back to article UK ICT classes killing kids' interest in tech

The Royal Society is to investigate why British schools are failing to interest children in information technology - and why numbers taking classes are falling so fast. Since 2006 there has been a 33 per cent fall in pupils taking ICT GCSEs, and numbers taking A-levels in ICT have fallen by a third in six years. The number of …


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  1. vulpine

    A good start...

    ...would be to teach children about computers, not simply show them how to use Microsoft Word. When I took my GCSEs, all we did was sit tiredly and listen as the teacher explained how to justify text and insert images; hardly breeding much enthusiasm among us.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      When I was a lad...

      I sat the last year of "O Level" Computer Studies which included programming in BBC Basic and assembly lanuage. I was told the new "GCSE" would be "How to use a word processor and a spreadsheet".

      I thought then as I do now, why do I need a GCSE in how to hold a pen and use a calculator? Shouldn't that have been taught as part of a wider curriculum?

    2. MyHeadIsSpinning
      Thumb Up


      I agree; what is needed is more practical work and less theory. When I were a lad, I was taught how a computer worked and so forth; but at no point did we take apart a computer and put it back together. We were not shown what each part of a computer actually looked like or felt like.

    3. Displacement Activity

      Re: A good start

      Ah, I'm afraid things have moved on a lot since your time. The days when you could get a GCSE by showing some competence in the use of MS Word are long gone.

      Offspring #1 has just achieved a grade A half-GCSE in IT. To do this, she had to show that she could use Microsoft Frontpage, *and* Microsoft Publisher, *and* Microsoft Access. I keenly anticipate an A-level, when she's managed to unpack and install Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Outlook, and mastered the rudiments of turning a computer off and on again.

  2. Mr Brush

    No change there then

    Back when I was a sprog, I spent every waking minute at home writing programs on my ZX Speccy. However, Computer Studies at school were dull as dishwater, with endless lectures on mainframes, writing LOGO scripts for turtles and having to use BBC Model Bs for everything. Even the most hardcore geeks were bored within minutes.

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Thumb Up

      I wasn't bored

      I wasn't bored; I entertained myself by arguing with the teacher and mocking her outdated idea of what a computer was and how they were programmed.

      Still I learned many important things in those lessons, such as the abject stupidity of flow charts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      get down to the soil, then work up.

      You see, you did the same as me and most others of our time, starting with concrete implementations, things you can understand completely. The machine code in an early machine is fixed, there is no lower level. Having "got" this, you can then move up through the abstraction layers but confident that you understand all below it in 100% detail. Teenagers need closed concepts that they can know, maybe some assembler, maybe the BBC model B, it got us here today.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No change there then

      Heh - the lads in my Computer Studies class were never bored.

      We were too busy playing 'Elite' :-)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sylabus doomed to irrelevance

      The subject matter changes so rapidly, If the curriculum is not already irrelevant it will be before the kids finish their studies. Like typewriter skills, IT as it is currently taught has no place in mandatory level education.

      For A-level, well established disciplines such as computer science, microelectronics and networking would be abstract enough to make for a good academic grounding, whilst maintaining the interest of those students with a technical bent.

  3. Refugee from Windows

    Possible who's involved?

    Would it be the very participants are only using this indoctrinate them into their own company's products? Possibly if it were of a less restricted scope and rather more generic it may get more interest.

    Teach them about these things by exposing our youngsters to a variety of examples, not monolithic products. Luckily my brood know different as they've seen and used something other than the usual culprits.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Sir, I have a letter from my dad

      Sir, I have a letter from my dad excusing me from <strike>P.E.</strike> using Windows.

  4. Christoph

    It's perfectly simple

    Look at what has changed in teaching over the last few years

    Notice that those changes were imposed by teams of dedicated, skilled education experts to improve the system.

    So it can't possibly be those changes that caused it.

    Toss a coin.

    Heads - blame the teachers. Tails - blame the parents.

  5. Si 1

    Because it's about computing

    Kids don't want to learn about computing, they want to use computers to update their Facebook status and work out how to get around the parental controls.

    It's also possible it's because the courses are crap and out of date. When I did A-level Computing about 15 years ago I was not impressed. It was all about tape spools and punch cards, which were archaic even in the late '90s.

  6. mathnode

    morning discussion

    This came up in a discussion this morning with my boss. Essentially the education i received was shit, and the career advice I received was even shitter. Nowadays I am a sysadmin doing a Maths degree with the OU.

    Throughout two years of college, I did one module on programming, one on systems analysis, and one on networking. The only 3 useful modules out of 14 in two years! (For an AVCE in ICT) Needless to say this put me off uni for 5 years. My dear old Mum was taught binary at school in the 1960's, I wasn't.

    I have never been taught logic, IT, programming, how to problem solve, or the application of computers. Had to learn what a Karnaugh map was myself, whilst others had it fed to them. I should have been a gardener.

    I really regret doing what I did, if I'd had known I would have just done maths and physics at A-Level and gone on from there.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anthony Allen
    Thumb Down

    Not surprised

    I left school in 1999 with the worst grade possible for IT. The course was a complete joke and nothing more than glorified PA work learning how to use spreadsheets and word processors. I wanted to learn more about networking and preferably programming, but our IT teacher was an ex PE teacher who fancied turning his hand to computers. Luckily I pretty much fell on my feet and have worked in IT ever since I was 17, and have worked my way up since.

    There are those who aren't so lucky, or if they were bored as me in those lessons must have thought they didn't fancy working with all that boring crap. Maybe things have changed in those 11 years, but I wouldn't be surprised if they haven't.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I saw "ICT" and "BCS"

    and thought, well, there's your problem right there :-)

    Somehow that pair of dated three-letter acronyms made me think of school computing when I was a lad... Box diagrams labelled "VDU" (cue sotto voce Beavis and Buthead snigger: "He said 'VD') and drawing flowcharts...

    Mind you, when I actually looked at a recent Scottish Computing (or whatever it's called) Higher, there was some good CS stuff in there, about binary trees and the like.

    What would be really good course content would be something like Logo (what happened to it?), which combined pretty neat stuff (drawing cool pictures), plus real CS concepts, like recursion.

    It depends on why numbers are falling: if the courses are full of "real CS" and people are dropping out because they expected game playing, then that's OK. If they're full of dross, and people are dropping out because it's full of dross, that's not so good.

    And speaking as a software engineering employer, I look for people who have the concepts of recursion, pointers, understanding of algorithms, not the latest fads in web-content creation (see Joel on Software for excellent discussion..)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its simple

    Spreadsheets and databases are boring

    Most kids dont like computers, they like games you can play on them, facebook, youtube, twitter,

    Build the whole thing round how they work and kids will be a lot more interested

  11. Jimmy Floyd

    Anecdotal evidence

    When I were a nipper, computers were for the geeks and mathematically-minded only. In the late 90s, with the introduction of the Internet as a mainstream phenomenon, more people become interested because it was seen as good way to earn money.

    (I remember my University lecturer asking how many people were studying Computer Science primarily because they thought they could earn lots of cash. At least 50% put up their hands...)

    Now computers and the Internet are ubiquitous, and for the young generation coming through neither are particularly special; they're just utilities like gas or electricity. You might as well as why more kids aren't interested in becoming a sparky or a plumber.

    That's my tuppence worth, anyway.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It may be because it takes so much learning and development of skills to get even close to writing a computer game or other cool software, these days (certainly compared with BBC micro/Speccy days) that it just seems too much to even start to learn.

    1. Tony Humphreys

      What about their phones

      It may take a long time and a dvd full of api's for a ps3 game, but not for a simple hangman game for a mobile phone - in Java.

      That would not be too much for a term of 10 hours.

      Although it may be way beyond the teacher, as it cant be done in Word. Shame, the kids would love it and it would really energise their thirst for development with something they can really achieve.

  13. Lottie


    it's not the computers/ phones themselves that are breeding the interest, but the applications. When a school blocks youtube and twitter and whatnot, the computer just becoems a box.

    Also, ICT in schools is booooring! If they taught programming, then it'd be different, but when it's just a CLAIT course it's not *really* IT is it?

    1. Laurence Blunt

      No. 1 problem with this is

      where the hell do you think they would get anyone who has the slightest ides of how to program a computer?

      I persoannly beleive that other than a basic computer skill course (at primary school?), we need to get rid of most IT in schools and actually teach real subjects.

      As it is the real scienses have been dumbed down to the level that when my mother read though a Physics GCSE paper a few years ago she managed to over 90% correct. Not bad for lady in 70's who never studied Physics (or any other science), left school at 14 and had significant interuptions in her education due to Germans dropping bombs on her school!

      And they have managed to make them even easier now!

  14. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    The title pretty much sums up what I've experienced so far with "modern" computing courses... some things they really should consider but never do because they don't align neatly with incumbent monopoly practices and pointless government statistics:

    * At least at school level, stop calling it "science". Yes, technically it is, but there's still far too much dogma regarding the word science and geekiness that this puts off some pupils. Sad but true.

    * Teach the basics, not the high level specifics of particular OSes and applications - they can be farmed out to a later stage or a different course. Want to learn Word Processing? Take a business course - that's what they're there for. Oh, and teach Word Processing, don't teach Microsoft Word Processing.

    * Start from fundamentals and engage the pupils in how things work, rather than rhetorical parrot speak "teaching". Once pupils understand the basics on how something works they find it much easier and less daunting to understand the later concepts. Details don't have to be gone into, just the concepts.

    * Show the basic history of all computing, not just Wintel. There's a whole history of computing there and it's good to see progression, evolution of components and how we got to where we are now. This doesn't have to be dull, there are piles of old computers still around and even a history of consoles is interesting and informative in how they evolved to what they are now.

    * Don't teach idiotic stuff that every kid has grown up with, i.e. how to use Internet Explorer to browse the web. Don't teach kids how to make web pages - leave that to a design course. Teach them the basics behind how they work, but having them fire up DreamWeaver (or worse, FrontPage) to knock up pointless pages doesn't help them at all - those interested would like to host their own content, and this is far beyond normal GCSE level computing.

    - I know plenty of GCSE level kids that are interested in computing but are daunted and frustrated by how little they know and how little of it is useful. Most, even the most keen, are in reality capable of little more than clicking icons.

  15. Lexxy

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "especially when so many kids are obsessed with gadgets, computer games, social networking and playing music really bloody loudly on their mobile phones."

    Let me solve this for the Royal Society. Children would rather play games and socialize than actually do some real school work. That is all.

  16. GippleDocks

    not the curriculum but the teachers

    For sure the curriculum is dull and MS Office-centric. But, in my local area, the kids don't take the GCSE and A level because the schools can't get effective teachers. I've heard too many stories of new ICT teachers leaving within a school year and losing course work. Presumably there are too few adequate ICT teachers and the schools are simply churning the inadequate ones.

