplace/at home (it is more than using powerpoint!). Absorption into other subjects and not delivering it as a subject in its own right will mean that our children will lose many of the skills that we are taking for granted.

4. the recent changes to GCSE specification means that it is more relevant, we have to look at up to date issues surrounding living in a digital world and we use up to date tech (we have tech updates yearly now)

Op - I applaud your son for his interest in this area; but he will be best served by developing this as a hobby outside of school as he will learn far more than in a school environment with all the constraints that schools face.

To the poster who sounds like undertook an OCR unit - you need to remember that you are not 15 years old and have to be taught the skills needed in order to complete the tasks set to gain a distinction in an hour a week...

ReallyTired Thu 03-Jan-13 21:43:36

I have a physics degree and I would love a testing role. I am not sure how to get into testing. I have experience of programming from ten years ago and experience of IT support.

I think that programming experience makes someone a more effective tester. They have some understanding of the mistakes that programmers make. Often testing involving writing automated scripts or configoring servers. I feel a bit of programming experience makes someone more confident with general problem solving and technology.

ReallyTired I know some of the testers are ex-programmers, some used to be sysadmin, IT support. Basically computer related jobs. I have seen the ads and they do mention familiarity with testing methodologies. I think getting in is probably a case where they think you can learn the testing part quickly, and are happy with your computer knowledge (REST, SQL, Perl, whatever they are looking for).

Someone has to take a leap of faith basically and believe in the transferable skills.

BunFagFreddie Thu 03-Jan-13 22:17:58

DS's school is a technical academy, so incorporate basic programming into ICT and CAD into the technology lessons. DS is in the process of building himself a PC at the moment with DP's help.

DS won an achievemnt award for ICT at the end of the last school year, but tbh he has picked the most useful stuff up at home in his own time. DP and I are both geeks and DS is going the same way. If he wants to find out how to do things he's at the poingt where he can google it and work most of it out for himself. I just wish he was as motivated in other subjects!

Hulababy Thu 03-Jan-13 22:26:07

I used to teach ICT in secondary several years ago. I now work as a LTA in an infant school and do a lot of Y1/2 ICT. Next term I am introducing Y2 to Scratch programming if all goes well.

Ot very much depends on the curriculum taught. I was teaching programming and web design in addition to the use of software when I was there.

I teach the use of software such as Word, Power Point and Excel to Y1/2, as well as specific education software, so would hope secondary is more advanced.

DD is in Y6 and has already done Scratch programing in addition to various other ICT strands inc animations and movie making.

noblegiraffe Thu 03-Jan-13 22:27:48

When I graduated 12 years ago, I got a job in the pharmaceutical industry which led to building databases and programming. I learned it all on the job (I had a maths degree so it wasn't difficult). The databases and programming language I used were very specific to the industry. My friend got a job as a programmer for HSBC at the same time. They deliberately didn't hire anyone with programming experience, but selected through aptitude tests as they wanted to train people to program in their particular house style.

My DH did a degree in computer science and learned several programming languages. Most of them were redundant within a few years.

Learning to program isn't hard if you have an aptitude for it. Companies that moan that people can't program need to get off their arses and train people themselves to their specific needs, instead of complaining that schools need to do all the work for them. Certainly learning basic logic commands in some generic language might be useful but saying that schools should formally teach C++ or whatever is a waste of time.

Hulababy Thu 03-Jan-13 22:31:17

I agree that the main issue for many schools is the lack of decent ICT equipment and siftware, even more so at primary level.

Catchingmockingbirds Thu 03-Jan-13 22:49:34

Yabu, I learned how to program computers when I done ICT in secondary school.

peaceandlovebunny Thu 03-Jan-13 22:57:03

is that all you have to worry about?

Catchingmockingbirds Thu 03-Jan-13 23:12:06

What an odd post peace.

numbum Thu 03-Jan-13 23:52:06

My 7 year old trumped his IT geek dad by setting the raspberry pi up as a media centre for the TV santa bought him.

Minniet Mon 07-Jan-13 23:37:21

I teach ICT and computing and have a degree in Computer Science along with several years industry experience. People on this forum are talking about children "doing raspberry pi" - raspberry pi is a mini computer which allows you to run program's which can just as easily be run on other computers. It is indeed an amazing thing but it's a vehicle for accessing technology not a skill in itself.

ICT will vary from school to school but I know of lots of schools committed to teaching students the broad and varied transferable skills required. Some of these will include spreadsheets and anyone from industry that uses spreadsheets will understand how powerful they are. Unfortunately too many people like Mr Gove, who has probably never used a spreadsheet in his life, are quick to run down something they simply don't understand.

It is a fact that every child will be using computers in any walk of life that they choose. Of course they will learn skills at home - some more than others - I love to see children taking initiative and actively encourage this through extra curricular clubs and setting challenges. Not all children will need to program. It's great that students are now being given the opportunity to learn at school and I love teaching Computer Science - however it is not for everyone.

The vast majority of children start secondary school not understanding basic concepts such as file storage. They may be a whizz at downloading apps and playing games on their iPad but their understanding is completely lacking.

At my school the ks3 curriculum gives students a wide range of experiences which include scratch with extensions in other languages, web design ( including coding with HTML and CSS), movie editing, photoshop, spreadsheets, databases, sound editing, how a computer works. We strive to use a range of software to provide students with transferable skills and keep our curriculum current.

We offer both ICT and Computing for GCSE and A Level and work very hard to offer the best curriculum for the needs of our students.

It is a shame people on this forum seem to have such misplaced judgements about ICT teachers.

sashh Tue 08-Jan-13 04:19:10

ICT is not Computing.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 08-Jan-13 08:32:44

Minniet - it depends a lot (perhaps more than with other subjects as it changes so rapidly) on the individual teacher. My DD has had some good, some indifferent. I do agree that some of the ICT content is very useful (about once a year I really wish I'd been taught how to use spreadsheets properly - I don't use them enough to have bothered learning myself --though DH has so it can't be too hard--)

About the Pi - seems to me that its USP is not the straightforward scratch/python programming but that its a cheap way to allow kids to build interfaces to RL devices - as the OP's DS is doing. No, not every child needs to learn this sort of thing - given that not all kids can have this sort of kit at home maybe there should be a gov(e) initiative to help all schools set up techie clubs (and work out how to not make them boy geek ghettos!)

cory Tue 08-Jan-13 08:52:10

I think to some extent you also have to accept that school cannot always exactly suit pupils with special interests or special knowledge of a subject: though some differentiation can and does happen, the main thrust of the subject must be aimed at the needs of the majority.

The school's PE lessons could not cater for dd's friend who was of Olympic standards. Db's school could not provide him with a teacher of symphonic orchestra calibre to teach him music to the standard he needed. Someone who arrives at Yr 7 French lessons speaking fluent French and with a passionate interest in French Classical drama may well end up being bored at times.

I'm not sure a little bit of boredom in one subject does that much harm: it is part of growing up to learn how to kindle and maintain your own passion even under adverse circumstances. My own db did this by building his own computers and instructing the school staff in programming at his secondary. He now runs a successful computer firm.

But I wouldn't assume that the school computer studies have nothing to offer your ds even if he is too advanced for aspects of them: as Minniet points out, they are very much about how to use computers in RL situations and making yourself more employable.

PurpleRayne Tue 08-Jan-13 09:42:40

YANBU. The school ICT curriculum is a lottery depending on where you live.

Your best bet is to ensure your son has access to a rich provision at home.

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