That's why I am announcing today that the Department for Education is opening a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for ICT from September this year.
The traditional approach would have been to keep the Programme of Study in place for the next four years while we assembled a panel of experts, wrote a new ICT curriculum, spent a fortune on new teacher training, and engaged with exam boards for new ICT GCSES that would become obsolete almost immediately.
We will not be doing that.
Technology in schools will no longer be micromanaged by Whitehall. By withdrawing the Programme of Study, we're giving schools and teachers freedom over what and how to teach; revolutionising ICT as we know it.
Let me stress - ICT will remain compulsory at all key stages, and will still be taught at every stage of the curriculum. The existing Programme of Study will remain on the web for reference.
But no English school will be forced to follow it any more. From this September, all schools will be free to use the amazing resources that already exist on the web.
Universities, businesses and others will have the opportunity to devise new courses and exams. In particular, we want to see universities and businesses create new high quality Computer Science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the brilliant Computer Science content available on the web.
I am pleased that OCR is pioneering work in this field, and that IBM and others are already working on a pilot. Facebook has teamed up with UK-based organisation Apps for Good to offer young people the chance to learn how to design, code and build social applications for use on social networks, via a unique new training course which they aim to make freely available online this year to potential users all over the world.
And other specialist groups have published or are about to publish detailed ICT curricula and programmes of study, including Computing At School (led by the British Computer Society and the Institute of IT), Behind the Screens (led by eSkills UK), Naace and others, with considerable support from industry leaders.
Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum. Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11 year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in University courses and be writing their own Apps for smartphones.
This is not an airy promise from an MP – this is the prediction of people like Ian Livingstone who have built world-class companies from computer science.
And we're encouraging rigorous Computer Science courses
The new Computer Science courses will reflect what you all know: that Computer Science is a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject.
After all, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is one of the most innovative and successful proponents of Computer Science today. But his computing skills are just as rigorous as the rest of his talents – which include Maths, Science, French, Hebrew, Latin and Ancient Greek.
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.
So I am also announcing today that, 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.
Although individual technologies change day by day, they are underpinned by foundational concepts and principles that have endured for decades. 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.
An open-source curriculum
Advances in technology should also make us think about the broader school curriculum in a new way.
In an open-source world, why should we accept that a curriculum is a single, static document? A statement of priorities frozen in time; a blunt instrument landing with a thunk on teachers' desks and updated only centrally and only infrequently?
In ICT, for example, schools are already leading the way when it comes to using educational technology in new and exciting ways – and they're doing it in spite of the existing ICT curriculum, not because of it.
The essential requirements of the National Curriculum need to be specified in law, but perhaps we could use technology creatively to help us develop that content. And beyond the new, slimmed down National Curriculum, we need to consider how we can take a wiki, collaborative approach to developing new curriculum materials; using technological platforms to their full advantage in creating something far more sophisticated than anything previously available.
This means freedom and autonomy
Disapplying the ICT programme of study is about freedom. It will mean that, for the first time, teachers will be allowed to cover truly innovative, specialist and challenging topics.
And whether they choose a premade curriculum, or whether they design their own programme of study specifically for their school, they will have the freedom and flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils.
Teachers will now be allowed to focus more sharply on the subjects they think matter – for example, teaching exactly how computers work, studying the basics of programming and coding and encouraging pupils to have a go themselves.
Initiatives like the Raspberry Pi scheme will give children the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming with their own credit card sized, single-board computers. With minimal memory and no disk drives, the Raspberry Pi computer can operate basic programming languages, handle tasks like spread sheets, word-processing and games, and connect to wifi via a dongle – all for between £16 and £22. This is a great example of the cutting edge of education technology happening right here in the UK. It could bring the same excitement as the BBC Micro did in the 1980s, and I know that it's being carefully watched by education and technology experts all over the world.
As well as choosing what to study, schools can also choose how. Technology can be integrated and embedded across the whole curriculum.
In geography lessons, for example, pupils could access the specialised software and tools used by professional geographers, allowing them to tackle more challenging and interesting work. Molecular modelling software could bring huge advantages for science students.
The Abbey School in Reading has already been piloting 3D technologies for teaching Biology, showing 3D images of the heart pumping blood through valves, and manipulating, rotating and tilting the heart in real time. As Abbey School Biology teacher Ros Johnson said, the 3D technology "has made me realise what they weren't understanding...what I can't believe is how much difference it has made to the girls' understanding".
This isn't a finished strategy – but it shows our ambition
The use of technology in schools is a subject that will keep growing and changing, just as technology keeps growing and changing.
But we can be confident about one thing. Demand for high-level skills will only grow in the years ahead. In work, academia and their personal lives, young people will depend upon their technological literacy and knowledge.
And this doesn't just affect our country. Every nation in the world will be changed by the growth of technology and we in Britain must ensure that we can make the most of our incredible assets to become world-leaders in educational technology.
Today has seen the conclusion of the Education World Forum here in London. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for me, personally, that we learn from the highest performing education systems – some of whom I am delighted to see represented here – and I am very grateful to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to come to London for this event.
I'm not here today to announce our final, inflexible, immutable technology strategy. There's no blueprint to follow – and we don't know what our destination will look like.
I'm setting out our direction of travel, and taking the first few steps. There is lots more to come, and we will have more to say over the course of the year.
I'd also like to welcome the online discussion launched today at schoolstech.org.uk and using the twitter hashtag #schoolstech. We need a serious, intelligent conversation about how technology will transform education – and I look forward to finding out what everyone has to say.
We want a modern education system which exploits the best that technology can offer to schools, teachers and pupils. Where schools use technology in imaginative and effective ways to build the knowledge, understanding and skills that young people need for the future. And where we can adapt to and welcome every new technological advance that comes along to change everything, all over again, in ways we never expected.
Events like the BETT show are crucial in showcasing the best and brightest of the technology industry, showing what can be done – and what is already being achieved. We will depend upon your insight and ideas, your expertise and experience, as you take these technologies into your schools and try them with your students.
Thank you again to BETT for inviting me, and I wish you all good exploring today.