Why I'm Advising My Son Not To Take ICT GCSE

Like all Year 9 students, my son is in the final stages of choosing his GCSE subjects. Working it all through he ends up, in his particular case, with a choice between doing music and ICT.

Everyone from Eric Schmidt to Emma Mulqueeny has been bemoaning the state of computer science teaching in schools so I was keen to know what the school I care most about had to say on the matter.

Yesterday evening we met a lot of his current and prospective teachers, including an ICT teacher. I was given a copy of this PDF leaflet that you may notice includes a lot of graphics that use mobile phones as picture frames. Oh good, I thought, they teach ICT for mobile? No such luck.

Here's a sample of the text in the leaflet:

Did you know that in the year you were born only 4% of the world’s population had access to the internet? Which is why back in 1995, shopping, chatting or researching homework on a computer seemed incredible. But now, just 14 years later (my emphasis), over 25% of the human race have been online and the world wide web has transformed the way we communicate and do business.

OK, we all recycle old material, but this is now looking well out of date (today's year 9 students were born between Sep '97and Aug '98).

Try this:

Excerpt from the Edexcel ICT GCSE leaflet for students

Hmm… that's high powered ICT stuff that is. More like media literacy — which is a subject that people of all ages need to know but don't call that ICT puleese!

The teacher told us about the course content which seems to be:

  1. How to use a graphics program like Photoshop;
  2. How to use a spreadsheet program like Excel;
  3. How to use a database program (presumably something like Access);
  4. I forget, but it was equally uninspiring.

I asked if they made any Web sites. They make a Web page. Two years of ICT and they make a Web page (which I fear they may even do in Microsoft Publisher and not actually put on a server anywhere).

No coding, not even a hint of information about how any of it works.

One of the more positive aspects of Edexcel's ICT GCSE

Anything nice to say about it?

Yes. The digital divide, whether we're talking globally or amongst the average year 9's peer group, is a serious issue and I'm glad this is covered. But again, is that ICT or PSHE?

Other than that I was left feeling that ICT GCSE is utterly, utterly useless.

If I hadn't signed Emma Mulqueeny's Teach our kids to code e-petition months ago, I would now.

Enjoy your music lessons, son.