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Cyber security to be included in new GCSE curriculum

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Exam board OCR has announced that cyber security skills will form a large part of the recently relaunched computer science GCSE in the UK.

Former education secretary Michael Gove scrapped the old ICT curriculum in 2012, stating that it was “demotivating and dull”. It was replaced by the new computer science subject, which has itself now been updated to include a focus cyber security, with a view to creating a new generation of IT professionals who are better equipped to deal with the growing issue of cyber crime and cyber attacks.

OCR states that the enhanced curriculum aims to “boost essential 21st century computing skills”. As well as learning about coding, students will now be educated about phishing, malware, firewalls and social engineering. Pupils will also learn the ethical and legal concerns around computer science technologies.

Furthermore, the new GCSE, which was only introduced in 2014, will promote ‘computational thinking’, which will represent 60 per cent of the course content. This will involve, the exam board says, breaking a complex problem down into smaller parts, establishing a pattern, ignoring unnecessary information and designing a solution through programming.

Rob Leeman, subject specialist for computer science and ICT at OCR, said: “This specification builds on OCR’s pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations like Computing At School (CAS) to ensure that the content is relevant.

“There is growing demand for digital skills worldwide. Whether students fancy themselves as the next cyber-spook, Mark Zuckerberg or Linus Torvalds, our new qualification will be the first exciting step towards any career that requires competence in computing.”

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, there will be 146,000 job openings for programmers and software developers between 2012-2022, with jobs commanding an average salary of £38,000. There has also been a reported lack of talent available for companies looking to hire new cyber security specialist – this updated course will aim to plug this gap.

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