BT to improve tech skills of 400,000 children

Member News | 09.09.2015

BT to improve tech skills of 400,000 children

By Sonso Gonzalez

BT to improve tech skills of 400,000 children

Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive of BT, today announced a major programme to improve levels of tech literacy among UK primary school children, as new research shows further action is needed to support the government’s flagship computing curriculum introduced last September.

BT will more than double its commitment to support teachers by expanding the Barefoot Computing programme beyond England to the whole of the UK during the September 2015 to July 2016 school year.  This forms part of a long-term commitment by BT, unveiled in March, to help build a culture of tech literacy for the nation, reaching five million young people by 2020. 

The new Barefoot Computing commitment will involve:

  • Delivering training to 15,000 primary school teachers across the UK
  • The provision of new teaching resources to bring alive tech concepts in computing lessons and across the curriculum
  • Working with schools to see how technology can be applied to improve school life e.g. harnessing BT Tute, a digital tutorial platform to extend classroom support for teachers.

In a speech at BT Tower to leading figures in UK technology, education, policy, parenting and youth communities, Patterson warned that the next generation of children lack the tech knowledge and skills to ensure the UK remains a leading player in the future global economy:

“The UK's future as a technology leader hinges on young people getting the skills, support and training they need to create successful careers in science, engineering and IT.  There won't only be more demand for specialist tech skills; many jobs, in different sectors, will require some level of tech literacy.

“If we're to have a dynamic economy, we need a society where people understand the basics behind how tech works, and have the knowledge to create and develop it, not just consume it.  A generation of young people who are tech literate is fundamental.  Bringing computing into primary school classrooms was a landmark step, but we need to do more to enable teachers to teach it.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “I am delighted at this latest commitment from BT to help support teachers deliver our world-class computing curriculum. The decision to replace ICT in schools with high quality computer science is key to preparing pupils for life in a modern economy.

“We have spent more than £4.5 million over the past three years to help computing teachers prepare young people for the rapidly-changing jobs market and BT’s commitment can only help us progress further.” 

Ninety senior leaders, with a stake in addressing the UK’s tech literacy challenge, took part in a special event to crowdsource solutions, including Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts, iRights founder Baroness Beeban Kidron, tech entrepreneur Ian Livingstone, and senior representatives from government and education.

The new commitments from BT come on the back of new research into the attitudes and behaviour of children, teachers and parents towards the new curriculum and the role of technology at school and home.

The research found:

  • Teachers lack the confidence and knowledge to bring alive the real world relevance of classroom computing.  Technology remains an isolated subject divorced from the rest of the curriculum.
  • The majority of schools lack access to the right technology and support to get the best from it.  Teachers report that technology is more often a disruptor than an enabler of teaching and learning in the classroom due to old software.
  • Children, especially girls, find computing lessons dull and difficult and are getting conflicting messages about their use of technology from  parents, who are actively encouraging less use, and teachers who are telling them they need to know how to code.
  • Parents do not see computing as an important skill and have a narrow - in some cases, negative - perception of the careers it can lead to.
  • The study also highlighted a cultural paradox caused by advancing technology: the better technology gets, the more it erodes children’s curiosity of how it works.

Commenting on why BT wants to improve UK tech literacy, Gavin Patterson added:

“Our purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. These days, life and work is built around connectivity.  It isn’t just the technology that matters, it’s what everyone can do with it. And the real opportunity for the future is to create things that nobody has even thought of yet. We need people who understand how technology works – who are tech literate – if we’re to make this a reality.” 


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