    In that context the kids don't take the courses because they can't risk the consequent poor grade at the end.

    1. irish donkey

      So how many people here...(Show of hands) would take a paycut

      to go a teach kids Proper IT.....

      Not me???/ anybody else

  17. dotdavid


    Maybe it's because the courses are always going to be out of touch with modern trends. I mean, when was the last time you heard the term ICT except in education and government circles?

  18. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Maybe stop calling it ICT?

    And call it IT like everyone outside of Govt and Education does.

    El Reg - Biting the Hand that feeds ICT.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the "C" means something

      For me, ICT as a profession means communications, protocols, error correction, modulation schemes, Shannon's theorem, BER EbNo, Viterbi, etcetera.

      Its quite possible to get through an ICT course without realising that there is actually a science able to understand and predict these things.

  19. AngusH

    Pedantic teaching and too much repetition

    One of the things I remember being annoyed with was that regardless of previous qualifications I kept having to take courses that repeated the same content.

    Did word processing, spreadsheets, etc at GCSE? I had to then take an identical processing+spreadsheets course during A-Levels. (CLAIT)

    Then again at university, regardless of previous qualifications (and that I was doing a computer science degree!), I had to prove that I was capable of using a word processor and a spreadsheet. (which took about a couple of hours to work through the exam, IIRC, but it was more the principle of the thing)

    Nobody ever accepted any of the earlier qualifications as proof of anything.

    Teaching people stuff they may already know isn't going to be a particularly useful thing to do, especially the kind of course where much of it ends up being the pedantic "Make the second paragraph bold and the title 18pt Arial" kind of thing.

    Give young people a placement test first and then teach the ones who can already use a word processor something more interesting to learn.

  20. adam payne

    GCSE ICT? where?

    When I was at school they didn't offer a GCSE in ICT and in sixth form they didn't offer it at A-level or BTEC.

    If they are going to offer the course it has to be interesting and relevant to the people taking it otherwise the students will just switch off.

    1. Sooty

      slightly different for me

      for GCSE I did an Information Systems course, and a lot of the people on it, thought they had signed up for IT, ie muck about on a wordprocessor. There was a basic computing course running as well, that was mandatory, but that was exactly as described, how to change fonts and insert pictures into microsoft word.

      At A-Level again, there were different levels, there was computing, which involved knowing things, and programming etc, and then there was IT, which was mucking about on the net and diddling in MSpaint & MS word.

      All the serious courses appear to have been removed now, and replaced with mostly using a pc normally. Every year we get a couple of pupils on work experience, and they are always amazed by what we show them... Basic computing concepts and a few bits of simple programming. Even the classic, describe how to make a cup of tea, example of process modelling seems to be a novel concept.

  21. Matt Brigden
    Thumb Up

    Any surprise they get bored

    When unless your in an extremely well funded school or college your taught on out of date hardware and software pensioned off years back . Its about time the big names woke upto the fact that if they supplied schools with the latest and greatest then the pupils are more likely to go on and use that equipment and software brands themselves . I adored gcse IT becuase our school had the then brand new rm nimbus machines running the cutting edge windows 3.1 and the two most energetic and enthusiastic teachers I have ever met . We were taught how to really use those machines and how to get the best out of it all . Had I spent that time on word I would of been bored rigid . The entire school system needs an overhaul tbh .

    1. matt 115


      Microsoft Academic Alliance

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Nah, on brand new Dell and HP machines using Office 2007 / 2010.

      Hardly out of date

  22. AC-This-Isn't-Facebook

    title required

    It is like all secondary education.. your not taught a subject or topic, your taught how to answer the questions that will be on the exam paper. And the teachers have a bloody good idea what questions will be on a paper, as they are rarely too different.

    And having seen for many years what happens in a GCSE IT lesson, I am not surprised kids get bored.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Just a device to them

    The problem is that computers are tools to most people today. Anyone under 20 has never seen a world without being within 30 yards of a keyboard. The computer to kids today means as much as a car or a TV, it's just another device available for use.

    To people like me, late 30's, we got computers when were around that magic 8-12 year age range, it was like Star Trek/Star Wars in your own home. All those SciFi comics and TV shows we watched up tot age of 8 or 9, we were getting our first taste of 21st Century, we wanted it, it was so exciting. I have to admit that over the years of IT career, I have lost a little of that sparkle, but I retain enough to still enjoy my job.

    I teach my kids about what inside the magic box, one of the few things I can teach them and I know they will have a little more interest in IT than some other kids, but I won't ram it down their throats, that's just boring and unnecessary. When they ask me for more info about what's in the computer case, then I will happily tell them more. I will teach them what nasties are about and how to look after themselves in the connected world and how to try to not get fooled by the scumbags out there.

    The computer is just an appliance and how many kids are interested in learning what's inside a dishwasher or a fridge? Some I know, but not that many I bet.

    1. Laurence Blunt

      This reminds me of school aged about 7...

      ...when decimalisation came.

      All the old teachers thought is was a big deal and had to teach us kids how the new units worked.

      The fact that I and most other kids of that era had never had more than a sixpence to spend, the fact that the pound had fewer pence and coins all had obvious numeric values in place of shillings, crowns and guineas wasn't an issue.

      The same thing happened with calculators around 1980, and now its the turn of PC's in schools.

      Most of these classes are about a necessary as a GCSE in how to use the program guide on a Sky Box.

  24. mittfh


    Having attempted secondary school ICT teaching before choosing a more rewarding career, here are a few reasons:

    * A large emphasis in many curricula on spreadsheets and databases, which many (correction: almost all) pupils instinctively regard as complicated / too hard / boring by the time they reach Year 9.

    * A lack of relevance to the wider world. The vast majority of them won't be creating databases from scratch or using nested equations (e.g. IF(AND(B1<23,B1>5),"Yes","No") in spreadsheets. And the contexts are so corny - mobile phone tariff comparison, five a day, membership of an after-school club.

    * AiDA / CiDA / DiDA in particular expect 14 year olds to engage in self-guided project work - something they're unlikely to have done beforehand. The qualification series looks as though it was designed for the post 16 market, but is aimed at the 14-16 range. There's also huge potential for dishonest marking - the teacher is supposed to mark them down if they need any assistance / guidance during the project (theoretically, pupils should spent 2/3 of the course learning skills, 1/3 doing the project. In reality, some schools kick start the project after only 1/2 term preparation. Introducing the skills in another context doesn't work as they can't 'map' them across contexts.)

    It'll be interesting to see what the experience of schools is with the newfangled Applied ICT diploma, since the diplomas were allegedly designed by industry sector skills councils...

  25. irish donkey

    too dull too dull with stupid teachers

    The kids that we need to be attracted into ICT are so afar ahead of their teachers in what they can do its gets kind of embarrassing.

    How can you possible interest kids in writing a CV using Word when at home they can download somebody else's chop it up and rename it as their own. Post it on 20 websites get 30 job offers within a week paying more than their teachers gets paid.

    In my daughters school the kids helped the teacher rewrite their CV showed them how to post it online so the teacher could get a proper job!

    My daughter passed that class. ......but I certainly wouldn't advise her to take it as a subject.

  26. Just Thinking

    Two things

    How much ICT to most people actually need to know? Most home computers are basically used to access the internet, mostly to socialise or buy stuff. A PC is expensive, insecure and unnecessarily complex way of accessing the web, and as soon as a decent, cheap, diskless netbook/tablet arrives, the home computer will once again be owned only by a minority of geeks. Or maybe not even that, the geeks will just use their netbooks to do slightly more geeky than average things on the web.

    And computer science? Anything subject which needs to have the word science in its title isn't a science. Think sports science, domestic science. They don't call it physics science do they?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two things

      "And computer science? Anything subject which needs to have the word science in its title isn't a science. Think sports science, domestic science. They don't call it physics science do they?"

      Ditto any subject that has the word "education" in the name. Physical Education, Personal and Social Education, Religious Education. No thanks I think I'll pass. Where are the Maths Education and English Education courses?

      And while we're on the subject of nonsense in schools, get rid of the guidance/grief/jobs/drugs councilors. I've never spoken to anyone with the word "councilor" in their job title who wasn't a complete retard.

    2. Jinxter

      RE: Two things

      This is clearly a misunderstanding of the concept of user against developer.

      I entirely agree that your bog standard user will only need the simple concepts of internet browsing, email read/writing and image editing. This is why things like the iPad will continue to grow in popularity.

      However don't underestimate the importance or the massively expanding nature of computer sciences which look at the development of neural networking, artificial intelligence, high speed image recognition etc etc etc. These developing regions require encompasing knowledge of both mathematics and physics to both understand the history of these concepts and help define the future.

      It is quite simply wrong and misleading to attempt to group IT studies (using a computer) and Computer Science (developing information systems)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quality of Teachers ?

    I have never yet met a teacher that is equipped to teach the average kid about IT.

    The vast majority of the kids know more about the subject than their teacher, and the content and quality of the available courses provokes little interest.

    The Royal Society needs to wake up and look at what the kids need, and not create syllabi based on what is probably their own skill sets !

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are a number of simple reasons for this

    1. Most high school and indeed A-level IT teachers are idiots. If you correct them on the difference between a megabyte and a megabit they'll just tell you, "that's the way I've always done it", oh so that's okay then.

    2. Most GCSE and A-level courses are narrow in scope and thoroughly boring. You're taught how to use Microsoft Office on Microsoft Windows and little/nothing else. And Microsoft are going to change the interface beyond recognition in 3 years time anyway so you might as well not bother.

    3. The work is an endless cycle of documenting screen shots. As a technical person I found it to be the easiest work I'd ever done but most people find it tedious beyond belief. And at the end of the day their documentation is completely useless anyway so again, they might as well not bother.

    Maybe if they were put to work documenting an open source project and the best person's work got submitted they might take some pride in it. But if the only person who will ever see their hours of work is a shady nobody with questionable hygiene marking exam papers in a dark room at gun point - why bother?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    GCSE IT Should Be ...

    .. this is a computer, this is a screw driver, Open the PC and discover the parts inside ...

    The reason GCSE IT is so slack is that school IT teachers are old English, Design Technology, (insert subject here) teachers, that had a passing intrest in IT and ended up taking up the subject.

    These teachers then go on to end up writing the syabuses, leaving them sticking to what they used to teach, because they know of nothing else.

    Get proper professionals in to train these teachers in proper IT, not "business IT"

    1. Daniel Evans

      RE "this is a computer, this is a screw driver"

      Which was how I learnt all about computers from my dad (who used to build servers as a part-time self-employed job). Needless to say, I'm happy enough to throw in a new HDD myself, whilst being mildly amused when I hear people complain about how much it cost them to do the same at "the computer shop".

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Trouble is ........

    they don't need the engineering skills to do what they want to do so the vast majority of them are, and will remain, only consumers.

