Computer science could be key subject in new EBacc, says Gove

Computer science could be added to a list of key academic subjects that teenagers are encouraged to study at GCSE, Michael Gove indicated yesterday.

The Education Secretary said the subject may become part of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

The suggestion came as Mr Gove announced that top graduates are to be offered up to £20,000 to train as computer science teachers on courses designed with help from Facebook and Microsoft.

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Ministers have turned to the social networking giant and other leading technology firms in a bid to improve the quality of computer science teaching in England’s schools.

Teenagers are currently awarded the EBacc, first announced in 2010, if they score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, history or geography and a foreign language.

But Mr Gove yesterday said that this could be extended to include computer science.

“Computer science requires a thorough grounding in logic and set theory, and is merging with other scientific fields into new hybrid research subjects like computational biology.

“If new Computer Science GCSEs are developed that meet high standards of intellectual depth and practical value, we will certainly consider including computer science as an option in the English Baccalaureate.”

Ministers would have to consider whether computer science would be an additional subject for pupils to take, or could be an alternative to one of the subjects already in the EBacc.

There have been calls for other subjects to be added into the EBacc, most notably religious studies, but this appears to have been ruled out so far.

The exclusion of RE has created a storm of protest, with campaigners arguing the move could see the subject marginalised in schools.

Mr Gove yesterday announced that current ICT teacher training courses will be axed from next year. Instead, new computer science courses, supported by top technology firms such as Facebook, Microsoft and IBM, will be introduced.

Students who graduate from university with at least an upper second class degree will be eligible for a scholarship worth £20,000 to train on one of the new courses, which have been set up with BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

Scholarships will be awarded to candidates who already have a good understanding of computer science concepts such as algorithms, data, networks and the internet.

Around 50 will be handed out in the first year, the DfE said.

Existing ICT teachers will also be trained as experts in computer science.

The Government said the move is part of an attempt to improve the quality of computer science teaching in England’s schools.

The ICT curriculum has been scrapped to allow schools to decide what to teach in the subject.

Children spend twice as much time watching TV than reading books, a survey suggests.

It reveals that many teachers believe youngsters’ attention spans are shorter than ever before, and that more need to be done to encourage reading for pleasure.

The survey, commissioned by education firm Pearson to mark the launch of their Enjoy Reading campaign, found that parents say their child spends 44 minutes a day on average reading, and 90 minutes watching TV.

They also spend 42 minutes on average playing on a computer and 28 minutes on the internet.

It means that today’s children spend three times as long in 
front of TV and computer 
screens than reading, the survey claims.

The poll found that almost four in five teachers say that on starting secondary school, pupils’ attention spans in classroom are shorter than in the past.

And 97 per cent said parents need to do more to encourage their youngsters to read for pleasure at home.

Forty-nine per cent of the parents surveyed said they read to their son or daughter every day, with 30 per cent saying they do so once a week or less.