22 June 2023
Coding was introduced in schools in England and Scotland in 2014 as part of the Computing curriculum which replaced Information and Communication Technology. But it is only part of the computer studies they undertake and does not give them a thorough understanding or develop skills to a vocational level.
At school children learn algorithms and how to write a set of instructions as part of their computing classes from the age of 7. They develop logical reasoning skills and some of the Boolean logic language. It helps them become articulate and think logically. They may use Scratch to write animation programmes. By the end of Key Stage 1 (age 5 - 6) they are meant to be able to write and test simple programs. In Key Stage 2 (age 7 - 11) they will write and design programmes for a specific goal. At Key Stage 3 (age 11 - 14) they will be using 2 languages.
One issue is that children tend not to be taught a "real life" computer programming language like Python which is used in industry. Coding allows children to be creators, not just consumers, and learning industry standard languages to code would be greatly to their advantage.
There is a shortage of teachers with real world knowledge of coding. With very little training, teachers lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to teach coding. It takes a significant level of expertise and experience to teach coding and there just aren't enough teachers to do it. Coders are not attracted to the teaching profession because they can earn far larger salaries in computer industries. However, the government launched the National Centre for Computing Education in 2018, which provides resources, funding and training to improve the teaching of computing in UK schools.
It's important that coding continues to be a greater part of school because it provides opportunities for children in various fields of work including finance and health. In school, girls and those from diverse ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds can be encouraged to take up technology, as these groups tend to be under-represented in technology-based industries.
Tech firms have begun to engage with local schools, with Microsoft providing programmes and others subsidising or donating equipment. The BBC has donated 57,000 micro:bits which are pocket-sized computers that demonstrate how software and hardware work together. They recognise that children can learn coding from a young age and benefit from doing so.
Coding is basically problem solving and that can be taught in schools. Children learn to articulate and understand a problem. They need to break it down into small parts to tackle it. They learn to collaborate, to listen to each others’ ideas and to split the tasks for success. They learn that practice is required to achieve optimum results.
So rudimentary coding is taught in schools but if you can find a teacher who has worked as a software designer or programmer, they will inspire your kids and equip them with a skill that can take them a long way in life.
Coding is going to be more and more prevalent in the jobs of the future, jobs we do not even know will exist. Technology can do so much for humanity and no child should be deprived of understanding or having the ability to create it.