Gove’s decision

This morning’s Observer column.

Michael Gove is possibly the most unpopular minister in the government, but on Wednesday he made a courageous and enlightened decision. On that day, the Department for Education announced that computer science will be included in the science options for the Ebacc (English baccalaureate), which is one of Mr Gove’s keystone reforms of the school curriculum. Given the amount of hostility there is to these reforms, this development attracted little attention, but in the long run it could turn out to be a really big deal.

Why? Because it signals a determination to undo an educational disaster that’s been running for decades in British schools – the ICT (information and communications technology) curriculum. This was based on the idea that most of what the young needed to be taught about computing was how to use software. In practice, this turned out to be learning how to use Microsoft Office. For both the schoolchildren who had to endure this, and the teachers who had to instruct them, this was a demoralising and dysfunctional experience. Kids would come home from school complaining (as my children did): “Dad, you’ll never guess what we had to do today – PowerPoint!” The result was that ICT became the educational world’s equivalent of a toxic brand.