Thousands of pupils in primary and secondary schools across the UK will be introduced to the government’s new computing curriculum this week as they return to school.
Under the new curriculum, children as young as five will be taught what algorithms are and how to create and debug simple programs, while secondary school pupils will have to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems".
The Department for Education told the BBC that the new curriculum reflects the government's aim to "ensure every child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain".
"We believe it is right that changes are made as soon as possible to benefit the most young people," a spokesperson said.
"We are confident that all the reforms can be implemented within our planned timeframe which is a testament to the dedication of our high-quality teaching profession."
Critics argue that the vast majority of teachers won’t be able to teach the new computing curriculum because they haven’t had the necessary training, while others believe today’s digitally-savvy children already know more about technology than their teachers.
But several organisations have created resources that teachers can use to help them teach the new curriculum.
“The main priority is to entrench ourselves as the leading platform for learning how to programme,” said Leng Lee, director of product at Codecademy. “If we get England as a case study then that’s a major G8 country using our thing. We can go to another country and show that off."
Elsewhere, the BBC today announced new programmes and teaching resources across CBeebies, CBBC and Bitesize to get children interested in computing.
Gerard Grech, CEO of government-funded Tech City UK, said: "The UK is seeing a boom in demand for tech and digital skills. Recent research figures show that over half a million new entrants are required to fill IT professional job roles in the UK over the next five years. This makes the addition of computing to the school curriculum a significant move. Many more young people will now leave secondary education with a far stronger grounding in technology, a skill that is fast becoming a vital qualification in our increasingly digital economy.”
David Richards, CEO and co-founder of big data start-up WANdisco, said: “Unlike the US, Britain is not generating enough home grown talent to fuel the growth of our technology companies. In part, this has been due to a national curriculum out of synch with the needs of our technology and software companies, so changing the curriculum is a landmark moment in addressing this imbalance. Now the responsibility lies with universities and the private sector to ensure that greater familiarity with computational thinking at a young age translates into greater job prospects for computer science graduates.”
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