Livingstone's Skills Review backed in Lords debate

Livingstone's Skills Review backed in Lords debate

By Rob Crossley

November 4th 2011 at 11:29AM

'It is slightly ludicrous that we are teaching pupils to plug things into computers but not how to program them'

Calls to introduce computer science into the nation curriculum have been backed in a House of Lords debate.

Baroness Bonham-Carter, a Liberal Democrat peer, yesterday opened a Lords debate by claiming that “creative industries need creative people, but creativity needs to be taught and nurtured”.

She said the recommendations raised by the Next Gen skills review should be considered.

The skills review makes twenty proposals to remedy the so-called ‘skills gap’ affecting the UK games industry. The suggestion is that new generations of aspiring game designers are not properly trained to be hired by games studios.

Industry figurehead Ian Livingstone, who co-authored the skills review, said introducing computer science into the national curriculum would be a crucial step forwards.

Yesterday, Baroness Bonham-Carter told the house: “We should listen to Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope, authors of the Next Gen report and leaders in their world of video games and visual effects, who recommend that art and computer science should be included in the [English Baccalaureate].”

In 2010, the government announced a controversial new English Baccalaureate certificate, which would be awarded to students who achieved grades A*-C in English, Mathematics, two Sciences, a Foreign Language and History or Geography.

The announcement sparked opposition from many school teachers, who claimed that the new English Baccalaureate shifts too much attention on a limited range of disciplines.

"What it does not do is include those subjects that develop creative skills,” Baroness Bonham-Carter said.

“There is no art or design and no computer science. Because it will be possible to rank schools on their attainment in the EBacc subjects, schools are already starting to emphasise them at the expense of creative subjects,” she added.

“We should listen to such successful and highly respected individuals as Sir James Dyson and Sir John Sorrell, who argue that we should invest more in creative education and design.

“And we should look to the international baccalaureate, which does include art and has computer science as an elective part of its maths qualification, and follow its example.”

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Baroness Bonham-Carter’s views were echoed in the Lords debate from three peers.

Lord Razzall, a Liberal Democrat peer, drew upon a recent speech made by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, who in August said he was "flabbergasted” to learn that computer science isn't taught in UK schools.

“As Eric Schmidt said in his famous speech in Edinburgh earlier this year, it is slightly ludicrous that we are teaching our 15 year-olds to plug things into computers but not how to program them,” Lord Razzall said.

“As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, indicated, we really need to change the educational structure in this country to ensure that computer science is in every student's DNA.”

Elsewhere in the Lords debate, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Randerson said she endorsed the claims in support for computer science courses.

Baroness Rawlings, a Conservative peer, responded: “I have great sympathy with the worries of my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter and of several others about not including the arts, such as music, and computer sciences in the [English Baccalaureate]. This is a matter for the Education Secretary, but it does not stop these subjects being taught in schools.”

Games trade group UKIE said it was pleased with the Lords discussion.

Livingstone, a UKIE board member, said the debate “is yet more evidence that UKIE’s policy agenda is being listened to in Westminster. UKIE particularly welcomes Baroness Bonham Carter’s and Lord Razzall’s reference to the Livingstone Hope review and their calls for the education system to include computer science.”