Tech giants rally for computer science in schools

Tech giants rally for computer science in schools

By Rob Crossley

November 28th 2011 at 8:00AM

Google and Microsoft lead new surge of cross-industry support for Next Gen Skills Campaign

Some of the biggest technology companies in the world have today thrown their weight behind a renewed campaign to bring computer science back into UK schools.

Google and Microsoft have joined a vast new alliance of technology groups that call on Britain’s government to put an end to the so-called ‘digital skills gap’. Both endorse the long-held view that young British students are not being taught enough of the right skills for the new digital age of jobs.

The new movement to reform education – called the Next Gen Skills Campaign – has the backing of major international games companies such as Sony, Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts and Activision.

The campaign also has telecoms firm TalkTalk on board, as well as Guardian Media Group – two distinct companies which convey the range and extent of jobs that require new employees with computer science skills.

Games development outfits, such as The Creative Assembly and Blitz Games Studios, will also add their support, as will numerous education bodies and trade associations such as NESTA, Skillset, Abertay University and UK Screen.

The Next Gen Skills Campaign, organised and led by games trade association UKIE, comes ten months after the decorated Livingstone-Hope Skills Review made twenty key recommendations for the Department for Education to consider.

The driving proposal within that paper – to add computer science to the national curriculum – was partly endorsed by the Prime Minister earlier this month. In a recent visit to Tech City, David Cameron admitted his government is “not doing enough to actually teach the next generation of programmers."

But the Department for Education, and it’s the Education Secretary Michael Gove, has remained quiet on the matter.

It is believed the department will break its silence later today and give an official statement regarding the Livingstone-Hope Skills Review. The response had initially been delayed, though co-author Ian Livingstone said the postponement was “for a good reason”.

Livingstone, who will now help drive the Next Gen Skills Campaign, today said: “Not having computer science on the national curriculum is a risk to any UK business that has computing and technology at its core.”

Peter Barron, director of external relations at Google EMEA, said his company is “built on and still driven by engineering”.

“As we see increasing potential for growth in the creative, digital and hi-tech industries, we need to ensure that we are equipping the next generation with the skills they need to keep Britain at the cutting edge of technological and scientific innovation," he added.

Steve Beswick, director of education at Microsoft UK, said the UK needed a “step-change that re-establishes computer science as a high-status school subject”.

The renewed bid for games education in schools comes on the eve of the Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn statement. Speculation is that he will announce new plans to help Britain’s economy grow, as opposed to focusing on measures that would cut spending.

Youth unemployment has reached a record high in the UK, with over a million young people out of work. A new £1bn government programme will look to provide at least 410,000 work places for 18 to 24 year-olds.