Promoting computing in schools

Promoting Computing in schools

by Academy Admin

Update of activities

The Government has recently consulted on the removal of the ICT Programme of Study from the English Secondary school curriculum. Under the proposals, schools will have more freedom to teach a broader curriculum that encompasses Computing.

Note that the situation in Scotland and Wales is different, since they are not covered by the Department for Education. This note summarises the activities of BCS's Academy of Computing in collaboration with the Computing At School group (CAS) to help address this important and urgent issue.

In January 2011 Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Education, announced a review of the National Curriculum1 (NC). From this review would emerge a new National Curriculum containing only the essential knowledge that all children should acquire. It was widely believed that an intended outcome of the review was the removal of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) as a statutory school subject, which in practise would mean the end of ICT as a school subject altogether.

Executive summary

Thanks to the concerted efforts of the entire Computing community, including BCS and CAS as key members of that community, such a potentially disastrous outcome has been utterly transformed into the wholehearted endorsement across Government for Computer Science as a school subject.

In January 2012, in his speech at BETT2, Michael Gove announced: "Computer Science is a rigorous, facinating and intellectually challenging subject." He went on to say: "Long after today's pupils leave school and enter the workplace - long after the technologies they used at school are obsolete - the principles learnt in Computer Science will still hold true". See other Government quotes.

The efforts of the Academy and CAS have significantly contributed to the outcomes listed below. These outcomes have only been possible as a result of sustained collaboration and cooperation across the Computing, Science and Engineering communities - including Next Gen Skills, NESTA, E4E, CIHE, CASE, Rewired State, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and UKIE, with support from CPHC and UKCRC. It is also thanks to international technology companies, such as Microsoft, Google and MetaSwitch Networks, that such significant progress has been possible.

"The work of organisations such as the British Computer Society and Computing At School haS made concrete, practical contributions to the debate [on introducing Computer Science into schools]."
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt3 in the Guardian, April 2012.


  • In January 2012, the DfE announced: "'Harmful' ICT curriculum set to be dropped this September to make way for rigorous Computer Science".
  • Michael Gove announced at BETT that he unequivocally endorsed Computer Science as an important academic school subject.
  • Michael Gove also announced that Computer Science could be considered for inclusion in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc): "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."

Here is a snapshot of some of the main actions taken to achieve these outcomes:

  • Dominic Cummings, Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Education, met with representatives from the Computing community in December 2011, including Google, Microsoft, Next Gen Skills, Raspberry Pi, Coding for Kids, BCS and CAS. The meeting discussed whether Computer Science had a place in the school curriculum and how that might be achieved.
  • Mr Graham Stuart, MP and Chair of the Education Select Committee, with three other members of the Select Committee, met with Microsoft, CAS and BCS in December 2011.
  • Members of CAS and BCS had three meetings with members of the House of Lords with particular interest in school education.
  • Nick Gibb, Schools Minister in charge of the NC review, met with members of BCS Academy, CAS and Microsoft in August of 2011.
  • David Willetts, Minister for Science, met with members of BCS Academy, CPHC, UKCRC and Microsoft in February 2011.
  • Ed Vazey, Minister for Culture, called for the Livingstone Hope review of the Computer Games and Visual Effects industry, led by NESTA and with input from CAS on the schools recommendations. This study has been influential across Government departments including BIS, DfE, DMCS and the Cabinet Office.
  • Google Chairman Eric Schmidt publically declared4 in August 2011 “I was flabbergasted to learn that today Computer Science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools”.
  • Senior members of the community from Microsoft, Google, Intellect, CIHE, NESTA, Next Gen Skills, UKIE, Metaswitch Networks, Altran, Capgemin, Amadeus Capital Partners and BCS wrote to Michael Gove in June 2011 to express their support for Computing in school.
  • The Royal Society conducted a major study over eighteen months ("Computing in Schools, Shut Down or Restart", published5 in January 2012), which concluded that Computer Science and Information Technology are important disciplines that should be taught in school.
  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh, CAS Scotland and BCS Academy conducted an exemplification of Computing in school, reporting in 2012, which was predicted to have widespread implications for Computing education in Scotland.
  • BCS with CAS, Microsoft, Google and Intellect have written to every head teacher of a state maintained Secondary school in England, to explain the importance of Computer Science and to seek support for a schools Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science. The letter was part of an information pack that included a copy of the Royal Society report and a model Computer Science curriculum.
  • E4E (Engineering for Education) responded to the NC review, stating that Computing should be an option within the new NC. E4E represents the collective views on education and training policy of the Royal Academy of Engineering, 36 Professional Engineering Institutions, the Engineering Council, and EngineeringUK.
"Throughout the National Curriculum Review process, Ministers and officials from the Department have had several meetings with representatives of the Computing community, including Microsoft, BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) and Computing At School, to discuss the potential benefits of developing Computer Science as a subject, underlining its importance to the Government."
DfE spokesperson, September 2011.