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IT in schools: are we getting it wrong?


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IT is now an integral aspect of how we do business. Not only as a business sector in itself, but as a part of the day-to-day reality of all businesses. But how IT is taught in schools does not seem to be keeping pace with a modern work place.

Often, schools have old facilities, meaning that children aren’t learning the most up to date skills. What’s more, many pupils have more advanced systems at home, so taking work between school and home can be difficult. There’s a gap in both what’s being taught and how it’s being taught, and what is applicable in the workplace. And this gap could be putting students at a real risk of missing out on opportunities. This week, a Prince’s Trust survey showed that more than one in ten felt they didn’t have the computer skills they need to apply for jobs, whilst 17% wouldn’t apply for jobs that required basic computer skills.

IT is one of the UK’s big employers. The sector is worth £140 billion per annum: that’s 12% of the GDP. It supports 600,000 direct jobs. And yet it seems that what we are teaching in school is not reflecting these opportunities. There are already calls for schools to increase awareness of career opportunities for those with these skills sets. Recently, Lancaster University ran a boot camp for young people to train them in cyber security and increase awareness of the opportunities in the area. With Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) being attacked by 1000 cyber-attacks each month, this is a real and growing problem for the government. It’s already costing businesses and the government £27 billion a year.

If pupils are to take advantage of these opportunities, they need to be aware of the potential and also have the knowledge and equipment to hand to learn these skills. This could include the equipment itself, and how it is engineered, manufactured and maintained. It could be learning about applied IT: how different environments need different IT, and how it can be used to increase efficiency. And better facilities will help all aspects of education. So having up-to-date Cloud facilities will help pupils access data irrespective of where they are working.

Schools have a lot of expectations on them these days. They are, like everyone, undergoing cuts and major changes. But without addressing this issue, we are risking putting pupils at a major disadvantage and not providing the UK jobs market with the skilled workers it needs.



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