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September 1, 2014

From today, it’s back to school with extra coding for UK kids

New national curriculum also looks to teach children basic financial knowledge and skills.

By Vinod

Children starting school today are set to become the most technologically-literate students in the UK as part of a major overhaul to the national curriculum which puts new focus on the teaching of computer programming skills.

For the first time, British children between the ages of five and sixteen will be taught coding as part of an effort to better prepare children for the modern world of work, alongside basic financial numeracy skills.

Key Stage One pupils (aged 4-7 years old), will now be taught skills including how to create and debug simple programs, understand what algorithms are, and how to understand how computer programs work and operate.

By the age of 11, at the end of the primary school education, pupils will be expected to be able to, "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems".

This will be aided by a boost in extra-curricular activities such as after-school clubs, with the BBC also launching new programmes and teaching resources across its CBeebies, CBBC and Bitesize channels and online sites which it helps will get children interested in computing.

The new lessons will help equip children with "computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world", according to the group behind the inclusion, Computing At School (CAS), and will make Britain the first major world nation to teach such skills in the classroom.

"Computers are now part of everyday life," said Simon Peyton-Jones, chairman of the CAS. "For most of us, technology is essential to our lives, at home and at work. ‘Computational thinking’ is a skill children must be taught if they are to be ready for the workplace and able to participate effectively in this digital world."

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Computing skills have been taught in schools since 2000, when Information and Communication Technology lessons were first introduced as Britain rapidly embraced technological change.

But the new curriculum has meant that around 160,000 primary school teachers across the UK, as well as 16,300 secondary school ICT teachers, have needed to get up to speed in what is a relatively short amount of time, raising fears that children will not be receiving a complete understanding of the new subjects.

This lack of preparation has also been seen in pupil’s homes, with a recent study by Ocado Technology finding that two thirds (65%) of primary school parents were unaware their children would be learning how to code.

Luckily, the children themselves were far more clued-up, with nearly half (47%) of those polled fully aware of the new curriculum and excited about learning how to code – with 29% saying they already knew some coding skills.


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