Tag Archives: Welsh Government

Policy Statement on Skills by the Welsh Government

Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Skills, has today unveiled a Policy Statement on Skills — a ten year plan “to help Wales evolve into a highly-skilled nation and create the conditions that businesses need to grow and flourish”, setting out the steps that need to be taken “to develop a resilient, responsive and sustainable post-19 skills system”.

The statement covers four priority areas for the Welsh Government:

  • Skills for jobs and growth: Focuses on how Wales can stimulate demand for a more highly-skilled society that can drive forward our economy in the pursuit of jobs and growth.
  • Skills that respond to local needs: Describes how Wales must develop a skills system which reflects the needs of local communities, including providing a streamlined and accessible employment and skills offer for both individuals and employers.
  • Skills that employers value: Recognises the importance of engaging employers to participate in the skills system and describes the level of co-investment needed alongside government if Wales is to remain competitive.
  • Skills for employment: Explores the role of the skills system in providing the employment support necessary to assist individuals into employment and to progress in work, both of which are central to our tackling poverty agenda in Wales.

From my perspective, digital skills should be front and centre in this new policy, both to ensure we have safe and confident digital citizens (see Delivering a Digital Wales), as well as to encourage the development of high-level skills for the Welsh Government’s priority sectors over the next ten years. This also links back last October’s review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, as well as the work of the UK Digital Skills Taskforce.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months; download the full policy statement [PDF].

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The ICT Steering Group’s Report to the Welsh Government

welshictreportcover

Today, the ICT Steering Group published its review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, at a launch at Box UK’s office in Cardiff attended by Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills.

This is the culmination of eight months of discussion, evaluation and consultation, to identify a way forward for ICT in Wales. As co-chair of this review, I am delighted with what we have delivered: a declaration of intent for Wales, to change the profile and perception of a subject of tremendous educational and economic importance to Wales. I truly hope that the Welsh Government adopt the report’s recommendations in full and use this as an opportunity to highlight the importance of computing and digital literacy in a modern, challenging and aspirational national curriculum.

As per today’s written Ministerial Statement:


The report of the ICT Steering Group, published today, poses some very significant questions and explores themes that we must now consider in the context of the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum…I am very grateful for this report and will respond in full to all these recommendations in due course.

The full report is now available to download (English, Cymraeg).

Headline Recommendations

  1. A new subject named Computing should be created to replace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) from Foundation Phase onwards. This new subject will disaggregate into two main areas: Computer Science (CS); and Information Technology (IT).
  2. Computing should be integrated into the curriculum as the fourth science, served by a mandatory Programme of Study, and receive the same status as the other three sciences.
  3. A Statutory Digital Literacy (DL) Framework should be implemented to work alongside the Literacy and Numeracy Framework from Foundation Phase through to post-16 education.
  4. Perceptions of Computing education pathways should be changed to recognise the key societal roles of computing and technology, as well as promote the importance and diversity of IT careers.
  5. The revised Computing curriculum should encourage creativity, allow thematic working and develop real world problem-solving. It should be flexible enough to continually evolve to remain current, adopting an Agile ideology and approach to ensure this.
  6. A range of engaging and academically rigorous pathways and bilingual qualifications for Computing and Digital Literacy should be devised, encouraging interest and opportunities for deeper learning.
  7. Engagement and collaboration between education and industry should be an integral part of the curriculum to embed current practices and skills.
  8. Pathways for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Computing should be created to encourage the best talent into the profession. All entrants to the teaching profession should have the skills to deliver the Digital Literacy Framework (DLF).
  9. A programme of training and professional development to enable the new Computing curriculum should be accessible to new and existing teachers.
  10. A National Technology Framework should be devised to create an effective technology infrastructure for education. Welsh Government, local authorities, industry and learning providers should be responsible for its effective implementation and strategic development.
  11. Effective monitoring arrangements should be created for Computing and the Digital Literacy Framework. Estyn should consider relevant changes to the Common Inspection Framework in light of all of these recommendations.
  12. An appropriate body or properly constituted group should oversee the implementation of these recommendations. Its remit would need to be broad enough to encompass this crucial governance role, utilising appropriate expertise and representing key stakeholders.
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A Public Policy Institute for Wales

Last week, the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister for Wales, announced that Cardiff University have been awarded the contract for a Public Policy Institute; as per the ministerial statement:


The Public Policy Institute is a Programme for Government commitment that seeks to develop independent sources of expert policy advice for the Welsh Government. It will improve the robustness of policy in Wales and make the Welsh Government a more intelligent customer in terms of research and advice.

