So where does Information & Communication Technology sit within this structure? At the moment it is part of the National Curriculum with a programme of study and a set of defined attainment Targets. The Expert Panel's recommendation is that it ceases to have this status, but becomes part of the cross-curricular provision in the Basic Curriculum, alongside Design & Technology, Citizenship (both similarly moved from the NC) and current Basic Curriculum stalwarts: Religious Education and Sex Education (to name but two). At least that appears to be the recommendation at primary level, as there is an indication that Computer Science could have a place in the secondary curriculum. Schools will determine the content of these cross-curricular elements (though RE continues to have a peculiar status of being locally determined). In some ways, ICT is in a similar situation to what it was as a cross-curricular dimension in the much-missed New Primary Curriculum, except that it isn't labelled as an 'Essential for Learning and Life' and its status appears to be only as a tool for learning in other subjects.
So why this demotion (if we are to be simplistic)? The Expert Panel state that 'we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence' to be discrete subjects. They go on: 'Implicit in this judgement is a view of disciplinary knowledge as a distinct way of investigating, knowing and making sense with particular foci, procedures and theories, reflecting both cumulative understanding and powerful ways of engaging with the future. ... Some very worthwhile areas of learning apply such knowledge in particular ways or foreground particular areas of skill or competence – but have weaker epistemological roots.'
So we are into epistemology - always a favourite! ICT appears to be regarded as a set of skills and competencies, not serious knowledge and understanding for the 21st Century; not a 'powerful way of engaging with the future'.
So that is where we are - based on initial reading and this type of document always reveals hidden depths on re-reading. A few initial thoughts.
- These are initial recommendations for a curriculum in 2014, so there is time to make a case for ICT in primary schools as a subject as well as a tool for learning. It is a vital cross-curricular element that permeates all subjects (an essential for learning and life) AND it is a discrete set of knowledge, understandings and skills about technology - its use, misuse, 'procedures and theories'.
- How will Computer Science be delivered as a subject in secondary schools if children have had only limited experience of control and modelling at primary level (i.e. the sort of stuff they might do in a subject context). According to Ofsted, this is already a weak area - how can teaching and learning improve , if there is no programme of study to define progression?
- Or is this all a little 'academic' anyway in that, by late 2014, the majority of schools will probably have flexibility in relation to the National Curriculum and may decide to go their own way?