back to article Employers' group: New comp sci GCSE driven by vendor agenda

Employers have criticised the government’s computer science GCSE work for having a vendor agenda which means that it may fail to deliver business-ready IT graduates. The Corporate IT Forum has told The Reg it feels IT suppliers have a "very significant" degree of influence on the Department for Education's work on the new GCSE …


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  1. Tom 15


    The current GCSE curriculum is worse than being taught no ICT. At least if it's kept out of the school for now someone might be able to escape having any interest in ICT destroyed by the course.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A little bit more

    > the proposed GCSE runs the risk of turning out students qualified to support Microsoft or Cisco products

    You'd kinda hope (maybe in vain) that people going into IT as a profession would have a little more than a GCSE in CompSci. If A levels are to be made harder, then that would at least start to separate out the chaff.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: A little bit more

      Au contraire - my highest education level in IT is the original computer studies GCSE. My education past that is all Maths & Science related. Last time I checked a lot of other techies were in my boat too.

      In fact what you see in my peer group is completely unrelated A levels and degrees with the occasional conversion to the fold by via a masters.

      Infact I once programmed with a lady whose primary degree was Egyptology - beat that!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A little bit more

      most of the good IT pro's I know are either old school compsci / maths / physics grads or the new good batch (like me) didn't even bother with a gcse in IT as it was a waste of energy and have a good 6+ years on the job plus professional training (12 years for me now and still learning new tricks everyday oh my,)

      I'd take on a school leaver that had built their own pc or played with linux over a computer science university grad any day, maybe not over a maths grad though.

    3. CD001

      Re: A little bit more

      Actually I'd kinda hope that people going into IT as a profession would have some bloody interest in the subject and would therefore be tinkering with computers in their spare time as a hobby irrespective of whatever bits of paper they hold.

  3. Refugee from Windows

    Kill the monocultural - plant Raspberries

    Don't give the next generation the idea that it's a monoculture out there. If ICT seems to be just a course in office apps and a little bit of theory then it's going to bore the pants off them and encourage then to learn very little beyond getting that GCSE.

    Let them also experience a taste of coding, other OS's (Fruity, penguins, beasties etc) and assembling packages etc. What it should have been. Let 'em take the box apart (so to speak) and look inside, at least have an appreciation of what happens at what level.

    Let them eat Raspberries......

  4. Irongut

    Teaching them to get an MCSE would at least be better than the current situation where they're taught how to use Office and Facebook.

  5. a cynic writes...

    There is a Computing GCSE already...

    A quick look at the spec ( ) suggests it's not too taxing but a mite more rigorous than the pile of dung that is ICT.

    The specification doesn't mandate a programming language but my lad's school will be using VB.Net having had them using Scratch in year 8 and Python in year 9.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is a Computing GCSE already...

      Really? Isn't a bit of a retrograde step after Python? Actually I'm quite impressed the school is forward thinking enough to have chosen Python at all given that there's no big corporate sponsor pushing it and doling out "discount" education licenses.

      1. a cynic writes...

        Re: There is a Computing GCSE already...

        I suspect the decision has a lot to do with what they use for the A level.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I really wish they would stop fannying about building their “investment legacy” and concentrate on fixing their fucking hardware. What use will 4000 trained chimps be when were all running on Huwaei or ZTE gear?

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Worst effect. Brain washing kids that Cisco and Microsoft are *all* there is.

    which is pretty disgusting.

    1. Miek

      Re: Worst effect. Brain washing kids that Cisco and Microsoft are *all* there is.

      I took a Computing A-Level back in 1996, it was all Science really, no mention of $MS or Cisco. We basically learned about Binary, Hex, How some of the technologies worked and of course, how to program in Turbo Pascal.

      Nowadays, $MS has muscled in, you are expected (AFAIK) to be using $MS Orifice and such. The teachers don't understand "Open Standards" exist, they just want a .doc or .docx, full-stop.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meet the new boss.

    Same as the old boss.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how many of these 10 key objectives would just be stuff any student should learn during the course of normal studies, how to use a spread sheet, how to use formula, how to use a word processor, how to use a diagram application, how to use a graphic application, how to use a presentation package, how to research information using common tools, how to maintain their household computer.

    Those are just standard skills that should be picked up in normal lessons, an IT gcse should teach fundementals of computing, design, development, methodology, networks, virtualisation, history, service, etc. None of those are particularly taxing at an introduction level.

    The two main skills that uni students seem to lack completly (used to get them in their sandwich year) is reporting (a report of how an issue was identified and finally resolved with steps included), documentation (how such a thing is configured, how something is implemented, etc) and, basic research/troubleshooting skills. Tend to be okay at reading documents though - and going "how do you do this?" "Do some research" "stare blankely."

    IT forensic students seem to be the best though.