Following an open, competitive process, initiated last autumn, applications were received from a range of parties and were assessed by a panel independently chaired by Professor Frances Ruane of the Dublin Economic and Social Research Institute. The evaluation has concluded and I have been able to appoint Cardiff University to run the Public Policy Institute which will include a network of experts drawn from Universities, think tanks and other research organisations from across Wales, the UK and beyond. Organisations already recruited to the network include research groups based in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Liverpool and Swansea Universities. This is the beginning of a wider network of economic, social and environmental experts, including those from outside of Wales.

The Public Policy Institute contract will be for an initial three-year period, subject to a process of evaluation and review, and will have an annual budget of £450,000. The Institute will be led in the interim by Professor Steve Martin while a permanent Director is appointed. I expect the Institute to be launched operationally in the autumn.

As mentioned above, the creation of a Welsh Public Policy Institute is a Programme for Government commitment, with the aim of guiding the reform and improvement of public services. This is a great result for Cardiff University, who will be working with research groups from Aberystwyth, Bangor, South Wales, Liverpool and Swansea universities, as well as the think tanks The Bevan Foundation, the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Wales Public Services 2025.

In light of the significant commitments made by the Welsh Government for science in Wales, especially from a policy perspective, let’s hope that there is a clear theme of science and technology in this new Public Policy Institute for Wales.

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Consultation on the Review of ICT and Computer Science Education in Wales

DfES ICT consultation

Computer science touches upon all three of my education priorities: literacy, numeracy and bridging the gap. It equips learners with the problem-solving skills so important in life and work.

The value of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy is huge, across all subjects in the curriculum. I therefore believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from computer science.

Indeed, computing is a high priority area for growth in Wales. The future supply and demand for science, technology and mathematics graduates is essential if Wales is to compete in the global economy.

It is therefore vitally important that every child in Wales has the opportunity to study computer science.

Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Education and Skills (June 2012)

As co-chair of the Welsh Government’s ICT Steering Group, announced in January to consider the future of ICT and computer science in Welsh schools, we are currently inviting stakeholder views as part of a wider open consultation.

Please participate by completing the official online survey (available in English and Welsh) by Friday 10th May 2013.

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Welsh Government announces ICT Steering Group

Further to the Review of ICT announced in November, a written statement was released today by Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills:


On 19 November, I chaired a seminar to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. The seminar was attended by representatives from a range of key stakeholders including schools, the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, awarding organisations, industry and the media.

Following a lively and engaging discussion, there were a number of key themes that emerged that I am keen to consider further, they include:

  • ‘ICT’ in schools needs to be re-branded, re-engineered and made relevant to now and to the future;
  • Digital literacy is the start and not the end point — learners need to be taught to create as well as to consume;
  • Computer science should be introduced at primary school and developed over the course of the curriculum so that learners can progress into a career pathway in the sector.
  • Skills, such as creative problem-solving, should be reflected in the curriculum; and,
  • Revised qualifications need to be developed in partnership with schools, Higher Education and industry.

I have established a Steering Group to take forward consideration of the future of computer science and ICT in schools. The group will consider the key findings of the seminar, develop proposals in relation to their implementation, and provide a report on the way forward.

The membership of the Steering Group is comprised of representatives from a cross-section of key stakeholders and includes:

  • Co-Chair: Stuart Arthur (Box UK)
  • Co-Chair: Dr Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
  • Co-Chair: Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Primary School, Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Professor Khalid Al-Begain (University of Glamorgan)
  • Chris Britten (Ashgrove Special School, Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Lucy Bunce (Y Pant Comprehensive School, Rhondda Cynon Taff)
  • Gareth Edmondson (Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr, Swansea)
  • Mark Feeney (e-skills UK)
  • Charlie Godfrey (Fujitsu)
  • Magi Gould (Bangor University)
  • Mark John (Vision Thing Communications)
  • Ben Lidgey (Monitise)
  • Hannah Mathias (St David’s College, Cardiff)
  • Professor Faron Moller (Swansea University)
  • Gareth Morlais (BBC Wales)
  • Simon Pridham (Casllwchwr Primary School, Swansea)
  • Maldwyn Pryse (Estyn)
  • Glyn Rogers (Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Pontypool)

The group will report to me by July 2013 and provide recommendations on the way forward.

The recommendations will inform the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales, which I announced on 1 October. Any necessary changes will be considered as part of any revisions to the National Curriculum in Wales.

