27th April 2012
What does the closure of the DfEs Technology Policy Unit mean for schools?
With the Department for Education confirming
that it will close the Technology Policy
Unit (TPU) in May, it looks like there will be no team in
Central Government with responsibility for how information and
communications technology is taught in schools.
This was surprising news. After all, it was only a few months
ago, at BETT 2012, that the education minister Michael Gove was
talking about the importance of ICT in
The TPU was the unit charged with developing the Government's
policy over technology in schools. It was the last remnant of
BECTA, the body responsible for promoting the effective use of
technology in schools, which was scrapped in March last year.
So who now will conduct the much anticipated consultation into
ICT and computer studies? And, crucially, what will it all mean for
schools, who were eagerly anticipating some forthcoming guidance in
order to plan, financially, for a potentially revamped
To understand the importance of having a voice in Government
representing technology in schools, we need only look at the
benefits of learning about ICT in school; frankly a list of the
harms it would do to not educate children in technology would be
easier. But in a nutshell, understanding ICT provides a platform
where ideas and theories can become either a reality or at the
least more presentable. It provides the freedom to access
information and a platform on which to develop ideas.
Recent research we commissioned
supports this, showing that a school's investment in ICT resources
has a massive impact on pupil performance. We found that those
schools with a higher per pupil spend on ICT (roughly £123) saw
better results across the board - over half (58%) of the pupils
achieved at least five A* to C grade GCSEs.
So to recap, all signs suggest that the earlier learning about
ICT begins the better. But much focus of late has been on how the
curriculum is actually delivered. It's widely agreed that some form
of learning should begin at primary school, enabling children, at
the very least, to search for information and present it. This is
certainly a critical skill that will no doubt help children later
on in life.
The Government could look to extend the current ICT curriculum
to put more emphasis on its practical application. There have
already been calls for ICT to be integrated into other key
subjects. In fact with school budgets still being cut and this
putting extra pressure on class sizes technology could actually be
used to support learning in key subjects such as Maths and modern
So what next for the future of our children and UK plc if we
don't address the problem of ICT in schools? Technology skills
taught at an early age will be useful for the whole of their
education and in adult and working life. If you take into
consideration the emphasis placed on and the investment in
technology skills by other countries such as the US and Korea
and we will find it very difficult to compete.