Next Gen, the independent review of the skills needs of the video games and VFX industries led by Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope, and produced with NESTA, made a total of 20 recommendations for government, industry and educators.
Our aim was to remove the bottlenecks in the talent pipeline feeding the UK’s video games and VFX industries. Today marks an important milestone for Next Gen, with both the government and industry signalling their commitment to implementing the report’s recommendations.
Computer science in schools
We are delighted to see the government today responding so positively to Next Gen’s flagship recommendations to address the deficit in computer science teaching at school. The government confirms that the writing is on the wall for the present ICT curriculum.
But there is a new, and very significant, acknowledgement that, whatever the outcome of its review of ICT, it will be the responsibility of government to work with industry to ensure computer science is taught adequately in schools. In Next Gen, we reported that only one-in-five ICT teachers described themselves as being able to write or modify even basic computer programmes.
The government has now committed to explore in the next few months how to get higher-quality computer science teaching in schools.
Next Gen goes mainstream
Today also sees the launch of an industry-led Next Gen Skills campaign. As both the government and industry have today recognised, the stakes are far greater than the needs of just two creative industries – despite their impressive contributions to value added and their high-growth potential.
The wide coalition of businesses the video games and VFX industries have been able to pull together demonstrates that all of the UK’s high-tech industries will benefit from closing the gap between the computer science needs of today’s workforce and what British education currently offers young people.
Support for industry-accredited university courses
The government has also left the door open for Next Gen’s main recommendation for higher education, namely that HEFCE recognises industry-accredited specialist video games and VFX courses as strategically important and vulnerable, thereby warranting some HEFCE funding.
While the government has not yet been persuaded that these courses are in fact vulnerable, it has asked HEFCE to explore with Skillset what can be done to ensure the future of these important courses which, as Next Gen showed, in the case of video games are three times more likely to get their graduates into employment in the industry within 6 months.
It is also good news that the Skillset-accredited status of these courses will be included in the ’Key Information Set’ that universities will be required to publish under the Higher Education funding reforms, thus ensuring that prospective applicants are aware that industry has endorsed them.
As important, Skillset will be using some of the funds it has secured from the Growth and Innovation Fund and the Employer Investment Fund to extend their accreditation to kitemarking the best Further Education courses feeding talent into Higher Education, another recommendation in Next Gen.
NESTA looks forward to working with the government, industry partners and educators in fully implementing the recommendations set out in Next Gen.
Aside from our work with young people through the BAFTA games designer and Manchester animation competitions, NESTA intends to pursue the broader topic of education in a digital environment and to explore with schools the positive impact that educational games, programming in schools, and digital technologies, can have on educational outcomes in critical subjects such as maths, physics, and computing.