Scottish education bosses ‘letting children down’ by not teaching them to touch type, says former SNP minister

Scotland's educational establishment is letting children down by not teaching them how to touch type, a former SNP minister has suggested.

Fergus Ewing said the "essential skill" would offer youngsters a "tremendous advantage".

But education bosses questioned whether the necessary investment would be worth it.

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Mr Ewing, the MSP for Inverness and Nairn, said the Scottish Government had invested £25 million in providing laptops and digital devices to disadvantaged children.

He said: "One wouldn't hand out a violin or a trumpet to a child without arranging for that child to get tuition in how to play the instrument."

He said the ability to touch type was an "essential skill" to "allow the brain to concentrate on what one wants to say, rather than in finding the keys of the keyboard".

Mr Ewing, who was the SNP’s rural economy and tourism secretary until last year, suggested there should be a "facility for every school to have teachers trained in how to teach touch typing by an expert".

He spoke during a meeting of Holyrood's education, children and young people committee on Wednesday.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, told MSPs touch typing was important "to an extent", but said there were many different ways devices are used.

Douglas Hutchison, president of the Association of Directors of Education and executive director of education at Glasgow City Council, questioned whether the necessary investment would be worth it.

He said Glasgow has invested significantly in iPads, which generally do not use keyboards.

But Mr Ewing argued touch typing was of "tremendous advantage" for a huge range of jobs.

He said the evidence showed touch typing made people "300 per cent more productive", boosted confidence and benefited those with dyslexia.

He said: "I think the evidence is there for everybody to see. I must say, I'm pretty disappointed with these 'whys'.

"I do think this is an area where the education establishment needs to think carefully about whether we are letting children in Scotland down."

Mr Ewing said other countries teach touch typing as a mandatory part of the curriculum.

He added: "It would be sad if children in Scotland are missing out on a skill which in other countries is regarded, quite properly, as central to functioning in the modern digital age."

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