BBC plans to help get children coding to boost computing skills

The BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, has announced plans to “bring coding into every home, business and school in the UK”…

It comes 30 years on from a BBC push to make computing mainstream by putting BBC Micro computers in the majority of schools.

In a speech to staff, Mr Hall said that the initiative would launch in 2015.

“We want to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology,” he said.

Government and technology experts are becoming increasingly worried that vital computing skills are no longer being taught in schools.

Meanwhile interest in higher-education IT and computing courses is falling, giving rise to fears about a massive skills gap.

From September 2014 children in schools in England will start learning computer coding from the age of five, so today’s announcement from the BBC is timely.

After mounting criticism of ICT as a subject concentrating on office skills rather than anything more in-depth, the government acted to scrap the curriculum in search of something better.

From Codecademy to Raspberry Pi to CoderDojo, all kinds of initiatives are springing up with the aim of transforming the way children understand computers.

But there’s a problem – many teachers feel they lack the skills and the materials needed to teach coding.

Exactly how the BBC’s year of coding will work is still to be decided – but there may be a role in acting as the glue to bring all these different initiatives together.

The Corporation will have to be careful that it doesn’t tread on anyone’s toes – one previous educational venture BBC Jam had to be cancelled after complaints from commercial companies.

But if the BBC can use its creativity to make coding cool that could have a big impact, giving the UK skills that are vital for a modern economy.

This term a new computer science curriculum has been introduced to schools in England, and Education Minister Michael Gove has made it clear that he wants to see coding taught as a priority.

Ralph Rivera, director of future media at the BBC, said: “The BBC has played a hugely important role in inspiring a generation of digital and technology leaders in the past, and now it’s time to reignite that creativity.”

“We want to transform the nation’s ability and attitude towards coding,” he added.

Details of the programme were limited, but the BBC said that it would partner with government, educators and technology companies.

“From working with children and young people, to stimulating a national conversation about digital creativity, the BBC will help audiences embrace technology and get creative,” the corporation said in a blog post.

A range of tools would be made available to give people “the skills to solve problems, tell stories and build new business in the digital world”, it added.

Experts appearing in a video to accompany the speech, agreed that action was needed.

Martha Lane Fox, charged with getting more people online via her organisation Go on UK, said: “We are going to need a million more people who can work in the technology sector over the next 10 years. We don’t have them. We’ve got to help to encourage people to go into that sector.”…

More (including a video of Tony Hall outlining his plan) at:  BBC plans to help get the nation coding

Do you welcome this policy announcement from the BBC? What do you think they can bring to the party to most help with the take up of coding skills at school? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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