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Kids need 'solid grounding in essential skills' says education secretary

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The UK government is planning to use a network of 400 "master teachers" of computer science to train up other teachers and deliver a new tech curriculum in English schools.

The sensei will be "right at the top of their computer science game", the education secretary Michael Gove said in a speech at the Bett Learning Technology Show yesterday.

The new computer science curriculum will be replacing the current ICT syllabus from September this year and is hoping to get kids into programming and coding instead of just teaching them how to use Microsoft Office and email.

"ICT used to focus purely on computer literacy - teaching pupils, over and over again, how to word process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs already creaking into obsolescence; about as much use as teaching children to send a telex or travel in a zeppelin," Gove said.

"Now, our new curriculum teaches children computer science, information technology, and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work a computer; but how a computer works, and how to make it work for you."

Pupils as young as five will start learning to code in the new system and from the age of 11, children will be taught at least two programming languages.

"These are precisely the sort of skills which the jobs of the future - and, for that matter, the jobs of the present - demand. From now on, our reforms will ensure that every child gets a solid grounding in these essential skills - giving them the best possible start to their future," Gove said.

The specialist teachers, who will be training up other computer science instructors and providing resources to support the new curriculum, will be funded by the government, but managed by the British Computer Society. Gove said that organisations like Microsoft and Google were also offering "pro bono support".

Computer science is also going to change its position in schools, with the GCSE counting as a science subject in the English Baccalaureate measure along with subjects like physics and biology. The Baccalaureate requires students to get good GCSEs in English, maths, two sciences, history or geography and a language and is used as a performance indicator for secondary schools. ®

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