Education: Digital Technology

Department for Education written question – answered at on 24 May 2024.

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Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to increase digital learning opportunities across (a) schools and (b) colleges.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

Ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, have the world class computing and digital knowledge and skills that they need for the future is a key priority of this government.

To help meet the demand for people with computing and digital qualifications and competencies, the department introduced computing as a statutory English National Curriculum subject in 2014, from Key Stages 1 to 4 inclusive. Through computing, pupils become digitally literate so that they are able to use, express themselves and develop their ideas through information and communication technology at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.

The computer science GCSE and A level were also introduced in 2013, through which students are taught to understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science. In addition, there are high quality vocational and technical digital qualifications available that are counted in the Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 performance tables, which provide alternative pathways towards digital careers. Information on the Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 performance tables can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/key-stage-4-qualifications-discount-codes-and-point-scores and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/16-to-19-qualifications-discount-codes-and-point-scores, respectively.

The department has invested over £100 million in the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) to improve the teaching of computing and drive up participation in computer science at GCSE and A level. The NCCE provides high quality continuing professional development and resources to teachers of all Key Stages and engages with schools and colleges across England to improve their computing provision. This includes facilitating industry-led events for pupils on careers in computing and digital.

The department is also investing to fix the basics by improvinge broadband access and connectivity and sett standards for technology infrastructure to help create an environment where all schools and trusts can use technology effectively. The department is working with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and commercial providers to accelerate gigabit capable broadband rollout to schools and investing up to £200 million to upgrade schools that fall below Wi-Fi connectivity standards in Education Investment Areas.

The government recognises that digital skills are important for adults of all ages, and the department is committed to improving their level of digital skills to support active participation in society.

From August 2020, the department introduced a digital entitlement for adults with no or low digital skills to undertake specified digital qualifications free of charge. The new entitlement mirrors the existing legal entitlements for English and maths and puts essential digital skills on an equal footing in the adult education system, as the third essential skill adults need for work, life and further learning.

The department introduced new Essential Digital Skills qualifications (EDSQs) at entry level and Level 1 from August 2020, which are funded under the digital entitlement. EDSQs are based on the national standards for essential digital skills and are designed to meet the diverse needs of adults with no or low digital skills byreflecting different learning needs, motivations and starting points.

To further enhance the essential digital skills offer for adults, from August 2023 the department introduced new digital Functional Skills qualifications (FSQs), which replaced FSQs in Information and Communication Technology. Digital FSQs have standardised content and assessment and provide a benchmark of digital skills for employers. These are based on subject content for digital FSQs that the department published in October 2021.

In addition to formal qualifications, the department also funds community learning and other non-regulated learning, such as building confidence in essential digital skills, through the Adult Education Budget. Many Local Authorities and other further education providers are already delivering these courses that help equip adults with the essential digital skills they need for work, life and further learning.

Of course, people may look to progress beyond essential digital skills, through a desire to retrain or upskill. Through the department’s wider skills reforms, which is backed by an additional £3.8 billion in further education and skills over the lifetime of this Parliament, it has continued to ensure learners, whatever their age, can train, retrain and upskill towards better jobs, better wellbeing and better options for the future.

The department has introduced three Digital T Levels, which include Digital Business Services, Digital Production, Design and Development, and Digital Support Services. They are the gold-standard Level 3 technical qualification that are designed with employers to meet industry standards and with a significant industry placement built in to give that all-important experience of work within the digital sector. Digital skills are increasingly important across all occupations and as a result, every T Level has the digital skills necessary for employment embedded into its curriculum.

Additionally, employers have designed over 30 high-quality digital apprenticeships to support them to develop the skilled workforces they need, including Level 3 Information Communications Technician, Level 3 IT Solutions Technician and Level 3 Digital Support Technician. The department is increasing investment in the apprenticeships system in England to £2.7 billion in the 2024/25 financial year to support employers in delivering high-quality apprenticeships.

Employers and learners can also make use of the department’s Skills Bootcamp offer, which provides free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills with an offer of a job interview upon completion. Skills bootcamps in digital form our largest sector and are available in each English region and online with courses ranging from software development to AI and Machine Learning.

More information about digital skills and other government-funded training opportunities can be found at the following link: https://www.skillsforcareers.education.gov.uk/pages/skills-for-life.

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