Coding at school: a parent’s guide to England’s new computing curriculum

Sep 4, 2014 by

From the start of the new term, children as young as five will be learning programming skills in the classroom

Getting more kids to code has been a cause célèbre for the technology industry for some time. Teaching programming skills to children is seen as a long-term solution to the “skills gap” between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them.

From this month, the UK is the guinea pig for the most ambitious attempt yet to get kids coding, with changes to the national curriculum. ICT – Information and Communications Technology – is out, replaced by a new “Computing” curriculum including coding lessons for children as young as five years old.

This has been coming for a while: the new curriculum was published in September 2013 to a big fanfare within the technology industry. But it seems many parents will be surprised once their children come home from school talking about algorithms, debugging and Boolean logic.

A survey of 1,020 parents of 5-18 year-olds in England commissioned by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, found that 60% were unaware or unsure about the changes to the curriculum. Similar surveys by tech firms O2 and Ocado Technology yielded similar results: 64% and 65% of parents (respectively) who were unaware of the changes.

If you’re one of those parents, here’s a guide to what your children will be studying under the new computing curriculum; why there’s more of an emphasis on programming skills; how teachers have been preparing for the changes; and how you can support both children and their schools over the coming months.

Why is this happening?

The shakeup of computer studies in schools has been trailed for a while, after criticism from ministers and technology companies alike of the existing ICT curriculum. Education secretary (at the time) Michael Gove outlined the political rationale for the changes in a speech this January:

“ICT used to focus purely on computer literacy – teaching pupils, over and over again, how to word process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs already creaking into obsolescence; about as much use as teaching children to send a telex or travel in a zeppelin.

Now, our new curriculum teaches children computer science, information technology, and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work a computer; but how a computer works, and how to make it work for you.”

This plays directly in to the complaints of technology companies that the UK hasn’t been producing enough graduates qualified to fill vacant jobs. Microsoft and Google, along with BCS and its Computing at School working group, and the Royal Academy of Engineering were all involved in the new curriculum.

via Coding at school: a parent’s guide to England’s new computing curriculum | Technology | theguardian.com.

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