    Those that may be interested in the technology behind the consumer face are soon put off by the way it is taught; they would be more interested in how to set up a games server and home network or how to hack a mates mobile phone or the school server. All subjects usually avoided in the education environment but learnt by those that are interested by the time they are 13.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward every other post on here..

    I too had an appalling story of IT education, basically having to take the brute force approach of "if you wont teach me, then i will teach myself".

    But perhaps the lack of any links between ICT and maths (as they are terrified they'll scare kids with the idea of hard work), and also the IT industry itself and the lack of any job security and constant talk of india and china, i don't blame kids for thinking its not for them.

  32. Chris Harries
    IT Angle

    It's a joke

    I finished my A-levels 5 years ago and GCSE IT, A-Level IT and A-level Computer Science where all shit. You didn't learn much, if anything. Almost all of it I knew already or knew bits about. Some was utter wank and so out-dated it was ridiculous (We looked through an answer sheet for a past paper and instant messaging wasn't a valid answer in communicating in an office...even though IM has been around for many many years.) For Computer Science a-level I had two teachers and one of them had been in the industry for many years, however you could tell how he was tied down to this bull shit curriculum and it annoyed him. We ended up doing other stuff a lot of the time. For people that are interested in computers by a-level you could have a fun'ish course...but it's not. Its a joke

  33. Geoff Mackenzie

    BCS, Microsoft, Google and several universities are also involved

    What a shame.

  34. CD001

    Not to mention

    If you're of an age where you're thinking of learning in preparation to enter the work-place (so we're talking A-Level - or equivalent - and up) you _might_ look at the saturated, over-worked, under-paid world of IT and think, nah, stuff it - I'll do plumbing instead.

    If you want to get people interested in IT, you have to do something interesting with IT ... unfortunately, in the world of work, most people's exposure to IT is MS Office and that's about it - so that's what they teach. It's not until you've decided to invest your future in IT and taken it to further/higher education level that you can begin to specialise into something more interesting.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @A good start

    > not simply show them how to use Microsoft Word

    if only ... my son (14) uses Word as a typewriter - he appears to have been given no teaching on how to structure documents, use styles, paragraphs etc - instead its all about highlighting text, changing font size, bold, underline etc .... and if you need a picture stick it on the page and the use a few newlines to get past it for the next text ..... of course, once some other changes have been made the picture is on top of text and there a white space below etc etc etc.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      One has to ask whether your son actually knows how to write grammatically correct and intelligible English, because unless he knows this, trying to teach him to use Word is pointless.

      This would be the domain of the English classes, not ICT.

      All those many years ago , I remember in English having to read, comprehend, and write relevant comments on a series of articles, which taught me how to use the language. Even though I was not very good at it, it laid the foundation for all of the wordy subjects (History, Geography) as well as a basis for reports on Science experiments.

      I think that teaching basic computer use for everybody is a good thing, but there should be a differentiation between this, and teaching Computing as an engineering or technology discipline. This way you would be able to separate the mundane 'using a word processor, web browser and multimedia apps' from the interesting 'what is a CPU, how do programmes run and how do you write them and what is involved in networking'. If you did this, then I believe that the kids with a genuine interest could separate the boring and interesting stuff, hopefully keeping them engaged.

      My youngest kids hate(d) the way that ICT is/was taught, but do actually have a genuine interest in how their computers connect together, and what the basic components are. indeed, when I built a system from scratch last Christmas, I had a willing audience for almost all of the work I did. Virtually nothing involved with putting the system together and installing the OS was familiar to them even though they both have studied or are studying ICT at GCSE level. And they are fascinated when I can write a quick program to do something specific, when they cannot see how a spreadsheet, almost the only data tool taught to them, could be applied to a problem.

      I must agree that you should have properly trained teachers, at least for GCSE level and up, because having ICT as a second subject will never give the teacher enough background to do more that follow the pre-prepared courses from the syllabus.

      I admit to being a little partisan about this, because 25 years ago I taught up to degree level at a UK Polytechnic for a while, and I could see the way that business computing was going at the time.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Yes at all of the above!

    They've always been boring, but my teacher couldnt see more than 5 inches away bless him. So we got up to whatever you could get away with ie drawing boobies via coding a basic vector graphic etc on something that was not either an Apple or an acorn for that matter. We had "Virus" installed on the acorn or paint. This was 1991 however! If only we thought about crafting and copyrighting smileys and such like at that time, we'd be rich?

    MS isnt just ICT, maybe they could include some network hacking/warez cracking, overclocking or photoshopping into the curriculum?

    Make it fun.. "Today children we will be hacking into NASA via some 'tools' that I am going to demonstrate on the big screen and explain how they work step by step... blah blah blah"


  37. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Because of the rubbish they teach

    I work in schools, I'm a school IT manager and I've been in a different school every year since I left uni, on average. Common amongst them all is that none of them know how to teach IT. This stretches from primary (4-5 +) up to college-age (18) - SAT's, GCSE's, A-levels.

    IT apparently includes:

    -Formatting text in Word.

    - Playing with LEGO MIndstorms and 2-3 line programs using them.

    - Programming in LOGO (nothing wrong with that, but we're talking about Prep School 10-year-olds, maybe a handful of hours a year in ONE year, or state-school 15-year olds doing the same).

    - Going on Google Images and copy/pasting anything you like the look of into your document/slideshow.

    - Knocking up a two-paragraph web-page in HTML (and using possibly the ugliest, improperly tagged, out-of-date, standards-incompliant HTML you've ever seen in your life).

    - never ever once touching a REAL programming language (even BASIC would qualify - most use some proprietary "graphical" languages that's just a flow-chart in a GUI).

    - never ever once being able to correctly label parts of a machine (base unit = hard drive is scarily common amongst educational posters, teachers, etc.)

    - never ever once learning how a damn computer works ("It's all done with 1's and 0's... okay, next subject... batch processing...")

    - teaches outdated junk like bank's "batch processing" overnight - give three reasons why. DULL, DULL, DULL, and the kids are led to believe that it's "advanced".

    Modern curricula are basically what-the-secretary-thought-her-daughter-must-know. It's a list of things like "describe the function of anti-virus software", "describe which program would be more suited to writing a book".

    By A-level, kids SHOULD be doing TCP/IP or some variant, binary arithmetic, coding in C/Java at least, building Arduino's and other embedded projects. I know I was when I was their age and that was with no formal education, and my degree is actually in Mathematics first. Instead, at age 18 they're still doing things like explaining dragging-dropping and telling people what WIMP stands for.

    Educational IT courses are a complete, utter, 100% waste of time. I've yet to see a single IT teacher who I would confidently trust to update Flash on their laptop without breaking something. I've not met ANYONE teaching it that I would trust to open their computer and insert a PCI card, or to write a 2-line shell script. Hell, anything command-line scares the bejeezus out of the teachers I know.

    Point, click, copy what I did, next subject. We're going to breed a generation of people dependent on machines who have NO idea how they work.

  38. Graham Bartlett

    Boring subject

    Great, so I've learnt where to find the mail merge in Word. Wonderful. Excuse me if I don't find that exciting.

    I've just been and had a look on the BBC's "GCSE Bitesize" ICT revision notes. Oh. My. God. They're still teaching Logo. (Hey guys, the 1980s called - they wondered if you'd like a brick-size mobile phone and some legwarmers, to go with your line numbers.) And they're still teaching flowcharts, the second-worst design method ever. (The worst design method of course is Jackson Structured Programming, a scheme so ill-conceived and monumentally outdated that Jackson himself disowned it.)

    Apart from that, the GCSE syllabus ain't bad. It's just dry as dust. You learn a little bit about how things work, which is great. But do you actually do anything? Seems unlikely.

    1. Sandtreader

      Logo? [No line numbers here]

      I used to teach Logo in the 1980's; actually as an introductory language for KS2 it's not bad at all - and it doesn't have line numbers! I'm still not sure what else would be better as a first language which gets you relatively exciting stuff quickly. Maybe PHP?

  39. Pop

    Not British

    If all you're talking about is O and A levels then you're talking about England and Wales.

    Any statistics for Scotland ?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      'O' levels.

      If you're talking about 'O' levels, then you are talking 20+ years ago, as schools have been teaching GCSE's since then.

  40. Jamie Davis

    Mystery Solved

    I recently received a speculative email from a job pimp offering a vocational ICT trainer position at the dizzy salary of £15k - seriously. Would anyone who knew their arse from their elbow take a job at £15k!? This job wanted a couple of year's experience as well.

    You just know that whoever they get is not going to have a clue how systems work. They're going to be people who read out verbatim from the curriculum. No better than someone in a call centre reading from a script. They'll also fall down equally as hard when the path deviates from the script.

    You wouldn't pay a medical lecturer £15k because they could get vastly more in the "real word". The same holds true for competent IT workers. They'll get their living from the same place. Until pay in subjects reflects the salary that the teachers could get in the private sector putting their experise to use, this won't change. Ever. It sounds simplistic but it really is first and foremost an issue with money.

    I am a money gubbing, job hopping developer. Wage inflation in my industry is still high and a chronic skills drought is in progress. This lack of respect from the public sector really gets up my nose. Hence the icon.


  41. _LJ_

    Nobody wants to teach it, except those who shouldn't be allowed to.

    At my daughter's school - a Technology College, no less - they've come up with what they term a "novel and effective" solution to the lack of teachers capable of teaching the subject: online courses. They just stick 20 kids in a room with a bunch of computers, the teacher (usually a music or French teacher) writes a URL on the board and then they get on with it. I was actually considering going in to teaching (maths and IT) a couple of years ago, and the route I was planning on required that I spend at least 2 days in a school, so I sat in on a few lessons of each. I was horrified at how out-of-date and inadequate (and sometimes plain *wrong*) the courses were. Most of the material came from a basic maintenance course that I'd come across back in 1998, and it was just as wrong then as it is now. I spoke to the head about it, and his response was "It doesn't really matter, as long as we're teaching them something about IT."

    A short while later (during one of the few lessons where the kids were actually being taught), I caught them advising kids to use a commercial logo generator site (which requires that you pay to download the images), take a screenshot and edit out the watermark. This was in the same lesson where they were telling them to fake their date of birth to get a hosting account. None of the staff could see a problem with these things until I threatened to take it to the school governors and the press.

  42. GaileF0rce

    My 2 cents worth

    Mr Brush is spot on. The way Computer Studies is taught in schools is just boring. Aside from the poor use of technology, Kids as consumers get to play with cool gadgets whereas in school, computer studies generally starts with trying to explain 1. What is an input?, 2. What is an output? etc, and for homework, read chapter 4 from in this text book from the 80’s. Good stuff to know I admit, but hardly exciting and something to get them hooked on.

