As one of the biggest changes in the National Curriculum over recent years it’s been announced that both primary and secondary pupils between the ages of 5-16 will now be learning to code. This is part of the new element of teaching ‘Computer Science’ (as opposed to Information and Communications Technology) which is a current area of growth employment. The aim of this development is to equip children with ‘computation thinking and creativity to understand and change the world’. The focus is on enhancing digital literacy and understanding not just how to work a computer but the internal workings and possibilities to use it as a channel to achieve what you want. This is not about creating a generation of coders who can’t get jobs due to market saturation it’s about creating a generation of people that understand technology and are comfortable using it in whatever role they take on. Whilst some critics have felt this is a strategic move from the government to globally promote the UK for it high-tech credentials others have embraced this as the only part of the curriculum changes under the current government they fully support.
Out of school informal learning around coding has already been in place for some time, there are currently 1949 Code Clubs in the UK with over 27,000 children benefiting by learning to code. Volunteers set up their own club and organise the venue etc. Volunteers can use the set projects which are on the website for in class or after school clubs. I spoke to Jon (our Lead Developer) about his thoughts on this and highlighted the relevance of transferrable skills for children learning to code. As Jon pointed out the basis of coding is mathematics so this allows children to understand the practical application of these mathematics skills. This can be linked to other areas of the curriculum. Jon himself who grew up in the 80’s when there was no formal education around coding a programming become comfortable with taking computers apart, finding out how they worked and putting them back together again, due to learning this skill at home, this naturally lead to an inquisitive confidence and understanding of the possibilities of digital. Now of course students can study coding and programming courses at university.
However the self-taught approach is still evident in agencies and organisations like ours all over the country. One of our developers who started in account picked up coding from TutsPlus she says “it’s a methodical process which matched my learning style so although I had to learn the skill I quickly understood the principals of how one aspect working in one place would affect how another aspect worked somewhere else. I started off using a free online video which offered a step by step guide. This really helped me with the ‘mark up’ stage of coding, the CSS stage took a bit longer to grasp because the varied ways CSS can be used to achieve a design”.
Of course much of the success of this course depends on the skills and confidence of the teachers. With many prospective employers concerned about the level of basic skills (i.e. reading and writing) of school and university leavers and with some calling for a return to learning more traditional subjects (money management and basic cooking being two) it’s clear the way this is implemented and ensuring its relevance to other parts of the curriculum will be key in its success. Whilst this move in part has been due to some of the leading technology companies concern around graduates having the necessary skills to fill their vacancies we can only hope that well implemented the transferable skills from learning to code should open up enough job opportunities should the tech giants not be able to fill that gap.