  10. Paul Powell

    Hang on - isn't this just FUD

    With no specification to refer to this is a concern about what might happen - i.e. not news but a group that is using the news to get its oar into a discussion. Given that many of these organisations are still on IE6, have huge paper based systems and over run IT projects failing to replace them at vast expense I'm not sure that I'd want their input.

    If you take a look at AQA's recently released specification for GCSE computer science it leaves the technologies up to the schools. (spec here:

    This specification IMO is exciting, strikes a good balance between theory and practice, and will probably produce a generation of students who will think of a computer as able to do something more than making paper documents pretty.

  11. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

    ICT is crap

    I agree with Tom16, current ICT takes kids enthusiasm for technology and subverts it into stifled boredom, most teachers of thw subject are wholly unqualified and the curriculum is shit.

    Gove is right that we need programming and CompSci in the curriculum.

    As a CS grad I will share that includes logic, machine architecture, networking and how operating systems work.

    I teach IT to my kids and have a free choice in what to use, so there's Scratch and Alice and Arduino in there, but having taught quite a number of people to program that Excel VBA is actually a good environment to start procedural programmming.

    VBA syntax is simple and equally importantly the error messages and highlighting help a kid quickly understand where he has gone wrong.

    Yes Java has more sophisticated error handling but 20 lines of exceptions involving words that no 8 year old might recognise is too steep a hill to start on.

    I agree that Powerpoint and Word hjave no place *at all* in the classroom, art sohuld be taught in art lessons and text input is English and history.

    However whenever you teach something to kids it needs to put in a context, I don't really care if they learn the internals of Linux or Windows or BeOS, but given that Windows source is hard to come by, I guess it won't be that. I don't care which file formats they learn about, I do care that they have some grasp that even for a simple bitmap there are dozens of ways it can be stored. Again that might be the MS flavour of BMP or GIF, I don't care.

    But this is all irrelevant, as a CS undergrad I never did Java, but given a book and an IDE it didn't take me long to get vaguely competent, *BECAUSE I'm A CS GRAD*

    The witless peasants who "teach" ICT can't teach programming in any language because they are 3rd rate teachers of something elsewho didn't make it in their chosen topic. A large % of ICT "teachers" have degrees in education, a subject only taken be people who were dim in the first place. A decent German or Franch teacher can pass as a native of that country most ICT teachers couldn't pass as a receptionist at IBM.

    So Gove wants to include programming, which is good, but where is he going to find the teachers ? There are are more UK teachers qualified as army parachutists than CompSci.

  12. trog-oz

    Old news

    I started working in schools 9 years ago as ICT technician and even then the mood was (not helped by BECTA) that schools should be training students in the use of M$ products, rather than teaching transferable IT skills. The school that I was working at ran Linux on the student desktops; this was an initiative pushed by IT staff. The school was very innovative in this regard. The other staff waged a constant battle to have Linux removed from the school as they thought it was damaging the students prospects. After I left, Linux was removed and all student desktops replaced with MACs.

    The school also ran a scheme to get each student to leave with an ECDL and while the initial 6 students on the scheme did get the ECDL the scheme was dropped by later management as they didn't see the benefit of an industry recognised qualification.

    Daily students just need a web browser and an office suite and the operating system and products are irrelevant. It could be argued that they don't need IT at all; a pen and paper was good enough for me, and there is a surprising volume of written work still required, especially in English and modern foreign languages. As an aside, when I was school in the 1960's and 70's, if you broke your arm, you wrote with the other one. Nowadays, if kids break their arm, IT are expected to lend them a netbook so they can do the work.

    The school that I work at now is entirely M$ and the students really do have no knowledge of alternative technologies. Neither do the staff.

    1. Miek
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old news

      Trog-oz, at least you tried.

  13. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    We have similar problems in the Netherlands

    Initially, ICT courses at schools were really a mess, consisting of rote learning which shortcut key did what in MS Word or even WordPerfect (shudder). Now things are improving slightly, and some programming is entering. The results are very mixed however, and many think VB is all there is. As an experiment, I allowed one student (of Technology Management specializing in IT) to hand in one assignment in VB rather than Java. It was a total pile of crud, without any structure, sensible object hierarchy (or proper comments). In fact he had simply searched the API for soe suitable library calls, and lashed these together in one monolithic lump. He had managed to create an app that sort of worked with minimal effort, but I would not call that programming.

    I am not saying that VB is bad per se. After all, I have seen many horrible examples of code in any language you care to name, and well-structured pieces of x86 assembly in my time. My point is that this boy had not learned any programming discipline. What is needed is a programme which gets the enthusiasm of kids fired, and teaches them rigour in analysis and implementation (and pick one (or two) of many suitable toolboxes out there). Not an easy task, perhaps, but we are trying as a university to reach out to teachers to show them what is possible, and have some of our students develop stuff for use in the classroom. There is a small, but steadily growing band of teachers who are really developing good materials out there.

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