    However, just because all these kids are using gadgets as consumers and love playing computer games and social networking etc., I don’t think it’s as easy leap to say that it is simply the curriculum that is turning them off. I don’t think we are missing out on thousands of budding IT engineers simply because of education. Many of them may just not be interested in how a computer works, and what’s wrong with that? Most people working in business today use computers in a consumer fashion for their day job without any real understanding of how it works. Isn’t that what the IT staff are for.

    Professor Matthew Harrisons comment “Young people have huge appetites for the computing devices they use outside of school” is correct but most young people are too lazy and ignorant to actually want to learn how they work. How many actually read the manuals. I’ll tell you – Those that have an interest in IT read the manual because they want to learn.

    My personal favourite at the moment is that every proud parent you speak to will tell you how their little Bobby is just “so interested in computers”, whereas in reality, Little Bobby has no interest in computers, plays computer games all day and just wants the latest gadgets to show off to his friends.

    Now people will argue “Oh, but computers are part of everyday life and if you don’t know how they work, you won’t succeed”. They’ve been saying that for a while now I think! Well, how many people drive cars? They’re pretty central to our way of life but how many are actually interested in how a car works and want to be a mechanic? That’s what Mechanics are for. Electricity, again pretty important, but who actually understands it.

    There is undoubtedly an argument here in that the way IT is taught in schools is out of touch and the same is probably true about most subjects but I don’t think it’s fair to say that “we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow’s job market" because of it. The sky is not falling in yet.

  43. Jon Scobie

    Schools don't teach IT anymore

    I went around many schools as part of my eldest son moving up from primary. I have been a professional programmer for 20 plus years and started way back in the days of the ZX81. I did O & A level computer science and it was great stuff. Learning about internals, doing assembler, Pascal etc. etc. but what I saw in ICT classes for kids these days shocked me. How can you call learning MS Office and publisher ICT? My son has now finished his first year and hates ICT. This from a kid who loves his technology.

    My advice? Get back to teaching computers from the ground up, make little embedded devices, do some assembler etc. They will quickly get hooked. I see kids coming in to work these days who know nothing but Java and are powerpoint wizards. They have no ability to fix problems because they have no base knowledge. I would happily go into teaching if I thought I could put some of this rubbish right.

  44. Chris Hunt
    Thumb Down

    Lack of Focus

    I took a look at the GCSE syllabus for one course at

    If it's representative of all such qualifications it shows a lack of focus on what the qualification is intended to achieve. It looks like a fairly random collection of "things that have something to do with computers", some of them pretty irrelevant in the 21st century.

    If the intention is to teach general IT skills that will be of use to anybody working in an office, and a lot of people working in a whole lot of other places, build a course that teaches that. That would be a really valuable course to a lot of people, arguably it should be in the core curriculum that every pupil learns.

    If the intention is to teach kids to become programmers and to develop other skills that would be useful in an IT career, that needs to be taught as a completely separate subject. Such a course would (and should) have less mass appeal, but would be a lot more relevant than learning how to use Word.

  45. Mountford D

    Not just ICT, technical and engineering skills too

    Isn't all to do with cultivating an inquisitive mind and bugger-all to do specifically with ICT? When I was younger, there was this excellent program called "Tomorrow's World" and others that actually asked questions and demonstrated how things worked. It then degenerated into a superflous "Gadget Show" type program and I lost interest.

    I am sure the later Tomorrow's World and current "techie" programmes appeal to the masses wanting shiny new toys and boost viewing ratings (and profits for retailers but sadly not UK manufacturers). So why are we surprised that the current generation show no interest in anything technical, engineering included, when the current trend is to popularise "science" by demonstrating glamourous gadgets from an application point of view?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      gold old fashioned curiosity

      That's what kids need. I was a relentlessly curious child. I was never happy with the idea that the "stuff" that happened inside our electricals and mechanicals was totally irrelevant to me. I always thought that if I new what something was going to do when I pushed the button, that I would become better at using it. Or that I would instinctively know how to use it (and how not to use it). And I still think that's true to an extent.

      In fact I actually "invented" a couple of things when I was about 10. At one point I thought to myself, what if I stick two CDs back to back and make a double sided CD? I did it and it didn't work - the combined package was too thick for my CD player. But what did I see years later? Double sided DVDs.

      Even better, I had the idea that silicon could be layered to make more powerful chips, one slice of silicon above another, with contacts between them in necessary places. What does IBM do years later? The same thing. Of course what I didn't anticipate is the massive problem of cooling such a chip, and IBM used channels of water in the silicon I believe.

      How would I ever have thought of that if I didn't know that processors use a single layer of silicon and that the transistor count is roughly corollary to processing power? How would I have thought up the double sided CD innovation if I wasn't aware of how a laser scans the disk? Obviously I couldn't have. That's why kids need to know how things work. At the very least, they should know what magnetic media is and why they can't put it too close to magnets.

      I also notice that people are scared, terrified, of electricity. You tell anyone you're going to do any sort of wiring and they recoil in horror. Maybe if they knew how it worked they wouldn't be so paranoid. Yes it can kill you, in much the same way that crossing the road will kill you if you don't know what to look out for. Or taking drugs will kill you if you don't know the right dose.

      It really does pay to know something about the world around you.

  46. ukaudiophile

    Actually teach IT

    I have seen what pupils are now being taught in GCSE ICT lessons, and I know what I was taught 25 years ago at 'O' level standard, and frankly what they're teching now is more basic office skills than actual IT.

    There is no information given about the hardware, how it works, it's history etc. There are simply no fundamentals. Furthermore there is no programming involved, and surely any course covering IT must include the skills required to analyze the problem, devise a solution then implement it? When I was 13 I spent every spare hour in front of my VIC 20 / CBM 64 both playing games and writing programs, I can't believe that same interest and inquisitiveness is not there today.

    We also need to make these courses commercially relevant and respected, which means at 16 the skills they're taught need to mean enough to at least get them a foot in the door, and companies need to know that someone with this qualification is actually useful and worth employing. The current course is considered a joke and as useful as domestic science in a commercial IT environment. Teach these kids about networks, firewalls, backup procedures, virtualization etc. and they may actually be of some use when they leave school.

    Finally, let's show these pupils the fundamental motive behind working in IT, it pays very well compared with most jobs today. You maybe called a geek, but you're a geek with a nice car, a decent home and hopefully a very good income. Appeal to their greed and desire to want to buy stuff, and you'll be surprised just how enthusiastic and interested they become. Emphasise that a higher income could lead to a better looking girlfriend, and you'll have to run extra classes ;)

    1. PirateSlayer


      "'re a geek with a nice car, a decent home and hopefully a very good income...Emphasise that a higher income could lead to a better looking girlfriend..."

      Sadly this is exactly what they do at schools, and it fills people with senses of entitlement beyond their abilities. Also, a job in IT doesn't necessarily mean you will be well paid. Lying to people isn't going to create a pool of good candidates. Teachers tell far too many lies to coerce people who don't want to learn into trying to learn (to keep them quiet). Remember the one about how awful it would be to end up 'working in a factory'? Classic.

    2. Paul 172
      Thumb Up


      > Emphasise that a higher income could lead to a better looking girlfriend, and you'll have to run

      > extra classes ;)


  47. envmod


    all I ever did in my A Level IT class was piss about on an Archimedes A3000 and not take blind bit of notice of what my incompetent "teacher" was saying. i mainly played games or ran fractal generators, which i used to think were brilliant. whatever happened to fractal landscape generators anyway?

    i digress...the teacher was useless and had a ginger beard, the subject mater we were supposed to be learning was mind numbingly boring and stuff we all knew anyway, and half the class never turned up in the first place.

    i think it's pointless to try and teach kids IT until university level really. just stick to physics and maths etc at secondary school.

  48. live2give
    Gates Horns


    Si 1 hit the nail on the head kids dont care about ICT they want to play games and go on facebook.

    I am an ICT teacher and everybody does the same from 11-16 EXCEL, ACCESS WORD, PUBLISHER.

    F**k that, me i teach em some graphic editing (PAINT.NET), MOVIE MAKER and SCRATCH. no wonder kids hate IT, I hate WORD,EXCEL, ACCESS, PUBLISHER. MS is shoved down their neck since primary school because it is what BUSINESS needs DRONES who can work the MS OFFICE SUITE.

    As well with these new fangled pathways(year 9 options) they bring in, ICT isnt in the Pathway for the high ability kids, its lumped in with the low ability kids. It's a struggle trying to get the kids to undelrine and put their names on documents, XBOX/FACEBOOK has ruined a generation that see ICT as nothing more than entertainment. Bill for bovious reasons

    1. PirateSlayer
      Gates Halo


      If you're an ICT teacher...and you don't like the curriculum, I am guessing that will rub off on your students (especially if you are this negative about MS to them). I'd rather be an office drone than an unemployed person with four 'mash ups' on youTube. Like it or not ICT for me is a synonym for databases, documents, emails and spreadsheets. It has nothing to do with recording another crap flight simulator film and annoying me by posting it when I expected to see the real thing! [/rant].

      By this method, I am guessing that science lessons would be all about making explosives and dropping cars from cranes instead of boring stuff about control groups, evidence and hypothesis.

      I don't know why you are blaming XBox specifically, I blame the Nintendo DS.

  49. Mr Shouty

    My own experiences

    As a professional geek, it was inevitable when I was a kid that I'd end up working in IT.

    Before the age of 10, I was coding in Pascal and had started to look at other OO languages. However I was lucky enough to have parents that while they were quite computer illiterate, saw that my interest in computing was more than a passing fad and tried very hard to keep up with modern technology. It was an expensive business as despite the fact my local schools did have some computing environments in the late 80's/early 90's, it was all BBC model B's and Masters, which while being great educational tools initially, were already long in the tooth and marching headlong into obscurity while Atari/Commodore and eventually IBM-compatible PCs were taking over the homes and offices across the country.

    However there were several problems. IT had not really been accepted as a mainstream academic topic, and the only options I had was to attend the limited number of after-school activities or chat with friends who were in a similar position. There were many trips to the local library for books on varying subjects including the history of computing, programming etc. But there was virtually no support from the local educational facilities - it was all word processing, spreadsheets and other subjects that were not really of much interest to the stereotypical geek that I was, I had already been there, done that and was thoroughly bored.

    The first real foray into IT was at 16, and a 2 year college course which gave a limited overview of the arenas available and introduced us to higher-level programming, networking and some project management skills. That had its limits, but at least did not have the blinkered view that the previous schools had, and they had a pretty impressive IT suite which catered for around 200 IT students - which was not bad in the mid-90's for 16-18 year olds.

    However, I was able to drag myself along primarily due to my own personal interests in the subject, interests that have continued on as I get older. I ditched coding in favour of being more hands-on with the nuts and bolts of computing. I've been a sysadmin for a number of years, IT manager for a few as well and now am a contractor in the industry earning a decent buck with my Linux and open source skills, and am constantly progressing and training up in areas such as virtualisation, and large-scale web systems.