This is a hugely positive step by the Welsh Government, especially in light on the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales (as well as the recently published 14-19 Review of Qualifications); it also complements the activities of the National Digital Learning Council. I am very much looking forward to co-chairing this review and developing a modern, rigorous and challenging ICT curriculum for Wales.

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£3m investment in Computer Science and Digital Literacy in Wales

Computer science touches upon all three of my education priorities: literacy, numeracy and bridging the gap. It equips learners with the problem-solving skills so important in life and work.

The value of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy is huge, across all subjects in the curriculum. I therefore believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from computer science.

Indeed, computing is a high priority area for growth in Wales. The future supply and demand for science, technology and mathematics graduates is essential if Wales is to compete in the global economy.

It is therefore vitally important that every child in Wales has the opportunity to study computer science between the ages of 11-16.

Leighton Andrews AM

This is how Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, opened his keynote speech at the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference at Swansea University on Friday 22nd June. It was a clear declaration by the Welsh Government of the importance and wide utility of computer science education. Building on last year’s successful inaugural conference, the 2nd CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference had the bold tagline of “Delivering Computer Science for Wales“.

The Minister’s speech touched upon a number of key issues, highlighting computer science as a key underpinning STEM discipline, recognising the value of learning how to program, as well as the wider educational impact of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy across all subjects in the curriculum. He also agreed with the findings of the Royal Society’s report Shut down or restart?, recognising the three distinct strands of computer science, information technology and digital literacy. As part of a broad and balanced curriculum, the Minister reiterated that there should be flexibility in the programmes of study to let teachers deliver a tailored curriculum that best meets the needs of their learners:

I have asked my officials to look at the current ICT Programme of Study at Key Stages 2 and 3 and explore opportunities where computer science may be incorporated within the curriculum.

And more importantly, in response to the headline recommendations of the Digital Classroom Teaching Task and Finish Group to improve digital learning in Wales:


I am pleased to announce today an additional £3m of funding over the next three years to support a range of measures to improve computer science, digital literacy and ICT in schools and colleges across Wales.

While it remains to be seen quite how this money will breaks down, this is a clear Ministerial commitment to promoting and supporting the teaching of computer science in Wales (further to my letter to all state-maintained secondary schools and colleges in Wales in April). There is also a clear imperative for investing in CPD to upskill ICT teachers across Wales to teach computer science:


I believe that provision for continuing professional development for teachers is critical here. The Welsh Government will work closely with delivery partners such as Computing At School and Technocamps to ensure that this CPD programme is well-coordinated and has a significant impact on learner outcomes in digital literacy, ICT and computer science.

The Minister also applauded the work of CAS Wales and Technocamps:

I would encourage headteachers to ensure that their school is engaged with Technocamps. I am also keen to promote the Computing At School initiative by encouraging ICT teachers across Wales to take advantage of this excellent free service.

2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps conference group

(from L-R) Stuart Toomey (Project Manager, Technocamps), Professor Ian Cluckie (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Swansea University), Leighton Andrews AM (Minister for Education and Skills, Welsh Government), Dr Tom Crick (Chair, CAS Wales), Maggie Philbin (CEO, TeenTech), Professor Faron Moller (Director, Technocamps) and Professor Simon Peyton Jones (Chair, CAS)

A huge thanks to all of the keynote speakers and workshop leaders who made the 2012 conference a success, especially Technocamps and Swansea University. Check out the Storify of the conference and the Bring & Brag event, as well as images from the day.

This is a significant milestone in government support for computer science education in Wales (UK?), but it all depends on how we progress from here. Will 2012 be the year of computer science in Wales?

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2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference


As Chair of Computing At School (CAS) in Wales, I am pleased to announce the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference, to be held at Swansea University on Friday 22nd June. The tagline for this year’s conference is: “Delivering Computer Science for Wales“.

Building on last year’s successful inaugural conference, CAS Wales are continuing to work in partnership with the Technocamps project to drive forward the computer science education agenda and provide an opportunity for teachers, practitioners, academics, local government and industry representatives across Wales to come together to discuss the latest policy issues and share best practice.

I am pleased to confirm the keynote speakers for the conference:

There will also be a full workshop schedule featuring: Programming with Greenfoot (Dr Neil Brown, University of Kent), Kodu (Stuart Ball, Microsoft Partners in Learning), cs4fn (Professor Peter McOwan, QMUL), Wearable Arduinos (Sophie McDonald), Aber Robots (Technocamps, Aberystwyth University), OCR GCSE Computing forum (David Pearce, Brynteg Comprehensive School), Interactive Fiction (Kristian Still, Hamble Community Sports College), Algorithmic Problem Solving (Dr João Ferreira, Teeside University) and Computational Modelling (Professor Faron Moller, Technocamps/Swansea University).

