Teaching our children to code: a quiet revolution

Is the new focus on teaching children to code through school one that has slipped largely under the radar? this report in the Telegraph suggests so…

In just under a year, England will become the first country in the world to mandate computer programming in primary and secondary schools. Children will start learning to write code when they enter school the age of five, and will not stop until at least 16, when they finish their GCSEs.

By the end of key stage one, students will be expected to create and debug simple programs as well as ‘use technology safely and respectfully’. They will also be taught to understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions.

By the time they reach key stage 2, pupils will be taught how to design and write programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems. They will also learn how to understand computer networks and use logical reasoning to detect and correct errors in algorithms.

Upon entering secondary school, key stage 3 students will be taught about Boolean logic, given an understanding of algorithms that reflect computational thinking and be taught about the different hardware and software components that make up computer systems and how they communicate with one another and other systems.

Key stage 4 is more open, with students teachers and exam boards seemingly given more freedom on the content of the course, and teaching focused on achieving higher levels of study and a professional career.

This is not just an evolutionary change – this is a massive revolution in the study of computing, which until now has consisted almost entirely of lessons in how to use Microsoft Office programs. England is leading the world in this transformation and, bizarrely, no one seems to know about it.

The 2014 curriculum was announced back in July by education secretary Michael Gove, who said: “For the first time children will be learning to programme computers. It will raise standards across the board – and allow our children to compete in the global race.”

Since then, the Department for Education and the Computing at School working group (CAS) have been working with a number of organisations such as Codecademy – which offers free coding classes in programming languages like Python, PHP, JavaScript, and Ruby – to provide resources for teachers and students, and run pilots with schools across England.

“The way it works is that the government have put forward the critical objectives, and teachers can choose whatever curriculum or resources they want to use, so there’s no mandated or endorsed or one-track approach,” said Leng Lee, head of operations at Codecademy.

“There’s a wide range of online materials for basic stuff like HTML, but if you want a full service with all the languages, that’s where we have a big advantage. Our online platform is very clean and it’s been used for a couple of years by millions of people around the world, so we’re a pretty reliable brand.”

Codecademy is now making a beta version of its educational site widely available, so that schools and teachers can sign up and start integrating programming into their classes. Codecademy is accessed through a browser, so children can login to their account from home and pick up where they left off in a lesson. Progress is logged, and teachers can use the platform to set homework, create quizzes and build their own courses…

While some schools are working hard to get ahead of the game, the vast majority are likely to get quite a shock when the new computing curriculum comes into force next academic year. Many teachers will have to re-train, and some schools are likely to struggle to provide the computing resources needed to deliver the new curriculum.

It may take some time to adjust, but the government is in no doubt that this is a transformation worth making – ensuring that the next generation of digital natives will not just be able to consume digital content but create it. Britain, it says, needs to take this opportunity to establish its position as a digital leader.

More at:  Teaching our children to code: a quiet revolution

Is your school prepared for the changes? Do you welcome them? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Comments

  1. CSc_teacher

    SchoolsImprove Many schools have been coding for a few years now I hope we are not going from death by MS Office to death by Codeacademy

  2. PartridgeISM

    SchoolsImprove Is money going to be provided for training of primary teachers? Interesting to know how many are ready to teach programming.

  3. MinoHedgehog

    SchoolsImprove yes please: more coding, less mystique. Not everyone will develop codes, but they won’t be confused, if they talk to techies

  4. Ingotian

    PartridgeISM SchoolsImprove 17000 schools. Even if half had a teacher programmer it leaves 8000+ without. Couple of twilight sessions? #No

  5. pgs_computing

    PerthGrammar absolutely the way forward. Technology is advancing so fast and it’s important our youngsters have a good grasp on programming

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