Education secretary Michael Gove did not have the best start to 2013 after he was forced to shelve his plans to scrap all GCSEs, admitting his English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) mission was a “bridge too far”.
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In September 2012, Gove announced his plans to replace GCSEs with the EBC – a decision which was called the biggest overhaul in a generation. However, his plans were later dropped after opposition from coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, in addition to other parties, teachers and regulators.
In 2013, Gove announced that GCSE ICT was to be scrapped and replaced with a computing curriculum from September 2014. His plans were widely criticised for leaving the education sector without a clear direction for IT as a subject.
The year continued with controversy as academics and education bodies rallied round to create the new computing curriculum, which was finally agreed in September.
In July, Gove said the new curriculum would be designed to teach children how to create their own computer programs, rather than just learning to use those created by others, therefore he later unveiled a framework for the curriculum split into two sections – computer science, and information technology.
Computer science will allow students to see how digital systems work and how to put this knowledge to use through programming, while information technology will be taught for the creation of programs, systems and a range of content.
Fears over the new computing curriculum
But teachers and academics shared their fears over the new computer science curriculum claiming it is too broad in some of its requirements, causing concern for how some teachers may choose to interpret its content.
During the Westminster Education Forum Keynote Seminar: Reviewing the new Computing Curriculum, teachers, academics and industry experts aired their views on the new syllabus, raising alarms that if the new curriculum is misinterpreted it could be as unsuccessful as the ICT programme it is replacing.
More on IT skills
2013 has been the year of insightful speeches from teachers, IT academics and education leaders, particularly from the speakers at the Bett Show this year.
In addition, the computing curriculum was introduced into the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). Computer science will now be included as one of the measures for science to create a nation of active creators rather than passive users of computer technology.
UCAS also announced that the number of prospective students seeking to study computer science has increased by 12.3% to 86,294.
These figures concur with this year's GCSE results, which saw a 25% rise in students sitting the ICT GCSE for the first time in eight years. In addition, students choosing to study STEM (science, technology, electronics and mathematics) subjects at A-Level also increased despite a dip in top grades overall for the second year. But IT-related A-Level student numbers continued to fall – down by 0.4% for computing and 1.1% for ICT, compared with last year.
IT skills crisis
A report by the Corporate IT Forum (CIF) Education and Skills Commission this year claimed the IT education and careers system is in complete disarray. The Early Years report highlighted the IT skills crisis currently facing the UK, identifying a number of causes of skills shortages, which, according to the figures, are affecting more than half of large IT-dependent businesses.
UK CEOs agreed with this in a study conducted by Opinion Matters, with more than half of the 500 CEOs questioned saying the current education system is failing future workers. Commissioned by Skillsoft, the report found 54% of CEOs believe good A-Level grades or a degree alone are no guarantee of a successful career. The majority of respondents said they value qualifications in future managers (63%), yet most felt the education system does not equip future workers with the basic skills that employers require.
In light of several similar reports this year, the European Commission (EC) unveiled a “grand coalition for digital jobs” designed to tackle the region’s IT skills shortages. It was announced by digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes at CeBit 2013, who said the EU’s competitiveness is “under threat”.
Figures from the commission released this year revealed there will be 900,000 vacancies in IT by 2015. There are currently 26 million unemployed people in Europe. According to the figures, the number of digital IT jobs in the IT industry are growing by an estimated 100,000 every year, but the number of skilled IT graduates coming through is failing to keep up.
IT job vacancies on the rise
Despite the continued fall in IT graduates, demand for IT staff has been on the rise throughout 2013.
CWJobs.co.uk reported that IT vacancies are only 15% below where they were pre-recession, in the first quarter of 2008, compared with 41% three years ago.
More apprenticeships created
Vacancies for apprenticeships also rose this year, with a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) revealing that apprentices are expected to contribute £3.4bn a year to the economy through productivity gains.
The Productivity Matters: The impact of apprenticeships on the UK economy report found that by 2022, £3.4bn a year could be generated as 3.8 million people are forecast to complete an apprenticeship.
Technology companies climbed up the Top 75 placement and internship employers in the UK list this year, with Microsoft shooting up 16 places to take second position for 2013.
The list was compiled using 6,000 student reviews, rating their placements between 2012 and 2013, and was announced on RateMyPlacement.co.uk.
Intel jumped 26 places to make it into the top 10, while HP made the list for the first time at number 51. Overall, 10 IT and telecommunications companies made the top 75 this year, including Accenture, IBM, SAP, Metaswitch, Verizon, ARM, and Imagination Technologies.
He promised the "best apprenticeships in the world", with the tougher apprenticeship schemes being offered by 60 firms from 2014. BCS, Mini owner BMW, BAE Systems, Microsoft and Barclays Bank have already signed up to be “trailblazers” for the new apprenticeship scheme.
Vowing to change the face of apprenticeship schemes, Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast, launched the scheme which pays apprentices complete salaries, at more than double the national average of £6 per hour.