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Software Development

Primary school coders

date: 12 December 2013
reading time: 3 min

From next year, the new UK primary school curriculum requires pupils to learn about programming.

From next year, the new UK primary school curriculum requires pupils to learn about programming. Most primary school teachers don’t have actual coding experience and recent research from an online programming school called Codeacademy shows that most teachers feel nervous about this shift.

One of the reasons that they feel nervous is because they never had the opportunity to learn programming at primary or at secondary school. This change to the curriculum should consign that to history. In the future, everyone will have had some experience of coding. Therefore no-one should be scared by it and more people should be encouraged to become developers. Considering the predicted growth of the app economy, this is not just a good initiative, but an essential one too. Without programmes like this, the UK STEM skills gap will never be closed.

I know from my own experience that programming as a child can spark an interest that has become a career – and a very fulfilling one for me. I think that most of the employees we have at Future Processing have similar stories to tell. Despite the label of ‘geek’ we found the creativity in programming highly stimulating. Now we are able to do what we enjoy and get paid for it: not many people can say that.

With the proliferation of technology and the advent of Apple-alike cool, today’s children should not find coding geeky – indeed I have heard that in primary schools where IT clubs are run, they are nearly always over-subscribed, although mostly by boys. The more we can do to encourage computing as a mainstream subject, the more girls and boys will consider software development as a career.

We shouldn’t think that it’s a totally bleak picture today, either. Primary school children are making use of existing programming tools like Scratch and BeeBots and of course there is the Raspberry Pi, which now seems to be gaining traction in schools. The 10-year old son of one of my UK employees has been busy creating a Christmas-themed present catching game using Scratch for a school project, and his school’s gate camera is powered by a Raspberry Pi. But currently, whether children get this early exposure to programming seems to be very random, meaning that many future tech industry employees don’t get a taste for it.

Going back to the nervous teachers, help is on the way. The BCS, with funding from the government, is launching a project next year that aims to train 20,000 primary school teachers to deliver programming lessons.

As for the new primary school curriculum, the UK education minister has been widely quoted as saying, “We want children to be enthused by the possibilities of computing – writing programmes for computer games or designing apps for smartphones.” As an employer of software developers, I want them to be enthused enough to consider computing as a career, instead of writing it off as boring or too difficult when they are just young teenagers, and so never knowing what they missed.

What do you think?

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