Young people will be given the chance to voice their ideas about how technology can support learning in the UK, thanks to a new council headed by Sir Richard Branson.
The new Digital Youth Council, a panel of students aged between 13 and 17, will share their experiences with technology and discuss ways in which education technology can be improved in a classroom setting.
Led by Virgin Media Business with backing from the Department for Education and London Grid for Learning, the youth panel will then engage directly with the DfE later this year to help shape policy.
The initiative has been launched ahead of the new computer science curriculum, being introduced to schools in September, which will combine information technology, digital literacy and computer science, and will place a greater emphasis on coding and programming.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, argued that the introduction of these new skills to the curriculum would prepare British students to be able to work at the “very forefront of technological change”.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said: “With technology developing at such a rapid pace, making it accessible to pupils and teachers is an ongoing challenge.
“It’s critical we give children a voice on the technology that will shape their future learning, which is why we’re backing this campaign.”
He continued: “As children, we didn’t have to tackle the digitalised world but we also didn’t have the opportunities that it brings to today’s younger generation.
“We need to embrace technology at every step and make it a force for good as we educate the next generation.”
The council is being created as part of a wider review, launched at the end of April and led by Sir Richard Branson, looking at what impact technology is having in schools and what the future holds for teachers and pupils alike.
As children become increasingly confident using new technology, schools have often struggled to keep up – however, many classrooms are now equipped with tablets, interactive white boards and online learning platforms which allow teachers to more effectively monitor pupils’ learning.
The education minister said that it was “vital” that children understood how to make technology work for them.
She highlighted the “rigorous” new curricula in maths and computing which will teach children skills such as programming and coding.
“Students need to be confident in both to understand the basis of the modern world and be able to contribute to the future,” she said. “And who better to ask about what works in the classroom than children themselves.”
Mario Di Mascio, executive director at Virgin Media Business, said: “We believe children have a direct role to play in shaping the technologies that will in turn shape their futures.
“The Digital Youth Council will act as a catalyst for that process – harnessing the huge enthusiasm and talent that exists in UK classrooms for all things tech-related.
“Who knows? We may find ourselves across the table from the next tech entrepreneur star.”