    So while school may have failed me in some respects of my own educational requirements, my own fascination with the industry and perseverance to learning off my own back have paid off and hopefully will continue to.

    On a side note, I'm sure those kids who picked on us 'nerds' are thoroughly enjoying their jobs flipping burgers now.

  50. karl 15

    Old Hat

    I'd just left school when i got my first computer (a VIC 20)

    I loved the vic because i could write code to make things move on the screen lol.

    To me computers were magical things, things of the future.

    But to the kids now, well they just think of them as we would think of lights, TV's, Radios, noting special.

    I don't thing I'd have been that interested in a class on how to use a Radio

    So I'd say the Wow factor that i had, has gone, thats the problem.

  51. peter 5 Silver badge

    My tuppence

    Irrespective of the kit and courses, would you rather be playing with new technology, designing web sites, and coding applications or teaching kids to do the same (and then spending your evenings marking it)?

    That said, if the local school offered a few hours a week I might be prepared to put some time in.

  52. Weeble

    CTI not ICT

    By the sounds of things, they should be calling it CTI (Corporate Tools Indoctrination).

    Schools are supposed to churn out future employees who already know how to use the tools required by their future employers. It's not about understanding what's inside the box. Besides, taking the lid off to see what's inside is probably a violation of HSE guidelines.

    Though, saying that, I know of one school that said "here's a pile of bits, see if you can put them together" - it generated some genuine enthusiasm.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I, for one, have an abiding interest in women's bosoms.

    That doesn't mean that I want, for one instant, to know exactly how they work. Far from it. I'm quite happy in my ignorance.

    But then I have yet to encounter a situation when a pair of bosoms has been broken and I am required to fix them (although that has given me some interesting ideas) ...

  54. The BigYin

    Word processing... to computing as cooking is to chemistry. They are both vital skills, but it is important not to confuse the two.

    "Hard" subjects (mathematics, all sciences etc) have been in decline in Britain for years, while or competitor nations (India et al) invest heavily in such subjects. We are already paying for that failure with lower investment and a lack of innovation.

    I did the GCSE back when a Master 128 was a shit-hot beast. We never did mail-merge or anything (I have no idea how to do it today, but I have a fair idea of how computers work and how to read the chuffin' manual!), we had to write our own applications in BBC BASIC (I did a very small amount of assembler). Then again, we weren't allowed calculators in maths classes either.

    And we were told back than that the GCSEs were too easy!

  55. Francis Fish

    You forgot ECDL

    Recently I were helping someone get the tests working (Java client running up MS Access, FFS). I went through some of the questions - ambiguous and some of the answers were (IMHO) wrong.

    Daughter doesn't want to do ICT, even though she's very good at maths.

    Son is doing it, but he got punished (as in work handed back with no mark) for handing in a document written using OO because the teacher was too idle to download the MS Word filter and load it.

    Plus they create a "website" with buttons and drop downs, using a tool - so no understanding of HTML needed - may as well just write a (Word) document.

    1. Daniel Evans

      Handing in documents in OO?

      Whilst I'm all for OO (and was incredibly happy when my former school actually installed it), to be fair, I'd blame your son for handing in OO documents. It's a rather simple (and polite) task to check if the person receiving the document can open OO ones.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Handing in documents in OO?

        "It's a rather simple (and polite) task to check if the person receiving the document can open OO ones."

        The thing is, every recipient on every platform can do just that, at zero cost.

        Whereas sending someone MS Office implies that they must incur the large and recurring expense of MS Office and the large and recurring expense of MS Windows. DO you think that is polite?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Handing in documents in OO?

      Your son didn't fail because the teacher was too lazy to download the filters, he failed because he was incapable of following the instructions provided. It will have explicitly stated what formats were acceptable.

      While you my not agree with those formats, there will have been a number of alternatives if you are non-microsoft, such as rtf. And as OO can save as doc files, he really had no excuse.

  56. Laurence Blunt

    I'm guessing I am a tad older... my school didn't get a BBC-B until the year after I left.

    The only reason I got into computers was my 1st job after leaving school in 1982 as a trainee computer operator. Before that I had never even seen a computer bigger than a TI Scientific calculator.

    Although I don't quite believe these statistics; it is now possible to get the "equivalent of" 4 (maybe more) GCSEs in ICT. They are used by many schools to inflate the rankings as even those students who can hardly read and count on their fingers can pass some of them. With lots of help with course work and no requirement to understand the I the C or the T.

    I have said for years that the ICT in schools should be renamed: "Basic Secretarial" studies - or just BS for short.

    The problem is just about every politician and those in education, don't understand the first thing about computers, “so it must be hard and must be worthwhile teaching!”. But what would you expect from a bunch of “can't do so teach” types that cannot even spell IT.

    Posted AC, as I'm related to a teacher and don't want to risk causing them trouble.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm guessing I am a tad older...

      "The only reason I got into computers was my 1st job after leaving school in 1982 as a trainee computer operator. Before that I had never even seen a computer bigger than a TI Scientific calculator."

      Before that I had never even seen a computer smaller than a house.

    2. Anomalous Cowturd

      @ Laurence Blunt

      >>> Posted AC, as I'm related to a teacher and don't want to risk causing them trouble.

      Hope you're not married to one, or you're spending tonight in the spare room. LAURENCE! Lol.

      Tee Hee!

  57. Geoff Campbell
    Thumb Up

    Ah, can you smell that?

    That, my friends, is the smell of job security. Which is good, because any pension arrangements you might have thought you had will be worth shit all in twenty years unless you have been very clever indeed.


  58. Wommit

    Teach them something useful

    Every time I talk with an IT / ICT teacher I _always_ say teach the kids to touch type. This is a skill which is quite easy to teach and will be useful through out their lives.

    Schools shouldn't bother with teaching word processing or spreadsheets. What ever the school is teaching will be out of date by the time that the kids get into the work place (well those that decide to work that is.) But even dole scum can use touch typing to speed the filling of on line benefit forms.

    In the UK the qwerty keyboard is the main interface with the computer, and no one is trying to teach the kids how to use it.


    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Thumb Up

      My daughter can type way faster than me...

      She's fourteen, and on the last on-line test I saw her do, she managed 75 WPM / 100% accuracy. That's as fast than my Mum can do, and she was a "proper" typist / secretary / PA for forty odd years.

      Most of my daughter's mates still use txt tlk on MSN or Facebook chat, but she rattles out proper sentences, with punctuation. It makes me proud, it really does.

      It will take a bit more practise before she can beat the 160+ WPM Mum could take short-hand at though! That's just unnatural!

      As an aside, daughter's school, (Maths and Computing College), have just bought a classroom full of Macbooks, and then put Boot Camp / XP on them. WTF!!! How much did that little exercise cost? And who sanctioned it? Why?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm like

    just cos you gotta shit don't mean you want to work in sewage disposal. i fail to see why anyone thinks there should necessarily be any connection between using technology and understanding how it works.

    Also education is not pre-employment training - it doesn''t have to be applicable to work, it educates

    1. skeptical i

      True, but from a won't- get- suckered POV,

      it would behoove most yoofs to know enough about how their important gadgets (computers, cars) work and what the major/ important bits are so that, at minimum, they will have a vague idea whether the repair people are selling them a load of shite. I make no great claim to automotive mechanical greatness, but I took a basic engine mechanics and body work class in high school so I could have an idea of how my car worked and a vague idea of what might be causing problems so I could wipe some of the "gullible" stamp off my forehead before approaching a mechanic.

      However, it sounds from this discussion like most ICT (sounds like "ick", dunnit?) classes are not even teaching that modest amount.

  60. Admiral Grace Hopper


    With a few, very few, honourable exceptions, everyone in this industry that I have met with formal qualifiications in IT or, if they're old enough, CompSci, has been a waste of air, space, pay and rations. Thinking that they were tapping into the Industry Of The Age they struggled their way through the course and emerged, degree in hand, to be shocked by what they didn't know.

    Apart from the few, very few, honourable exceptions, everyone in this industry that I have met who had brought something to the table has got there despite the lack of formal qualifications, simply through an all-consuming interest in what they were doing and the drive to know more and do more with it. You can't make a programmer, a truly great admin or a brilliant designer; the best that you can do is find them then let them loose. I can't speak for project managers or architects as they are actually engaged in IT, per se, but for those at the sharp end don't look for a piece of paper.

    So, if the ICT teachers are weeding out more and more potential space-wasters then more power to their collective elbow. Keep up the good work. Keep them away from me, I've wasted enough time now and I've got work that needs to be done,

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Well said that woman!

      I was that unqualified, died in the wool, build your own computer with a command line, geek, given a chance by a small start up company. After five years there, and growing from 15 to 150 employees, they were taking on MCSE / CCNE/A types who couldn't tell a modem from a Paknet Pad. (Look them up !) Fucking morons every last one of them. Needless to say, I left.

      They sent me on a couple of "MS approved" courses. What a joke! Two grand to tell me stuff that I either already knew, or could easily have worked out in five minutes with the judicious use of the F1 key. But at least I got a couple of nice A4 Microsoft Approved Training Certificates out of it... Only £1,000 a page!

      Right. That's three replies on one thread. Time to chill out a bit... A beer will do nicely, thanks. And have one yourself Grace!

  61. PirateSlayer
    Gates Halo


    Nobody does "A-Level" Computing because it's not a proper subject. A friend of mine was laughed out of a University interview for Computer Science when he revealed that he had done Computing (after not realising that Computer Science requires maths, further maths and a science). Schools should clearly explain what A-Levels are suitable for studying Computer Science at University instead of pushing "Computing" which teaches you too little about actual Computer Science.

    As for the "them kids under 20 know how to use them computers" conversation, I meet plenty of under twenties who don't know how to use a PC or write a report using a word processor. Those skills should be part of learning other subjects (such as English), rather than having their own elective unit.

  62. dave 46
    Thumb Up

    a title

    It was over 15 years ago but my GCSE computing had basic programming and a lot of book learning (half the classes did not involve a computer).

    There was a class next door who were basically secretaries though - perhaps some school don't offer the real computing GCSE any more, I'm sure it's out there.

    As to learning skills relevant for jobs after school, I don't really think education is the best place to learn that, they should instill an ability to learn while giving you some certificate with a grade on it that gives employers some idea of your ability.

    Anyone who thinks a computer science degree means you can walk into a job and ber useful has never interviewed for a graduate post, it just gives the employer and idea that you will be able to learn the skills you need once you start. I don't see that secondary school is any different.

  63. Anonymous Coward

    A favourite saying by Shaw comes to mind...*

    Applies aptly here...

    But seriously...

    No wonder it's a bloody mess... If you were good at "IT", would you choose to work for pittance? esp. doing affectively what is day care?