Registration for this free event is online; there is also a TeachMeet-style “Bring & Brag” event the evening before the conference for teachers and practitioners to network and connect with the wider CAS and Technocamps community and showcase some of the innovative and engaging ways in which they are teaching computer science at school. You can also follow the event on Twitter: @CASWales and @Technocamps on the hashtag #caswales12.

With the recent attention on computer science education in the UK, this conference is a prime opportunity for the Welsh Government to recognise its importance and invest in its delivery in Wales. In doing so, it would take a massive leap ahead of the rest of the UK.

I look forward to welcoming you to Swansea University at the end of June.

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2011 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference

On Friday 1st July 2011, Computing At School (CAS) Wales, in partnership with the Technocamps project, hosted their inaugural conference at Swansea University. The aim of this one-day conference, with the tagline Computing at School: Enhancing the STEM Curriculum for a Digital Wales, was to provide teachers, senior management teams, examination boards, higher education academics, industry and education policymakers with a forum to highlight and discuss the important issues surrounding Computer Science education in Wales.

It featured keynotes talks from:

  • Jeff Cuthbert AM, Deputy Minister for Skills, Welsh Government
  • Gary Stone, Head of Strategy & Operations for Digital Wales, Welsh Government
  • David Davies, Director of NHS Engagement, NHS Wales
  • Clare Riley, Group Manager, Education Relations, Microsoft
  • Professor Roger Boyle, Computing At School

Over 100 attendees participated in a wide range of workshops and policy panels to discuss curriculum and qualifications, as well as sharing best practice for teaching Computer Science. This event was the culmination of nearly a year of discussions on education and science policy, focusing on the strategic importance of Computer Science within the wider STEM agenda [1,2,3,4,5] and was widely reported in the media [1,2,3,4]. A Storify of the event is also available.

CAS Wales 2011 Wordle

This successful event has highlighted the importance of Computer Science, from an educational, scientific and economic perspective, and has laid the foundation for future curriculum and qualifications reform in Wales.

CAS Wales and Technocamps will continue to work together in 2012 to drive forward this agenda.


(N.B. this blog post was moved from its original location, having been first published in August 2011))

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Technology and innovation in Wales

In October, Iain Gray (CEO of the Technology Strategy Board), ahead of a visit to Wales, compiled a list of 50 high-technology and innovation-led businesses and organisation across North and South Wales; I made a Storify of the tweets before I found his blog post.

The Welsh Government has identified six nine priority sectors in which to support industry-led investment as part of Economic Renewal: A New Direction:

  • Creative Industries
  • Information, Communication and Technology (ICT)
  • Energy and Environment
  • Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
  • Life Sciences
  • Financial and Professional Services
  • Food and Farming
  • Construction
  • Tourism

The list correlates to the first five of these priority sectors — it is in no particular order, and there are, of course, many businesses not included. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the diverse range of innovation and high-value R&D in Wales across these five sectors, highlighting that there is a strong underpinning research base from Welsh universities, along with investment from both government and industry (but clearly more is needed). I have particular interest in the composition of this list due to the importance of the ICT sector (with its associated key priorities): I sit on the Welsh Government’s Strategy Group for the Digital Wales Research Hub, which aims to develop organisational and funding strategies to complement the RCUK Digital Economy Programme. The Hub will bring together industry, universities and funding bodies to facilitate the delivery of open, innovative and collaborative R&D related to the Digital Economy; creation of the Hub is a cornerstone of the Welsh Government’s Delivering a Digital Wales agenda.

More information about the Digital Wales Research Hub to follow in early 2012!

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Science and the Assembly 2011

I have been invited to speak at Science and the Assembly 2011, an annual event organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, designed to develop closer links between the scientific community in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government.

I’m one of six invited speakers from across academia and industry, as well as the WAG Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor John Harries, on themes heralded by the International Year of Chemistry. However, I will be subverting the theme somewhat by discussing the importance of Computing to Wales, highlighting how it underpins modern scientific research and where it sits within the STEM agenda:

Computing: Enabling a Digital Wales

The strategic importance of the provision of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, as well as their contribution to the Welsh and wider UK economy has been frequently discussed, but there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding with where Computing and related disciplines sit within the STEM portfolio. It should be regarded as the quintessential STEM subject, involving scientific enquiry, engineering design and mathematical foundations, as well as embodying deeper computational thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills.

