IT studies to become part of primary education

IT studies to become part of primary education

Further steps to support government's proposed Digital Britain

IT classes are set to become a central part of primary state education in the UK, as the government takes further steps to create a long term future for a Digital Britain.

Computer studies will be given the same importance at school as literacy and numeracy, under plans due to be announced today in what is being called the largest overhaul of the primary curriculum in a decade.

The proposals are part of a government-commissioned report in primary education by former chief inspector of schools Sir Jim Rose.

The review, which will be published later today, moves technology classes up a rung to a "core skill". The proposals are expected to be swiftly endorsed by schools secretary Ed Balls.

Last October, independent researchers predicted that the government's IT education budget would hit £2.9 billion by 2011.

The news comes hot on the heels of work by skills sector council e-skills UK to push forward IT skills development, from primary school through to secondary school and further education.

"Today's generation has grown up with technology and it forms an integral part of their lives. It follows that they have more advanced technology skills at an earlier stage in their lives," said Karen Price, chief executive at e-skills UK. "We also welcome the report's recommendation that the primary school curriculum should better reflect this."

Last month, Phil Pavitt, chief information officer at Transport for London, told Computerworld UK that TfL and many other organisations felt it was up to industry to support the development and education of the next generation IT workforce.

Under the new proposals, tools such as Google Earth will be used in classrooms to make children more IT aware at a young age.

School children will also be encouraged to have long-distance email penpals, and to work with Twitter and Wikipedia.

But critics of earlier drafts of the report, which were leaked in recent months, have said they felt IT was being promoted to the exclusion of other core skills.

Nick Gibb, Tory schools spokesman, said: "Ministers must resist the temptation to give in to the latest fads."

But Becta, the government's technology agency, has warned that if IT is not built into the curriculum, a "digital underclass" will emerge.

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