Hundreds of thousands more schoolchildren in Scotland could be taught vital digital skills after a scheme backed by major companies including Microsoft was expanded.
The Digital Schools Awards Scotland encourages schools to partner with colleges, universities and employers to embed technology skills in a range of lessons.
It is hoped the move will help shape Scotland as a digital nation and prepare children for a future in which companies will increasingly look to hire people with knowledge of the digital world. According to the US Department of Labor, 65% of today’s youngest schoolchildren will end up in a job that hasn’t been invented yet.
The awards were launched for Scottish primary schools last year, with 65 gaining accreditation from Education Scotland – including 22 at a special ceremony in Clydebank today. It is also available in Northern Ireland.
It has now been expanded to include secondary schools; and with more than 360 such schools in Scotland, it means nearly 300,000 children aged between 11 and 18 could additionally benefit from the scheme.
Steven Grier, Country Manager at Microsoft Scotland, said: “The Digital Schools Programme is a shining example of how we, as an industry, are committed to supporting the next generation and ensuring that all young people acquire the skills they need to thrive in the modern digital workplace. We are proud to be part of this exciting initiative and look forward to seeing how it enables students to better prepare for the world of work.”
Participating schools are required to self-assess their developments in digital technology in set areas – Leadership and Vision, Digital Technology for Learning and Teaching, School Culture, Professional Development, and Resources and Infrastructure.
The secondary programme builds on the primary scheme and encourages schools to look at using digital skills in more real-world and work-ready scenarios. It promotes digital innovation and creativity; computational thinking; advances in science, technology, maths and science; the use of digital technology to promote higher order thinking skills; support for digital equity and access; and the need for cyber resilience.
Microsoft, HP and Intel will continue to provide practical support and resources as well as £600,000 of funding over the next five years.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science in Scotland, said: “A key priority in shaping the Scottish Government’s Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy has been to align the needs of employers with the curriculum. Our colleges, universities and employers have a key role to play in helping schools to prepare our young people for the opportunities to flourish in the future.
“The government welcomes HP, Microsoft and Intel support on this digital schools’ programme, which is a fantastic example of industry supporting education in Scotland.”
Kirkton of Largo Primary School has been awarded Digital Schools status by Education Scotland. Gemma Sanderson, one of its teachers, told the News Centre that the school “lives and breathes technology because we understand the benefits it brings”.
“I don’t know what the jobs will be like when my five-year-olds eventually leave school,” she added, “but I know they are going to be doing digital things, and it’s important that we start teaching that at primary school. Embracing digital learning is a positive thing; it’s important. This is how you support learning and increase digital skills.”
There are currently around 1.5 million jobs in the UK’s digital sector. It is estimated that there will be 100,000 new coding jobs by 2020, as technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning become commonplace in homes and offices.