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Education: Digital Technology

Question for Department for Education

UIN 49132, tabled on 14 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to (a) promote digital education in secondary schools and (b) embed digital skills across all subject areas within formal education.

Answered on

22 September 2021

The department is committed to increasing the digital expertise of young people.

The computing curriculum provides important foundational knowledge such as algorithms, programming, e-safety, digital literacy and computational thinking that will enable them to pursue further study or a wide range of digital careers in cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, robotics and software engineering. The majority of this is taught from year 8 and 9 onwards and forms part of the GCSE subject content.

The department has invested £84 million to improve the quality of computing teaching, creating a National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE). The NCCE has created 500 hours of free, high quality teacher resources, which include cyber security, digital literacy, and data science at key stage 3. The resources include a unit of learning on AI which is taught to year 8 pupils. In addition, the Isaac Computer Science online platform has been set up to support teachers and pupils through AS and A level. As of the end of August 2021, more than 34,600 teachers have engaged with the NCCE programme.

The department also supports the government’s popular extra-curricular CyberFirst programme, aimed at 11–17 year olds, which stimulates interest in cybersecurity through hackathons, girls’ competitions and residential courses. We also continue to work closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on promoting digital careers in school.

We also recognise the importance of ensuring schools and teachers can make the best use of digital technology. The department has helped more than 6500 schools get set up on a digital platform, ensuring they have access to both training materials and Classroom Practitioner certification schemes available via Microsoft and Google as well as peer to peer support from the EdTech Demonstrators programme.

We are investing £500 million in the implementation of the new T Levels. There are three T Levels under the digital route. The first qualification is available now and the remaining two qualifications will be delivered from September 2021 onwards. All three contain core elements of computer science. Additionally, all T Level programmes will require students to develop core English, maths and digital competencies as part of the qualification thus giving employers the confidence graduates have the level of digital proficiency necessary for employment.

In September 2020, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education launched the new higher technical qualification approvals process, which will focus exclusively in its first year on supporting the delivery of newly approved, high-quality digital qualifications (to be introduced from September 2022).

We are also taking forward an ambitious programme of further education reform through the further education white paper. These reforms will raise the quality and capacity of training in further education and will be designed with employers to make sure that courses meet their skills needs. It is clear that digital skills will be a major area of focus.