In December 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government outlined a framework for Delivering a Digital Wales, a wide-ranging strategy to reflect the importance digital technologies now play in our lives, touching upon virtually every strand of public and private sector activity. Hence, being able to innovate with technology will be a crucial part of the future economic strength of Wales. And therein lies the importance and relevance of Computing education: it is imperative that there is a clear strategy for Computing in Wales that distinguishes it from “digital literacy”, recognising it as a core discipline that underpins modern scientific research.

This is a well-timed event considering the recent Assembly elections, so I hope there is a strong turnout from both newly elected Assembly Members and policymakers.

The seventh annual Science and the Assembly takes place in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday 24th May 2011 at the Pierhead Building and the Senedd; registration is online.

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High Performance Computing Wales

HPC Wales logo

In July 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government announced the funding of High Performance Computing Wales (HPC Wales), a £40m major infrastructure project to provide an advanced supercomputing facility in Wales. It was first announced by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in December 2009; the project survived the change of government but lost £4m funding. The project is funded from the following sources:

  • £19m from ERDF and ESF European funds channelled through WEFO
  • £10m from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • £4m from collaborating institutions
  • £5m from the Welsh Assembly Government/HEFCW
  • £2m private sector and research income

The £40m investment will cover infrastructure development, equipment, software research, management and operational costs over the first five years to 2015, after which HPC Wales will become self-supporting and sustainable.

HPC Wales consists of three elements:

  • World-class HPC capacity: the purchase of large-scale super computing technology to complement existing facilities in Swansea and Cardiff with high-speed links to satellite spokes in the five major research universities in Wales. The network will link to business innovation centres and research centres in Wales and globally.
  • HPC Institute: this will deliver advanced research, focused on strategic partnerships in both academic and private sector, with priority given to research with direct economic impacts and benefits.
  • HPC Academy: the sustainability of the Research Institute will depend upon the ability to develop technical research skills and a pipeline of talent i.e. capability. The Academy will develop HPC skills training and will be open to researchers in Welsh SMEs and researchers in universities working collaboratively with businesses.

The main hubs for HPC Wales will be in Cardiff and Swansea, linked to spokes at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan Universities, University of Wales Alliance Universities (including UWIC) and the Technium business innovation centres around Wales.

Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Assembly Government’s deputy minister for science, innovation and skills, said at the project announcement:

The scale of the project is ambitious and will reach all four corners of Wales. It will speed up innovation from research carried out in Welsh Universities through to commercial-market ready products. It will also have a major impact on high-level skills development and training and put Wales right up there as an international player in the world of computational research.

Fujitsu were named as successful bidder for HPC Wales in March 2011 (I had the pleasure of attending the official award of contract down at the National Assembly in Cardiff), with the aim of being fully operational before the end of 2011. One of the main differences between HPC Wales and other HPC facilities in the UK (including the National Grid Service, the UK academic computing research infrastructure) is that it is not just purely focused towards academic research. Due to its funding sources (particularly the European funding), the project has a focus of kickstarting the use of HPC in industry in Wales. The aim is to have a major impact on the economy, on business competitiveness, on innovation, skills development and job creation.

I am very excited about HPC Wales (and not just because it will eventually deliver 190 teraflop performance); the distributed nature and scale of the project, plus the open access to business, makes it unique in its scale, nature and ambition. I will be involved in HPC Wales on a number of levels: as a researcher who consumes significant computational resources; but also at a strategic level for how it can provide an infrastructure for attracting high-value R&D to Wales and facilitating collaboration between Welsh higher education institutions and industry. It should play a key role in WAG‘s Economic Renewal Programme, as well as being crucial infrastructure for Delivering a Digital Wales, its wide-ranging strategy to reflect the importance digital technologies now play in our lives, touching virtually every strand of public and private sector activity.

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Computing: Enabling a Digital Wales?

A few weeks ago I was invited to write a blog post for the Campaign for Science & Engineering (CaSE), discussing science policy issues relating to the impending devolved elections in Wales. Since I now have my own blog, I thought I would repost it here and keep an eye on any science policy developments over the next month or so in the lead up to the elections on 5th May:

CaSE logo

Computing: Enabling a Digital Wales?

In December 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government outlined a framework for Delivering a Digital Wales, a wide-ranging strategy to reflect the importance digital technologies now play in our lives, touching virtually every strand of public and private sector activity. The WAG Economic Renewal Programme further reinforced the importance of ICT/Digital Economy as one of the six priority sectors for economic renewal.

Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills, Lesley Griffiths said at the Digital Wales launch:

The growth of our economy and the well-being of our citizens are now inexorably linked to advances in technology. We must be prepared to respond quickly to new opportunities and challenges that rapid technological change will continue to bring.

While substantial inroads in developing the infrastructure for a digital economy in Wales have been made, there is still a long way to go. A third of the adult population in Wales do not use the Internet, less than 40% of Welsh SMEs actually sell online and one in six Welsh employers consider the IT skills of their employees insufficient.

Large-scale ICT infrastructure improvements, including the roll-out of superfast broadband across parts of Wales, the funding of High Performance Computing Wales and even Improving Care through ICT for Health in Wales, have created a strong platform to support the proposed Digital Wales plan, but what about the strategic development of the required technically-skilled workforce? Emphasis has been placed on broadening and deepening the skills base in Wales, but is this being done in the right areas?

Understanding Computing

The strategic importance of the provision of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers and their contribution to the UK economy has been frequently discussed, but there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding with where Computing and related disciplines sit within the STEM portfolio. Furthermore, there are a number of questions about how Computing is taught in schools across the UK; in essence, it isn’t. As in England, most schools in Wales teach ICT (Information & Communication Technology) rather than Computing. Unfortunately, ICT invariably consists solely of teaching how to use office productivity software such as word processors and spreadsheets. This is creating a generation of technology consumers (the “PowerPoint generation”), who do not have any deep comprehension of the technologies they are using beyond a superficial application-focused understanding. Futhermore, it is disengaging students who mistakenly believe that this is what Computing as a discipline (or potential career) is actually about.

A part of the Digital Wales agenda is focused on equipping people to become digital citizens; one facet of this is educating children so that by the time they become adults they are capable of making a valuable contribution to the digital society and economy. And therein lies the importance and relevance of Computing education; schools should equip every child with the basic understanding of how computers work and with the technological capabilities to take part in a knowledge-based society and economy. By spectacularly failing to do this, there is a serious problem.

Part of this is perhaps to do with terminology: Computing is not just about computers (as per Edsger W. Dijkstra’s famous quote: “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”); it embodies deeper computational thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills. In some ways, it is the quintessential STEM subject, involving scientific enquiry, engineering design and mathematical foundations.

Positive Steps

The importance of the creative industries in Wales (including recent funding for West Wales and the Valleys) demonstrates that being able to innovate with technology is a crucial part of the future economic strength of Wales. Not having the skilled workforce or graduates to supply this future demand would be disastrous. However, there are a number of recently announced initiatives that are addressing this lack of strategic focus on Computing education and training.

The announcement in February 2011 of £6m funding over three years for the Technocamps project was a huge step forward; it aims to encourage young people in Wales to follow in the footsteps of successful technologists and entrepreneurs by inspiring them to study Computing-based topics underpinning and aligned with the STEM subjects. Over 2,600 pupils from across the Convergence area of Wales will get the chance to develop their technical skills and gain an insight into the wide range of Computing-related careers open to them.

Technocamps is further supported by the announcement in October 2010 of 13m investment over five years for Software Alliance Wales (SAW), which will boost the growth and competitiveness of the strategically important digital technology sector. One priority of SAW is to increase higher-level ICT skills across all business and industry sectors. Complementary funding was also announced in 2010 for the National Science Academy and STEM Cymru to ensure Wales has a continuous pipeline of people graduating from colleges and universities with the appropriate qualifications and skills.

But there is still significant work to be done; Computing at School (CAS), a membership association formally supported by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, is actively working in Wales in partnership with the Technocamps project to support and promote the teaching of Computing in Wales and stimulate curriculum change. The widely reported Royal Society review into Computing in Schools, along with its importance and implications for the economic and scientific strength of the UK, is due in November 2011. A national debate on subjects in Wales announced in February 2011 by Leighton Andrews, Deputy Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning, to discuss the future of A-level and vocational subjects in Wales, will hopefully recognise the importance of Computing in supporting future economic growth and enabling a Digital Wales. In England, the Department of Education review of the National Curriculum has restarted a similar debate; Scotland has already included Computing as part of its Curriculum of Excellence. It would be extraordinary if Wales did not do the same.

(A related article has been written by Dr Bill Mitchell, Director of the BCS Academy of Computing, the learned society dedicated to advancing computing as an academic discipline: The Collapse of Computing Education in English Schools)

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