    The government really needs to look at long and hard at education spending, and esp. teacher pay. But for those that brave the piss poor pay, and the crappy working conditions (let's face it, most schools are fairly dilapidated, resources are barely adequate and frankly the kids can't be disciplined and so likely to get away with whatever crap they want to), the paper work and bureaucracy is enough to drive anyone nuts (lesson plans and all that BS!) Folks just end up doing the bare minimum to meet the needs of the curriculum and that's it - heck they aren't paid to do more! With better pay, the education system is likely to attract better candidates, most likely the kids will end up with a better level of teaching etc.

    But no, we're following the US model... We'll have a nation full of folks educated to level competent enough for shelf stacking.. just in time for there being a Tesco on every fucking road!

    The other option, for those that can afford, is to go private - and frankly, as it stands, the only way to get a decent education in the UK! So much for bridging the class divide...


    * for those who haven't read widely: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches...", I personally prefer...


    "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Like most sayings, this is only half true. Those who can, teach; those who can't -- the bitter, the misguided, the failures from other fields -- find in the school system an excuse or a refuge.


    --Bel Kaufman

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't teach IT

    They teach office administration skills, which today (if you want a career that involves office work), is almost as important as being able to write.

    They need to have a grasp of how to use word processors and everyday office systems, but they should call it something else such as "Workplace Office Skills" and it should be mandatory like english or maths. And yes, it does sound boring, because it is.

    I remember at school doing all the word processing and document formating and all the time I was thinking we would be doing the cool stuff later. We didn't.

  65. Basic


    When I did an ICT A-Level, the exam paper included the following question:

    Explain how computers have helped in any 2 of the following areas: Home life, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, <some others>

    Frankly, the ICT course had sweet F-A to do with using a computer - It was all the boring stuff associated with it (and no, the DPA 1998 ISN'T interesting enough to study for 2 weeks when you're 17)

  66. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Teaching IT in secondary schools

    I like the notion of building a database-driven website as a good basis for IT in schools as it covers a fair number of the areas in IT. It may also prove a moderately useful skill or hobby to the students in years to come.

    With this website, one could introduce the following topics in a practical way:

    • systems architecture and planning

    • the internet and how it works

    • security

    • servers and clients

    • webservers and browsers

    • ISPs and bandwidth

    • HTML, CSS and client-side and server-side scripting

    • designing websites and usability,

    • databases and simple querying.

    It might a year or two to build the thing but there is enough material there for exams as well as a good practical foundation for the working world. It's not proper Computer Science but it may give them a taste of/for it. Of course, the state exams would have to change...

    Just my 2c

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      your 40c more like

      Its a good list, but quite a way off what you could realistically teach 16 year-olds, you could spend a year on each subject to cover it in detail.

      Again i must make the point that these minds are immature, the aim of the subject and the exam is to detect and measure an aptitude, to light a flame, not to fill a vessel.

  67. Magnus_Pym

    Computers have changed...

    ... since I was a kid.

    In the 1900 if you knew about cars you new everything: Design considerations; how to build them; how to make them; how to fix them; how to drive them. Since the twenties these were all different subjects. You would not employ a chauffeur to design a car and neither would you the visa versa. There are driving schools, mechanic courses and Automobile Design Degrees.

    Schools teach 'computers' as if it is still all one subject. There should be at least:

    1.Office IT skills (for Word,Excel etc.)

    2. Software and IT (for the script kiddies)

    2.Computers and IT (hardcore hardware)

  68. Cantab

    I think we've all agreed that...

    - the curricula are a joke, I dropped ICT before GCSE yet I still remember being sat using a PC for a different subject in the back of an ICT class and stil being able to answer more of the questions than the entire ICT class put together because it's seen as a soft subject. It actually needs to involve really computer science rather than ICT. More programming and networks less MS Office for dummies. But the way to decide what to teach isn't to ask Microsoft and Google; yeah they know a lot about computers and IT but what this needs is someone in touch with the level this should be pitched. Go and talk to the Computer sciences undergrads at uni's I'm sure they'll tell you the useful stuff they could have been taught earlier - after all they're the ones who have recently experienced our ICT 'teaching' and have persisted with computer sciences nonetheless.

    - the teaching's poor. Why? Because no-one who teaches ICT that I ever encountered has any computer sciences background to speak of. Its always a maths, business or technology teacher retasked to the job, or worse a glorified PA! No self respecting computer scientist seems to want to teach and tbh I don't blame them but until that happens, or at least the teachers are those able to teach a more relevant and in depth curriculum we're never gonna solve this problem.

    Having said all that IT has always relied on recruiting from the geeks who tinker in their bedrooms not necessarily from the folks with "all" the qualifications (think Bill Gates dropping out of Uni to start MS

  69. Sam Liddicott

    The answer is...

    To have IT taught by people who live IT and taught to people who want to learn.

    It's boring as hell went taught to people who don't want to know by people who don't care so much about IT.


  70. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    Is ICT meant to produce car mechanics or drivers?

    It seems people are lamenting that ICT (WTF is that?) makes drivers. People who can use the technology but have little or *zero* understanding (or interest) in how it works. I quite like Orwell's term "Prolefeed."

    Like the kiddies on a US school driving course (and remember in Merkinland roundabouts are unknown and the manual transmission is a strange and fearsome beast. Here be monsters!)

    However *unlike* learning how to flow text around a table in Word Something-Point-Whatever driving a car is a skill which will *last*, because the interface does *not* change every 5minutes, or whatever MS's sales target happen to be.

    Stop f*^king lying to children. If it's practical office skills fair enough.

    If it's actual *development* skills then most of the kids won't make it and should be shuffled off to something else. Society *needs* both and they are *different*. And as others have pointed out the "C" in ICT does not seem to get a look in.

    BTW The reason I can write long posts quickly is I *touch* type. A touch typing course came into my possession when I left school and it's proved a *very* worthwhile investment.

    AFAIK *none* of the original Unix developers could, hence cc, dd, ed etc.

    Anyone remember those "In 10 years *all* offices will be paperless" pronouncements?

    Real time connected speech language recognition?

    Still waiting.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      I was going to stop posting on this thread, but.....

      > Real time connected speech language recognition?

      > Still waiting.

      Sorry to correct you, but IBM ViaVoice did that pretty damned well nearly ten years ago, if you took the time to train it. It's one of the few programs I miss since I started supping at the nipple of the penguin... It was available for OS/2 as well IIRC!

      Yes Officer, that's her. The horny looking one! Mmmmmmm, Bitty!

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Anomalous Cowturd

        "if you took the time to train it. "

        My comment lacked precision. I meant a proper, anybody speaks at it and it turns it into text in real time voice recognition system. But I will look up ViaVoice for reference

        BTW OS/2 is still sort of available. It's called something like "eStation" and has a following among US local governments and some other businesses. They seem to like it's robust bug free nature.

  71. Martyn 4

    not surprising really

    given that the GCSE course focuses on how to do transitions in powerpoint, and move the text about in word, its hardly surprising that people lose interest.

    its also a key reason as to why school it technicians find so much crap in those broken down pcs. seeing how many crisp packets you can put in there through its front vent before it breaks is about as exciting as some lessons get. unless someone has found a new proxy that is

  72. Bluenose

    To summarise.....

    I think everyone here agrees that

    a)ICT in schools is actually focussed on teaching people to use Microsoft 'cos that's what they will need to use when they go to work (should they find a job) or write their university thesis.

    b) just because you enjoy using something does not mean you need to know how it works or how to programme it (I have no idea how you build a car other then it involves robots and screws)

    c)The old adage, "those who can do those who can't teach", appears to apply in repect of schools ICT provision. Those with the skills can earn more doing something other than trying to teach a gand of kids who don't want to know.

  73. Jolyon Ralph

    As the old saying goes

    Those who can't, teach.

    and those who can't teach, teach IT

  74. Dazed and Confused

    Make it fun

    If you want children to learn you need enthusiastic teachers and a curriculum. It also helps if the teachers know what they are doing.

    When I did a college course years ago I used to sit at the back of the class and get on with my own stuff except when the teacher was stuck, then I'd show the teacher what they needed to do next, and then get back to work.

    I've liked most of my kids primary school teachers, but it would be naive in the extreme to expect them to be able to teach programming. I'm sure a good number of the kids would manage to learn it if you gave them something fun to do. But lets face it they don't even teach trig in primary schools these days, how are they going to teach programming?

    There is then the problem of keeping up to date. The subject moves so quickly.

    Lastly there is the issue that most kids aren't going to end up in the IT industry. They probably all need to know about WP and Spreadsheets, like they all need to be able to read and add up. But that isn't computer science.

    I had a discussion with an Indian support engineer recently. His take was that when he went through college IT was the hot prospect for good jobs. Now it isn't, even in Bangalore. He was intending to guide his kids away from it.

  75. Robigus

    I taught it

    In a secondary school.

    I went straight from Industry, mainly databases, C++, C# etc.

    What I learned, was the the whole of the syllabus can be summarised as "How to teach Microsoft Office".

    Other teachers were well-meaning, but mostly clueless. Virtually all types of system/programs were referred to as their MS name (Excel etc.), there was no knowledge of anything else, and to be fair, it just felt pointless learning. You are constrained by the system and the syllabus, and the system says that MS Office is the world.

    There was one part of the GCSE course where the kids had to do programming. MS Office to the rescue! Record a macro and watch it create your code for you. We even had videos on loop showing them how to do tasks. They could watch and imitate the clicks. No thought required.

    We were preparing students for the monotony of dreary desk jobs.

    Summarise the GCSE - open MS Office, press F1 - it's all there.


  76. Sandtreader

    Death by documentation

    For my daughter's ICT GCSE coursework, she had to produce 2 docs, a spreadsheet and database (the latter using features not available in OpenOffice Base, grr), and do some fairly trivial formatting / formulae etc., but 90% of the time was taken up drawing up "designs" (including all the formulae, styling etc.) - which of course in reality ended up being reverse engineered from what she actually produced live - and endless screenshots showing every trivial step.

    The actual "deliverables" could have all been produced in 3 double practical lessons leaving time for some much more interesting depth ("OK, how would we connect up your theatre booking database to the Internet?"), but no, its a small section of the subject treated at the shallowest possible level, padded out with a shedload of make-work. Result: total boredom and another child put off the entire subject.

    There are times in professional software development and IT deployment when you need to think long and hard and document, document, document, but a trivial spreadsheet is not one of them.

  77. JHS

    I'm not surprised this is happening

    IT at GCSE level was a complete waste of time and mind numbingly boring I did mine 5 years ago and It seems that it has not changed. Nothing is done to get young people interested, not once in my secondary school IT lessons were we taught about the IT industry and its potential job paths. It's pretty easy to loose interest in somthing if your making spreadsheets and word documents all lesson...

  78. John Sturdy

    One of the right people for the job!

    Steve Furber was one of the designers of the BBC Micro -- now there's a machine that got a lot of people off to a good start!

