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ICT: Secondary Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL10201, tabled on 11 November 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many secondary schools in England teach (1) virtual reality, (2) cyber security, and (3) artificial intelligence, at Key Stage 3.

Answered on

24 November 2020

The computing curriculum, introduced in 2014, aims to ensure that all pupils understand the fundamental principles of computer science, information technology and digital literacy.

All local authority-maintained state schools are required to teach the computing curriculum from Key Stages one to four. Other schools, such as academies and free schools, have the freedom to design their own curriculum but are required to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, with many using the computing curriculum as an exemplar. There are a number of schools, including University Technical Colleges, that have specialisms in computing subjects.

The broad set of principles underpinning the curriculum are outlined in the computing programme of study. Relevant information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study. The curriculum was deliberately designed to avoid over-prescription, and reduce the risk of the content becoming outdated, given the speed of development of digital skills and technological advance.

Programming, algorithms and the use of information technology are taught to pupils in Key Stage three, which provides the foundation for pupils to acquire further knowledge about virtual reality, cyber security and artificial intelligence. The computing curriculum also covers the principles of e-safety from Key Stages one to four, with progression in content to reflect the different and escalating risks that pupils face. This knowledge is fundamental for teaching pupils about cyber security.

The National Centre for Computing Education, formed in 2019 and backed by £84 million of government funding, has created a ‘Teach Computing’ curriculum which comprises key resources on cyber security for teachers of Key Stage three pupils. Cyber security also forms part of the Key Stage four curriculum and the computer science GCSE.

The computer science GCSE was sat by over 77,000 pupils in 2019. Additionally, over 48,000 pupils took a level 2 ICT Technical Award in 2019, which is a high quality equivalent to the computer science GCSE and included in school performance tables.

Outside of school, there are extracurricular opportunities for pupils aged 11 and above, such as CyberFirst, which enrich the teaching of cyber security in the curriculum. CyberFirst is the Government’s cyber security skills youth programme and a vital part of the National Cyber Security Programme, helping to develop the next generation of cyber security professionals. It is led by the National Cyber Security Centre and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Over the last four years, CyberFirst has supported and helped to improve the teaching and take-up of computing and cybersecurity in the curriculum. It has been achieved through an online platform, Cyber Discovery, short course, the girls’ competition, and discovery days for schools which have engaged over 80,000 pupils in cyber security and careers.