When IT Meets Politics

Sep 10 2014   9:38AM GMT

Why we need a new Micros in School Programme – inspected by Ofsted

Philip Virgo Profile: Philip Virgo

Tags:
Computer science
Digital skills
england
NEET
Ofsted

Among the more interesting questions in the recent House of Lords call for inputs to their enquiry on Digital Skills were:

How are we teaching students in a way that inspires and prepares them for careers in the future workforce in occupations that may not yet exist, rather than the current one? How can this be improved?

 

How are schools preparing to deliver the new computing curriculum in an innovative way?

 

How can the education system develop creativity and social skills more effectively?

My answers are now available on-line accessible from the webpage of the new Digital Policy Alliance skills group along with the report of the meeting that minuted me to do a personal submission based on my material covering discussions over the past fifty years on how to respond to technology related skills shortages.

Yesterday, at a meeting of the CyberSecurity Challenge “Talent” group it was pointed out to me that responses to the current Department for Education consultation on Reformed GCSE and A Level Subject Content, particularly that on GCSE Computer Science may be even more important than thsoe to the Lords Enquiry. The wording of the Departments consultation appears to imply that subjects like, for example, network security, will be taught and examined as abstract subjects – without any opportunity to acquire, let alone requirement to demonstrate, practical skills. The is particularly significant given that “what is not inspected by Ofsted and examined in GCSEs and A Levels is likely to disappear from schools, under pressures from parents to perform in leagues tables”.

I suggested that network security be taught and examined by attacking and defending the control systems for teams of robots, controlled by raspberry pi (or equivalent) and communicating by radio. This is in line with the philosophy behind the proposal for the original Micros in Schools programme (I chaired the relevant meeting before the 1979 election) and was delovered with the BBC Micro (remarkably well engineered for teaching image handling and process control not just information processing).

I was told that such an approach is not on, because sink schools cannot afford the necessary equipment.  

I therefore urge all readers concerned to see the overdue reforms delivered in such a way as to deliver the results intended to read the consultation and make their views known. 

The logic behind my suggestion that Ofsted be required to monitor the performance of a new “Micros in school” programme includes the changes that will require to the way Ofsted operates, particularly with regard to science and technology. We need to bring back “practicals” to “inspire” those who are not turned on by theory, until they can see it brought to life..

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