Major new cross-industry skills coalition launched, on same day as government publishes response to the Livingstone Hope Skills review

28 November 2011 - London, United Kingdom - Interactive entertainment trade body, UKIE, announces launch of Next Gen Skills campaign to call for fundamental changes to the education system to drive hi-tech growth, on same day as the government supports key recommendations of Livingstone Hope Skills Review.
 
On the eve of the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, some of the biggest names from the digital, creative and hi-tech industries are joining up with leading skills and educational bodies to launch a major new campaign to change the education system and ensure that the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of the UK’s hi-tech economy are properly embedded in schools and classrooms.

Next Gen Skills is being led by games and interactive entertainment trade body UKIE (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other launch supporters include Google, TalkTalk, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, Intellect, IPA, British Computing Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, e-Skills, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore).

Next Gen Skills is campaigning for:

  • The introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the National Curriculum
  • A review of ICT in its current form and to embed essential ICT skills across the wider curriculum
  • The promotion of the vital role that teaching maths, physics, art and computer science will play in ensuring the growth of UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries

Coinciding with this launch, the government has also today outlined, in its response to the Livingstone Hope Skills review, its commitment to working with industry and educators to develop an attractive computer science offering for schools. The Livingstone Hope Review was published in February 2011 and looked at the skills that were needed to grow the UK’s video games and visual effects industries.

In the response the government acknowledges the crucial distinction between ICT and computer science, and suggests that irrespective of whether ICT remains part of the National Curriculum, government will still need to consider how to ensure children “acquire computer science skills.” The best way of achieving this would of course be to make computer science available on the National Curriculum.

Government has also committed to looking at the supply of high quality computer science teaching and has said it will take action over the next few months to address this.

In support of the cross-industry Next Gen Skills Campaign, which formally launched today, the government response also acknowledged that the key themes of Next Gen resonate far beyond video games and Visual FX industries.

Speaking at the launch of the Next Gen Skills Campaign, co-author of the Livingstone Hope review and co-chair of the Next Gen Skills Campaign, Ian Livingstone said: “As businesses increasingly rely on technology and computing, the UK has the opportunity to become a global, hi-tech leader. However, we need to improve our education system to allow this potential to be fulfilled.”

“Next Gen Skills believes that not having computer science on the national curriculum is a risk to any UK business that has computing and technology at its core. This is as relevant to design, engineering, financial services and architecture, from the building of jet engines to protection against cybercrime, as it is to the digital creative industries.”

“We’re excited to have so many big names signed up as initial supporters of Next Gen Skills already and we welcome support from any organisations who share our goal of equipping the next generation with the knowledge needed to grow this country’s digital, creative and hi-tech economy.”

And commenting on the government’s response to the Livingstone Hope Skills Review, Ian said: “The government’s response to the Livingstone Hope Review is very encouraging. To recognise that the current ICT programme is insufficiently rigorous is a great step forward and opens the door to curriculum reform. Computer science is essential knowledge for the 21st century and we recommend nothing less than it being included in the national curriculum. The UKIE-backed Next Gen Skills coalition will continue to work with government to try to make this happen.”

Next Gen Skills supporters gave their backing to the campaign:

Peter Barron, Director of External Relations, Google EMEA: “Google is delighted to be supporting the Next Gen Skills campaign. Google is a company built on, and still driven by, engineering. As we see increasing potential for growth in the creative, digital and hi-tech industries, we need to ensure that we are equipping the next generation with the skills they need to keep Britain at the cutting edge of technological and scientific innovation."

Steve Beswick, Director of Education at Microsoft UK: “Microsoft strongly supports the introduction of Computer Science as a rigorous school subject at every level from primary onwards. Microsoft’s partners employ half a million people in the technology sector and often find it hard to recruit software developers who have the relevant technical background. We need a step change that re-establishes computer science as a high-status school subject, valuable both educationally and economically. Microsoft is already partnering with the Computing at School Group to campaign for computer science in the school curriculum and we are working to improve the UK’s computer science skills right across the board: from transformative technology in schools to IT apprenticeships and PhD places which we support at Edinburgh University.”

Hasan Bakhshi, Director of Creative Industries at NESTA - which led the research for the Livingstone Hope review - said: “The video games and visual effects industries are a phenomenal success story for the UK. The Next Gen. review showed just how imperative it is that we equip our young people with the technical and creative skills to continue this legacy and grow the hi-tech creative sector in the UK. The Next Gen Skills Campaign will play a vital role in campaigning for the implementationof these findings.”

Fiona Clarke-Hackston, Chief Executive, BSAC added: “Technological change has had a huge impact on the skills needs of the audiovisual industries. If the UK is to remain globally competitive it is essential that changes are made to our educational system. The British Screen Advisory Council fully supports the Next Gen Campaign.”

Skillset’s Kate O’Connor commented: “Our VFX and games industries know that to remain world leaders, we need to equip the new generation of talent with a fusion of arts, maths and science skills. We support Next Gen Skills’ call for putting computer science on the national curriculum and combining this with a new approach to education that encourages young people to fuse those skills with their work in creative disciplines. If we act on this now, we will build a talent base to enable the continued growth of a thriving and dynamic creative sector into the future.”

Andy Payne, MD of Mastertronic: “Our business is in content creation. In order for us to continue to be successful we must ensure that our future employees have the skills necessary to both create and distribute compelling content that is wanted by consumers on a world-wide basis. Having ICT and not computer science on the national curriculum is a major error in judgement in our view and will force us to look elsewhere for the talented content creators who can design, build and deliver to content consumers.”
 

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Contacts:
For all press enquiries, please contact the Next Gen Skills press office on T: +44 (0)20 7534 0580 or E: theo.blackwell@nextgenskills.com

About Next Gen Skills
Next Gen Skills is a cross-industry campaign which aims to improve the teaching of computer science in schools. It is an independent campaign that will speak with one voice for industry and education stakeholders with shared goals.
 
Next Gen Skills’ vision is for the UK’s education system to equip the next generation with the knowledge needed to grow this country’s digital, creative and hi-tech economy. In particular it is calling for the introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the National Curriculum.
 
Visit www.nextgenskills.com for more information. Twitter @NextGenSkills.
 
About UKIE
The Association for United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment or UKIE is a trade body that represents the whole of the UK’s video games and wider interactive entertainment industry. Founded in 1989 (and formerly known as ELSPA), UKIE’s membership includes games publishers, developers and the academic institutions that support the industry.
 
UKIE works with government to champion a range of issues including age ratings, education and skills, tax incentives and protecting intellectual property rights. It also works with the media to ensure true and accurate representation of the sector by raising awareness of the industry’s positive economic contribution and the societal benefits of gaming to policy makers, regulators and consumers.
 
One of UKIE’s key roles is to support its members by providing them with key market information, promoting careers and offering the business support services, training and best-practice knowledge to enable them to operate most effectively.
 
In addition, UKIE works with GfK Chart-Track to compile weekly, monthly and annual retail charts and sales reports for the UK market.