    Perhaps he should design an updated version, still simple enough for kids to program from the ground up, but faster and with more pixels, memory etc.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Also of the ARM architecture, and its asynchronous version

      So he knows quite a bit about hardware design.

      I think he's still a lecturer at Manchester. Which *might* be more relevant as he then knows what happens when you have to deal with the results from this curriculum.

  79. Anonymous Coward

    IT teacher speaking here..

    My own education was unusual, and that's probably why it sucked a little less than most people's experiences. I was kicked out of school when I was 12 and spent the time learning to program (I'd already got some experience typing listings from magazines into my old Amstrad cpc464 and sworn at syntax errors). I was making full games in GFA Basic and STOS fairly quickly on my Atari ST. Returning to the school system I was bored shitless.

    I'm now a poacher-turned-gamekeeper. I went abroad to teach, and had a decent amount of freedom with what I could teach, until the school introduced GCSEs for our older students. The practical stuff (MS Office, jeez) was stuff my 4th graders could do.

    My 4th graders (age 9/10) could use MS Office, do some basic floor-turtle programming, basic DTP using advanced (non-microsoft) software, open up a PC, take it apart and put it back together and were comfortable in Adobe Fireworks and Photoshop. My 7th graders were comfortable with web design. My 8th graders had a working knowledge of databases (not just MS Access) and how one could use them in a variety of situations. My 9th and 10th graders could packet-sniff, program in PHP, etc. Then came GCSEs and we all got bored to tears. The practical was too easy and the theory was too dry, outdated and pointless (not to mention every lesson we'd have to run through corrections for the mistakes in our Cambridge-uni-produced books).

    Unfortunately, the problem I suspect is one that exists on many levels:

    1. It's hard to recruit skilled people on teaching salary. I'm unusual, I actually enjoy teaching, and yet my background means I can program many different languages, do web design, take PCs apart, do penetration testing, etc. Not too many of those people want to teach. Most of the time kids can outsmart their IT teachers and that really doesn't inspire confidence.

    2. Kids have very short attention spans now compared to years ago. They want facebook, farmville and porn. They don't want to have to think too hard. They want quick and easy. Too many years focusing on making stuff accessible has, I suspect, created a generation that can't cope without hand-holding. Games didn't have tutorials on how to scroll the screen with your mouse when I was a kid.

    3. Parents don't value education. Not all parents of course, but many British parents just want their kids to fit in, rather than being successful. The parents who say "oi Tyrone ya f*ckin c*nt get ere naaaaah" tend not to want their kids to be too swotty. Computing, like maths and science, is swotty and so not something to be encouraged. We need to change this culture.

    4. The curriculum is shit. I mean seriously shit. When I got hold of a recent GCSE IT past paper I just laughed at it, as my primary kids could handle it. It was designed by idiots.

    5. As alluded to by others, CLAIT is useless. Teach it at primary maybe to make sure the basic skills are there, just as we teach spelling, addition, subtraction, etc at that age, but move on quickly to real computer science.

    I consider teaching to be a lot of fun and a very rewarding career (not financially, but on an emotional level) and if done well it could be a good career choice for many IT professionals. The only problem of course is that IT pros typically lack the people skills that teaching requires, and that's another facet of the problem. It's a subject where expert knowledge and teaching skill very rarely combine, due to the fact that the subject and teaching require two very different personality types.

    IT education in the UK is a mess. I just hope that it can be sorted out at some point before all IT work ends up being outsourced to India not because it's cheap but because the skills just don't exist in the UK.

    I'm sure there was something else I wanted to put here but I think I've gone on long enough!

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Thumb Up

      You, Sir or Madam, are just the sort of person this country's education system needs...

      I feel like I meet quite a few of your ideals. Maybe I should rethink my plans for my late afternoon / twilight years. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with people, and am known as a bit of a Gnu/Linux evangelist amongst people of my acquaintance. Experience matters. Lots.

      Most, probably 99% of people, are just simple users of apps, with little or no understanding, or interest, of/in the underlying technology. And that, perhaps, is how it should be.

      For the remaining few, however, we still need more people like you, with the passion to instil a desire to learn in our kids. At least the ones whose spark can be transformed into a flame.

      Hold the line. Hold the line! <<< Peter Gabriel.

      AC, because that's my initials. But your AC is well understood. They're fuckers aren't they, kids.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great news!

    "Since 2006 there has been a 33 per cent fall in pupils taking ICT GCSEs, and numbers taking A-levels in ICT have fallen by a third in six years. The number of candidates taking A-level Computing has fallen 57 per cent in eight years"

    As a contractor this is great news to me.. skills shortage = rate hike!

  81. Anonymous Coward

    Me again

    Forgot to mention. School is WIndows-centric now. Why? When I was a kid I used BBC Micro and Acorn at school, windows appearing when I was 15-16ish, and at home I had an Amstrad CPC464, Atari ST and then an Amiga. I used all sorts of different apps accross these different computers. I was exposed to many different ways to work. Kids don't get that now.

    I had my kids using emulators to experience some older machines, and on a Virtual Machine we installed a dual-boot system with Windows and Linux, built systems from scratch in Arch Linux, installed apps [yep, amazingly most kids have no idea how to install software cos the school lab's always so locked down. I trusted my kids and had the means to quickly fix any problems so I let them have that control, and took away their fear of messing things up!), etc. Kids need a variety of different experiences so that they can adapt to anything that's thrown at them, and not freak out as soon as something's not Wintel+MS Office.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      See my earlier posts on this thread...

      My daughter is now fully conversant with all three major OS flavours. Windows, from 98SE to 7, Mac OS X, and Gnu/Linux in both Gnome and KDE flavours. Much to my chagrin, she has just gone back to the dark side. XP. She likes 7, but her lappy just struggles with only 1GB RAM. Linux flew in everything, but wouldn't play nice with MSN / Webcam over Kopete / Pidgin / Empathy etc. so she couldn't see her mates.

      I'm gutted.

  82. Terry H

    Jobs are good too

    OK, so I didn't read all 3 pages, as everyone seems to agree schools can't teach, although that news item is at least 20 years old. And M$ has made a bad situation worse, also true. Although when apple gets their foot in the door "worse" goes to "mouth breathing lackey".

    STILL, one point I haven't seen yet is it would just be super cool if there were jobs doing this stuff too. If a kid finds out they'll make less when they graduate than their father did, and they have to move to India to get any job at all, that can be somewhat off-putting.

  83. Citizen Kaned

    my 2p...

    from what ive seen the modern IT courses are things that all people should learn, and those that excel or want to know more should have a much more interesting cyllabus. whats the point in forcing people to learn all kinds of pointless mathematics etc when pc basics are much more useful to the average joe, basic wordprocessing shouldnt be part of an IT course, its basic schooling.

    im like many here:

    im 35 so i grew up in the 80s with the BBC model B, speccy and c64. at junior school we were picked as a technology centre, and since i was the main person who loves all the tech i was given all sorts of things to play with. tilt switches and i/o connected to bbc micros, logic games etc. all good stuff and i was really into it. moved to senior school and first year didnt even get IT lessons! 2nd year i was told that due to my surname beginning with a T i would get to do IT lessons in the 3rd year. wow, way to turn someone with massive potential (i had people coming from companies to see me and talk about new products and was in a few schools tech videos too!) and kill it, dead!

    i then moved schools and that one had one archemides in the whole school. i never even was allowed on it. subsequently my bbc at home turned into a game system as i was bored of typing in games and basic coding.

    of course i then didnt take IT as my degree (i hadnt done any for 5 years of school), opting for architecture. hated that and dropped out, bummed about for a few years then took up GNVQ advanced in IT, wow, how uninspiring. in my career since ive not used any of the knowledge from that. i taught myself coding, design and building pcs outside of college.

    from my experience UK IT courses arent worth the paper they are printed on.

    would i advise my kids to get IT quals? NO. would i recommend they get a degree? no - we have floor layers here who earn more than double my salary. get a trade, you will earn more than most company MDs if you are savvy (my boss now was a floor layer - he earned £3k/week for doing that!)

    kids today need a johnny ball type character to enthuse them!

    @"On a side note, I'm sure those kids who picked on us 'nerds' are thoroughly enjoying their jobs flipping burgers now." - haha, some of the thicky kids from school now earn 3 time what i earn, just from being plumbers and builders. you know some tradesmen earn a grand a day dont you?

    @"Son is doing it, but he got punished (as in work handed back with no mark) for handing in a document written using OO because the teacher was too idle to download the MS Word filter and load it." - no, your son failed because he didnt hand it in in .doc format, like asked.

  84. Samuel Walker

    My Experience

    Years 4-7: Used Textease. This was basically MS Office but all "child friendsly" as if we had never used MS Office at home. The only programming was 'Textease Turtle' which was LOGO created entirely through using a GUI to say forwards, backwards.

    Year 8: Started using MS Office. Some people couldn't cope with the change. Consisted entirely of Word and Excel IIRC

    Year 9-11: Did an 'Applied' GCSE course (The only one offered, which everyone had to do). Simple database, word, excel. created many many templates "memo" "fax header" "meeting minutes" etc. The written part of the exam was covered in the last half term. Consisted of questions such as "You want to connect a computer to a network, what hardware do you need" A: A Network Interface Card.

    Many of my year ended up not coping with this course and never took the exam and hence did not get a GCSE in ICT. Why didn't they cope? I suspect they found it far too boring.

    6th Form: Everyone at 6th form ahd to take the ECDL course which had questions even more insane that the GCSE questions - such as "If the mouse is not moving what is the problem? a) The mouse, b) The monitor c) The harddrive. The Computing A-Level I did was interesting. Programming in Pascal / Delphi for the first year coursework (a set program specification). And then using Access + VBA for the second year coursework (free-choice). Our teacher told us we had to use Access, although that was not required in the qualification specification. Interestingly many dropped out after the first few months of the first year - because they didn't realise that Computing involved programming. The college also offered a ICT course - which was described to us as computing without the programming. All of the department's budget went on a trip abroad to a theme-park abroad for the BTEC group.

    I know for a fact that both the A Level and GCSE spec have changed since I took it, and both teachers agree it is now far worse than when I took it. The A-Level 1st Year coursework is now programmed in a brand new language created for the course, in front of a computer where you have access only to the website where you code it, whilst not being allowed access to any other website.

    I'm now doing Computer Science at a top-10 university and can say that it has one of the highest drop-out rates, again because people don't realise what the course is.

  85. Paul 77

    PIC instead of BBC Micro?

    I think learning a little about low-level programming could help educate a new generation of geeks :-)

    But instead of the Beeb, how about using PIC development kits?

    At a slightly higher level, my favourite project in my HND Computer Studies course was using C under OS-9 on 68000 boxes to make vector graphics on oscilloscopes using digital to analogue boards - really cool!

