By Daniel Hunter
Thousands of those in the tech community, from programmers to software architects, are needed to volunteer their skills as the revised national curriculum for Computing is introduced across England.
The Developing Britain report reveals that although the new subject covers everything from basic geometry to programming however welcome, the change comes with its challenges.
This new curriculum puts a significant new emphasis on computer science as a foundational discipline, alongside the application of computer skills. Developing Britain, a report by NDC London, the inaugural new Developers Conference(); examines the impact of these changes.
The report reveals the need for volunteers to support both teachers and children in learning this new knowledge and skills, and highlights short term and long term effects on the UK developer industry. Moreover, while the new curriculum outlines what should be taught, there is little detail on how.
Experts fear that since Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, published the revised national curriculum to include coding skills as a part of our future learning, not enough is being done to prepare teachers to deliver the new Computing curriculum with confidence and enthusiasm from September 2014.
The government has funded Computing at Schools (CAS) courses currently being rolled out across the UK. However with just £2million funding over two years, this heavily relies on support from the developer community. If the UK and London in particular is going to take on Silicon Valley, as the NY Mayor Bloomberg predicts, we are going to need to up-skill.
Our new curriculum will see children in the UK, from as young as six, taught how to write and develop their own computer programs and learn how to store and retrieve data, as well as understanding elementary internet safety. Young people between the age of 11 and 14 will be taught coding and how to solve computer problems.
Arne Laugstøl, co-founder of NDC London and also a volunteer at Riverside in Norway says: “We will not only be bringing together developers and leading IT companies for knowledge exchange at NDC London, but will also provide a platform for them to engage and participate in aiding the industry’s imminent rapid development.”
CAS and Code Club currently exist with the aim to support and aid teachers with course materials but also to inspire them. Both organisations are keen to recruit volunteers with an interest in the subject, and stress that teaching expertise is not a prerequisite.
Code Club is a network of after school coding clubs for nine to eleven year olds, which give children a chance to learn to code. Code Clubs are led by volunteers, some with the help of local authorities. In Camden, every primary school will have a club, using funding and volunteers from Google and UCL. There are now over 1,300 schools running Code Clubs, but there are still 500 schools waiting for volunteers from the tech industry to step up. With more than 23,000 primary schools in the country, there is a great need for volunteers.
Simon Peyton Jones, Microsoft Research and chair of the 7,000-strong Computing At School group, is a computer scientist who aided the Department for Education in writing the new curriculum. He stresses the importance of foundational ideas over technology: “It’s important not to get too focused on computers themselves, (one of the things that went wrong with ICT was to focus on technology, even in the name of the subject) — “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."
Arne Laugstøl, Co-Founder of NDC London says: “If the tech community don’t do their bit, the UK will not meet the increasing demand for software developers and engineers and businesses will look overseas. That’s why it’s important to ensure we harness existing talent and inspire growth in the developer community.”
During the 1980’s, the era of the 8-bit home computer, there was great interest in programming. However the advent of PCs led to a focus on using computers, and programming became more difficult, and less of a priority. The report reveals adults often have preconceptions about programming. However with the recent flux of software training programs such as Scratch and Kodu deliberately aimed at children, it is hoped that adults join in the resurgence which also now incorporates a great social element.
In other countries, such as Denmark, the community are already doing their bit to educate children. Arne, of NDC London, says: “We looked at JavaZone, the biggest conference in Scandinavia and that was about programming Java but also building communities. NDC was the first conference to both bring together developers to network and inspire youths and with an especially designed event in London for the first time, we hope to inject similar enthusiasm into young Brits with ”Coding for Youths”
The opportunity is clear: Simon says: “Everyone is trying to hire smart software graduates. If we want to be competitive in the future economy we’re going to have to be confident in computing… It’s not rocket science it’s only computer science.“
Arne, NDC London says: “Software development is integral in almost every industry from home entertainment to medical appliances to transport, and teaching youths how to develop software will create a bigger supply of programmers in the UK instead of looking abroad, inevitably helping the UK compete.”
Previously, both a subject and a mechanism, computing is now wired into the national curriculum, guaranteeing entitlement for every child. So, as we become one of the first countries to ensure every child should learn computer science, it’s ever more important that we ensure its success.
Join us on