Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Alignment of Reports

Last Tuesday (17th February) a House of Lords Digital Skills Committee produced their report titled "Make or Break: The UK's Digital Future". The report is a call for action to the new incoming Government in May 2015 in the following areas:

  • The economy - millions of jobs are at risk of automation
  • Skills - the UK population needs to learn the right skills for the future
  • Schools - make digital literacy a third core subject
  • Inclusion - realise the benefits of universal digital access
  • Women - realise the economic potential of more women in digital careers

I haven't been through all the 144 pages of the full report yet, but I have had a chance to go through the summary of conclusions and recommendations of the committee, and it does provide plenty of food for thought for those involved in education and for the whole of society.

The thrust of the report is that digital technologies permeate all areas of our lives and that the "UK cannot afford to miss the opportunity or shirk the challenges it presents." Digital skills are often referred to and are described as the "life skills" that are "needed to interact with digital technologies." The statement that caught my attention however was this:
"We must aspire for the vast majority of the population to achieve the level of digital literacy needed to fully participate in society.
In my opinion, a significant aspiration, and one that schools will obviously play a leading role in supporting. So, what does it say that schools should be doing to help to realise this aspiration?  The report lays out a UK Digital Agenda, which they would like to new incoming Government to comment on and to commit to designing its own. Objective 4 relates directly to schools and teachers.
55. Objective 4: No child leaves the the education system without basic numeracy, literacy and digital literacy.
56. As part of this:
a. digital literacy is taught as a core subject alongside numeracy and literacy, embedded across all subjects and throughout the curriculum;
b. more focus is placed on building links with employers (including somebody from industry on the governing body of every school); and
c. delivery of the new computing curriculum is seen as a priority. In particular more investment in training new teachers and speed and urgency to train existing teachers involving the third sector and industry.
Reflecting on this from a Welsh education perspective, this all seems to agree very much with the recommendations found in ICT Steering Group Report, which reported towards the end of 2013. In it recommendation 3 called for the statutory implementation of a digital literacy framework that would work alongside the current literacy and numeracy frameworks. Concerning links with employers, recommendation 7 called for the engagement and collaboration between education and industry that should be an integral part of the curriculum to embed current practices and skills. Finally, with regards to a new Computing curriculum, the ICT Steering Group Report recommended a new subject called Computing being created to replace ICT, disaggregated into the two areas of Computer Science and Information Technology (recommendation 1). Alongside this, recommendation 9 suggested a programme of training and professional development to enable the new Computing curriculum being accessible to new and existing teachers. Therefore it is clear that there is a very strong alignment between the two reports in their proposals for education.

It'll be interesting to see what Professor Graham Donaldson says in his comprehensive review of the curriculum and assessment in Wales, which is due to be published shortly. Will he take on board what has been recommended by the ICT Steering Group, and now by the House of Lords Committee, or will Wales be travelling in a different direction?