Skip to main content

Secondary School Curriculum

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

We recently published a number of proposals for the reform of the national curriculum in primary and secondary schools and those proposals are now subject to public consultation.

We know from industry that computing science is extremely important, and particularly coding skills. However, two thirds of schoolteachers do not have the relevant skills to teach coding. What does the Secretary of State intend to do about that?

That is a very good question from the hon. Lady. One of the things that we have done is disapply the existing information and communications technology curriculum that we inherited from the previous Government, which was not appropriate, was out of date and ensured that students did not acquire the skills they need. We now have a new curriculum and we are working with industry, including Microsoft, in order to ensure that that new curriculum teaches children the coding skills required. I had the opportunity on Friday to see a school in my own constituency doing just that.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on financial education for young people, I welcome the proposed inclusion of financial education in the maths and citizenship curricula. What more needs to be done during the consultation period to make sure that we deliver on our duty to equip the next generation of consumers to make informed and savvy financial decisions?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the tenacity and skill with which he has fought his campaign. It is important that all of us recognise that we need to equip children with both the mathematical skills and the strength of character to be able to navigate choppy financial waters.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to include financial education, but what about relationship and sex education? Should they not be part of personal, social, health and economic education, as a statutory part of the curriculum, especially in light of the allegations around Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith, to ensure that young people know how to deal with sexual predators?

Sex education is a statutory part of the national curriculum. The broader point about the nature of sexual exploitation is most effectively dealt with by ensuring that we can prosecute those people who are responsible for despicable crimes.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of “Informed Choices”, which was published by the Russell group of universities and deals with subject selection at GCSE and A-level. Does he agree that all young people, not just those designated as gifted and talented, should be made aware of the implications of subject choices at GCSE so as to maximise their opportunity to attend such universities?

My hon. Friend makes a characteristically good point. It is absolutely right that we do not prematurely curtail young people’s freedom of choice. In order to do that, we need to make it clear to them which subjects give them the widest choice later in life, and those are English, mathematics, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language, history and geography.