The government is scrapping its much-criticised IT curriculum, renaming it Computer Science, and introducing software programming for school pupils. However, it is placing much of the responsibility for improving the system onto schools and universities.
Following years of criticism from employers that pupils leave school without decent IT skills, the government is rebranding ICT as Computer Science, and launching a consultation on exactly how to make the programming and more advanced lessons a reality.
While the subject will be compulsory to GCSE level, the government will no longer write the bulk of the curriculum. It has stated explicitly that schools must devise their own courses, with the help of universities and businesses.
But while the introduction of a better subject will be welcomed by many, schools may not appreciate the burden of responsibility for shaping the subject – many are already under immense financial pressure have struggled to find advanced IT teachers.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: "By withdrawing the Programme of Study, we're giving teachers freedom over what and how to teach, revolutionising ICT as we know it."
"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."
Gove said students needed to be "at the forefront of technological change" in order to boost the UK economy, and the government would push for the curriculum to enable this.
Under the new curriculum it is the government's intention that 11-year-olds would be taught "to write simple 2D computer animations", Gove said. At 16, pupils would learn coding and how to write smartphone apps.
A number of IT companies, including Google, Sony and Electronic Arts, have campaigned for an improvement in the curriculum. IBM, Microsoft and others will play a key part in providing advice on the new Computer Science courses, alongside industry associations the British Computer Society and educational IT body Naace.
In spite of the BCS official support for the initiative, its Academy of Computing director Bill Mitchell warned that there were "significant challenges to overcome, specifically with the immediate shortage of computer science teachers".