Education secretary breaks silence on computer science

Education secretary Michael Gove has broken his silence on pushing for computer science in the curriculum, though departmental spokespeople say that there is no commitment.

The call for teaching computer science in schools received a boost with the support of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the Livingston Review last week.  In fact, culture secretary Ed Vaizey has been vocal in his support for computer sciences, as well as universities minister David Willets.

This follows pressure from the likes of Google exec Eric Schmidt who raised concerns that British kids were not being told how to write programs.  Indeed, despite the government harping on about Tech City, it can’t count on a future generation of Zuckerberg-like entrepreneurs if all they’re taught is browsing the web and mess around on Office.

The man in charge of the British curriculum, Michael Gove, has so far kept schtum.  Gove’s reticence to put computer sciences in the curriculum has always been a mystery to TechEye, which has it on good authority that geeky Gove is a Dungeons & Dragons fan who was blocked from competing in a departmental sports day.

But mounting pressure, and what seems to be some government commitment to the cause, had him start to broach the subject.

Speaking to the Schools Network in Birmingham, Gove reacted to criticisms that he had failed to respond to calls for important changes to the curriculum.

“There is a perception by some that my department isn’t especially concerned about such things,” he said in a speech. “That we care more about Tennyson than technology. That our interest is in Ibsen, not iTunes. That we’re more Kubla Khan than Khan Academy.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that our school system not only prepares pupils for this changing world, but also embraces the technological advances which are transforming education.

“My department is thinking hard about this and we’ll be saying more in the New Year.”

Gove also said he would like children to “engage with truly cutting edge hardware, like 3D printers, or learn the fundamentals of programming with their own single-board computers, like the Raspberry Pi”.

He also told children at Catmose College that “what we should have is computer science in the future”.

He continued: “How it fits into the curriculum is something that we need to talk to scientists, to experts in coding, and to young people about to make sure that that part of what happens in the school which deals with technology and computing is relevant.”

TechEye approached the Department for Education to find out what plans there are to actually implement computer sciences.

We were told that “as far as firm plans in place there are none at the moment”. 

“There is currently a review of the National Curriculum;” a spokesperson told TechEye, “maths, science and PE are considered part of the core curriculum, but everything is part of the review.”

“In terms of actual plans we will have to watch this space.”

So whether Gove does indeed plan action, or whether he is placating those calling for change with some timely words remains to be seen.