By Marcus Leach

The Forum of Private Business has welcomed the Education Secretary’s plans to overhaul the way IT is taught in classrooms.

Michael Gove this week announced plans to invigorate the way the subject is taught across England and Wales, describing the current teaching as ‘harmful’ and ‘dull’. It is part of a drive by the DfE to increase take-up of the subject in further and higher education fields by capturing pupils’ interest earlier in their school career.

The not-for-profit business support group has said its own member research shows employers are keen for education providers to teach youngsters the right skills demanded in the workplace, and has applauded the Government’s intervention as a step in the right direction.

“This is exactly the kind of change to the education curriculum that our members tell us they want to see,” said the Forum’s Chief Executive, Phil Orford.

“A targeted approach to what secondary school pupils learn in the classroom with an eye on the types of skills employers require is exactly what we need to see more of. Our own research has shown that there is a gap between what businesses need and what businesses get when it comes to education standards.

“The future is digital, therefore there’s a clear requirement for more workers who are already skilled in this area, and who will want to take their studies in this subject further.

“Small businesses are desperate for employees with the right skills, and this seems a significant step in the right direction from government to achieving that aim by helping improve the calibre of school leavers in a key area.

“If the private sector is to drive and grow the economy in the future we need well-educated innovators and entrepreneurs who can deliver in key growth areas such as IT.”

Research in one of the Forum’s quarterly Referendum ballots of members has identified serious dissatisfaction with training and skills among employers. The research showed just 4% of small firms rated the skills of their local workforce as ‘good', 56% average, and 41% as poor.

In all, 65% of respondents felt that a greater focus on employment skills would make it more likely that they would take on young people.

“Few small firms seem to place much faith in the ability of schools and colleges to properly prepare people for the workplace. Consequently, most of them doubt they can easily recruit people with the skills and abilities they are looking for among the local workforce," Mr Orford said of the research.

“If Britain is going to move towards a knowledge-based, high-tech economy as the Government has suggested previously, we need to see more specific tailoring of the education system for the needs of industry,” he added.

Forum member Rachel Andrews, who owns and runs Hemel Hempstead based IT firm, Andrews Computers Services, was pleased with Michael Gove’s announcement.

“I agree that death by Power Point should not be extent of IT education in schools, but pupils must also learn the basics,” she said.

“The addition of some fun into the curriculum would be a good idea. If they were taught the basics of scripts and the creation of apps this could well inspire some to go on to greater things.

“Getting kids to create apps and selling them for pennies for Android or other mobile devices would be inspiring for those who make a success of it, and could even make some money for schools at the same time.

“Businesses need the next generation to be keen and enthusiastic about getting the most out of a computer. They need to understand a bit about how it works and how they can be creative with it, not just to play games, chat on Facebook, or surf the web.

“IT should be taught in schools on a broader base than it currently is, and those teaching it need the support and help to keep up with a rapidly changing environment and an industry that has moved on by the time the books about it are published.

“This goes for universities too, who need to make sure the courses they provide are relevant and up to date.”

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