The IT industry has welcomed the government’s publication of the new national curriculum for computing, which aims to teach children between the age of five and 16 how to code.
BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, which provided some input in the creation of the new curriculum, has given its full backing.
“The new curriculum is a step change that focuses on computational thinking whilst still embodying the most important aspects of digital literacy, which everyone needs to live effectively in our digital society,” said Bill Mitchell, director of BCS Academy of Computing.
“This change represents a real opportunity to give all pupils the chance to become future creators and inventors of technology and maybe future technology entrepreneurs.”
Mitchell said that the important next step is to support teachers in making the curriculum come to life.
“Although the change is ambitious, we know from talking to schools that are already teaching computing that children from primary school age enjoy, are good at and develop intellectually by doing computing. So there is every reason to introduce computing across the whole school education system.”
The curriculum covers Key Stages 1 through to 4, which is for children aged between 5 and 16, and has been designed to have computer science theory as its foundation. It will replace the current ICT curriculum, which focusesmore on the use, rather than the creation, of computer programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
Boosting skills, boosting creativity
Ian Livingstone CBE, chair of the Next Gen Skills campaign, said that the publication of the new curriculum was a “major boost” for the creative economy.
“Out goes the old ICT curriculum, which most students found boring, and in comes computing based on problem-based learning that will be rigorous, relevant and exciting,” he said.
“I particularly welcome the emphasis on creativity, giving a much-needed signal to schools that the teaching of digital-making skills also requires Art and Humanities for children to be able to express themselves and operate in the digital world.”
Daley Robinson, group marketing director at Stone Group, an IT firm that champions ‘creation versus use’, also backed the new curriculum.
“Most children are confident in accessing and using a computer, but today’s digitally-led world calls for something far more developed than this,” said Robinson.
“Coding is a great way for schools to support wider drives to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills. Applying this in a creative capacity through coding is a great way to teach logical problem solving.”
Robinson added: “We believe children need to start young and as such we have always supported coding clubs and hackathons that are run out of school hours to encourage computer programming.”
Other IT companies that support computing in schools include HP, which runs the AQA Creative Enterprise Programme and TeenTech Awards.
“We are extremely pleased to see this progress with the curriculum as there is a clear skills gap in the UK IT sector,” said Susan Bowen, HP UK & Ireland chief of staff.
Overemphasis on coding?
However, the school computing teachers’ response to the Department for Education’s (DfE) new curriculum was mixed.
Ian Addison, a Year 3 and 4 team leader at Riders Junior School, was concerned that there was an overemphasis on coding.
“Too much emphasis on coding can be very dull at times. All of the fun ICT - like animation and video editing - could get lost. You can do it with the new curriculum, but it’s not obvious,” he said.
But Phil Bagge, who teaches computing science at five junior schools in Hampshire, disagreed, saying that the new curriculum was now far more open-ended and challenging.
“The programming aspect encourages independence as pupils learn strategies to create and debug their own creations. Pupils learn that all programmers make mistakes and learn to embrace mistakes and learn from them. It is also a gateway to pupils learning how to learn by using the Scratch community to develop programs and ideas that they are interested. Schools become gateways into these communities for interested pupils,” he said.
“Over half my classes in Year 4 and 5 download Scratch or use the new online version of Scratch. In Year 6 I introduce Python text coding and there is a visible wow when pupils create their first recognisable Microsoft Window.”
Bagge added: “Probably even more fundamentally important is that computational thinking opens up new ways for pupils and staff to understand how things work. It surprises pupils at first when you move away from the PC for a computing lesson but the results can be hilarious and informative as you can see from this Jam Sandwich Algorithm lesson.”
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