    I guess its all about getting a computer to do something other than just making something happen on a screen, be that turning LED's off and on, moving a robot arm or controlling a laser :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm the teacher who posted earlier and agree that doing something away from a screen is very cool. When I was very young I was fortunate enough to encounter a teacher who had a circuit board with some lights on it, connected to a BBC Micro. I had hours of fun setting up traffic light sequencing on the board, taking into account pedestrians pressing the button (also on the board), etc. It's the kind of challenge that excites kids, and what we need more of.

    2. saabpilot
      Thumb Down

      cloud-9 not os-9

      How many Technology teacher is schools would even know how to wire up a scope to do vector graphics let alone how to make the anaogue board, in the first place. Given the budget - total lack of for what used to be called ITD information Technology and design. which was the intergartion of 4 separate subjects when i was in skool.

      ie MetalWork+WoodWork+TechnicalDrawing+Electonics into one subject hence 3/4 of the timetable recovered for "better subjects" you then remove the lathes drills etc cos the schhol cant afford the cost of speacial equipment and qualified teachers and insurance.

      Then remove the soldering irons so the poor little darnings dont burn themselves and the parent sue the school - gotta be loadsa more money than the dole.

      So then make the whole thing a very booooorrrrring paper exercise based around a well known project planning tool from billy boy - and hey youve turn a teenager into a " non technical Project Manager" omg have we got toomany of them in this world already.

      But given everything is now made in china, does this matter ? State Skools only produce dole forder and middle managment types anyhow.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Easy-peasy really

    1 - kids ain't daft but teechurz, school admin, exam & course admin, ... probably are

    2 - you can tell the kids that this is the next big thing and look at how great it does that but bluffing is bluffing

    3 - funding from above leading to a top-down initiative usually with wholesome visionary aspiration but delivered by dull minds (zombies?) zombifies the whole event/theme/curriculum

  87. Nick Midgley

    ...I'm looking forward to...

    ..teaching my 8 year-old how computer's really work.

    Yes he does ICT at school, and now has a school email account which was the highlight of this last term, but it wasn't until I started to explain that the email he had just sent sitting next to me travelled 100's of miles away and back again in the blink of an eye (which I doubt his teacher could) did he go

    "Wow! .....can you show me how computer's work dad?"

    Until then ICT was drawing pictures, or learning how to cut & paste, and surfing the web, but without any concern for how or even why it works. Unfortunately, as many others have commented, I'm not sure he'd ever be given the answer to that question at school in the next 10 years based on the curriculum today :-(

    Lucky for him I started life with a ZX81, followed by the Beeb Micro for my O + A level Computer Studies and a Computer Science degree, and 20 years on am still being paid well for what was a childhood hobby.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Why has it taken you this long?

      My daughter has had her own computer since she was two. She could name all the main parts inside it when she was five. And had her own email account, and had a basic understanding of how mail "happened" to get there.

      Perhaps you need to stoke the fire a bit.

      BBC Micro? You were lucky! At my skool, we had a tele-type with acoustic coupler to an ICL mainframe with 64 KB of ferrite core RAM the size of a fridge. At 75 bps........

      1. Nick Midgley

        @Anomalous Cowturd... because didn't want to force my career and interests on them til they were ready.... and in any case prefer playing sport with them instead! I didn't start mucking about with computers 'til I was 10, so still plenty of time for them to get into it when they're ready, and am prouder that my 8 year old can already beat many adults at tennis rather than knowing the ASCII character set. :-)

  88. djhworld
    Thumb Up

    I thought A level computing was actually pretty good

    I did A level computing and got an A grade in 2005, I thought it was a really good course to be honest and gave me a good grounded bit of knowledge for university. The thing was our teacher was a PhD student who was doing a bit of A-level/Uni teaching on the side and I can categorically say he was the best teacher I've ever had.

    The content of the course was pretty good too, programming, data structures, how computers work, assembly etc - it felt like the first year of university rather than anything silly.

    I'm glad I did computing. A level ICT just looked like 'How to use MS Office' rather than the stuff we was doing

  89. peter_dtm

    its crap because its NOT ICT

    3 years ago talking to my son's GCSE ICT teacher

    me : so what programmes & OS do I need to get for him

    ICT : just XL and Word

    me : when does he learn networks ?

    ICT : not on this course; we do Word & XL

    me : what about IP addresses

    ICT : word and xl

    me : do you do anything else apart from word & xl

    ICT : is there anything else ?

    me (with dread) : what do you teach about word & xl

    ICT : margins formatting and stuff

    that's it; if they want to make ICT interesting then get M$ out of the schools & teach some damn computer skills not some crap application that only runs on a crap os

    ICT teacher ran away from me when my daughter started in his class...

    trades description act must surely apply

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK ICT classes killing future interest in school.

    The ICT and computing classes are beyond boring if you know anything about computers. I started my A-levels with a group of friends who were classic computer geeks if you will. All of us did GCSE ICT and couldn't stand it.

    It was simple but boring. Spelling out boring pieces of information you already know is actually painful but we got through it thinking A-level would be better. In the first 4 months one of my friends dropped out of school completely, after the first year another 2 dropped out because it wasn't worth it.

    I decided to stick with school and managed to pull the only A of my class in ICT despite my attendance dropping so low they nearly kicked me out. I'm now at university and it's just as bad. I've failed my first year because I have no motivation for a course that's continuing a disappointing field record for computer related education.

    My advice to almost everyone who's interested in technology : Drop out, learn it yourself, apply for university when you have reached the point where you can no longer teach yourself.

  91. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    But remember what good teachers make.

    A difference.

    But then my CS teacher lent me a book on OS design when I was 16. Virtualisation and address translation techniques were pretty hard going but I've been sort of hooked on those brown Addison Wesley hardbacks ever since.

  92. Anonymous Coward

    Programming if easy

    I remember turbo pascal was a single module in my electronics course, did loads of cool stuff and was a doddle to move to C later.

    It took me 5 goes and 2GB of downloads to get JAVA up and running on my PC and I'm now a month into trying to decypher the libraries, This is my second attempt, I hate it.

    Learning Programming these days sucks big-hairy-scrotums big-time, if they'd started out with Java in 1983 instead of Basic/C or Pascal (Or even Z80 assembly) I doubt a tenth of the UK programmers would be here.

  93. Jay 2
    IT Angle

    The more things change...

    I recall in the late 80s I wasn't allowed to take GSCE IT (or whatever it was) as it was over-subscribed and I mentioned the dreadded word 'programming' when asked why I wanted to take that course. That's from all the messing about on my Speccy. Still looks like I didn't miss anything, as I saw what they had to do, and it was boring.

    Though I did take A-Level Computing which I enjoyed greatly and as well as the usual basics ended up programming in COMAL (a structured BASIC) on BBC Masters. There were a few Archemedies about at the time, but their main use was WYSIWYG word processing/DTP. So after that I thought I'd be a programmer!

    So then went to do a compsci degree where I hit (mainly) Modula2 (aka Son Of Pascal) and realised I wasn't much of a programmer. Fortunately I manged to become a sys admin via my sandwhich year. Though some developers have asked if I was a developer in a past life after looking at some of my shell scripts.

    In conclusion for the job I do now a heafty chunk of all the 'IT' education was mostly useless and I just learnt stuff my myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The more things change...

      "In conclusion for the job I do now a heafty chunk of all the 'IT' education was mostly useless and I just learnt stuff my myself."

      look at the bigger picture and you'll realise that a hefty chunk of ALL your education was useless. Truth be told, schools don't really teach anything, other than how to obey orders.

  94. Matt Newton

    Sweet Jesus

    Look at that.

    5a is a good one. I bet the signed document answer is actually "fax" as the "correct" answer, although e-mail would be better due embedded digitial signatures.

    Interesting choice of wording, I asked one of the dumbfucks at work, just out of fun, "if you wanted a face to face conversation with someone would you A) fax them, B) use video conferencing or C) e-mail them?".

    They replied, quite unexpectedly I might add, "Neither. If I wanted a face to face conversation with them, I'd walk up to them and talk to them".

    Made me lol.

    What shit exam / qualification.

  95. wolfmeister

    It's a load of old crap let's be honest...

    i've been thru the whole thing & gave up. The truth is, Teacher Training & the ability to qualify for teaching is simply a process to eliminate anyone who has the wrong PC mindset. They want good compliant dweebs with a degree.

    i mean i'm self taught, and i'm way ahead of degree level, but can i teach the subject? nope.

    I called some colleges to see about getting some papers so i can teach... they asked me what I do... i told them... they said: either i should be teaching at their college or i should be doing a phd

    but can i teach in a school? nope

    i already did a 2 year community education teachers course and during that course, due to admin cock-ups, I ended up teaching 30 classes alone and un-aided in a secondary school... I'm pretty sure thats more than a person gets on a real teacher training course. Plus we did 2 years of educational theory full-time, not just one year like on a regular teacher course.

    So I have a total of 2 years of a degree (left to start my own business). 2 years of teacher training... and 20 years of experience in PC hardware and internet design (Intranet design etc, not making stupid web-pages with dreamweaver, lol). But still i cant teach legaly in a school!!

    how fucking stupid is that?

    on top of that my kid did a degree and frankly while he now has a degree he knows very little about the subject he is qualified in, cos education nowadays is about MONEY and that's it.

    They pass degrees out to all and sundry simply to sustain their funding.

    For example; on my kids course one of the teachers spent an entire term teaching the wrong syllabus!. When they found out they just passed everyone, even tho they hadn't even done the work!

    So those people with those half-assed degrees are then able to qualify as teachers for god's sake! That's just madness!

  96. John 61

    @OO posters

    Open office does have a Save as option which includes .DOC (2003) which seems to work well.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    To be honest ...

    It really is a manifestation of top-down-ism where the inspiration, foresight and aspiration is well-intended but appallingly delivered.

    As far as further education goes: GIF and JPEGs as examples of vector artwork?

    Honestly, a dire, poorly funded sit-com on tv could not be worse.

    There was a time when thinking went along lines of: if you want to enhance teaching of a subject then get an enthusiast of that subject but times change and numptiz (zombies?) move in and can do the mechanics but loosely lose on the aesthetics that make those mechanics interesting.

  98. Anonymous Coward

    IT WOT ??

    OK thats easy.

    Cos' it soooo boooooring like init.

    Look at whats being taught and by whom.

    The kids are more advanced as users of the tech than the teachers.

    They may not understand what lies beneath it, but then again nor do 99.9% of the teachers, (actualy nor do they have the time to find out either; given the stat's, compliance paper work, setting and making homework and having a life outside of school). The Kids do know how to use it - to their advantage and have fun with it.

    Is teaching them how to put an equation into a well known speadsheet from lucifer what will produce the next generation of gadg inventors - Hmmm I think not.

    The whole thing needs a TOTAL think.

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