Live panel discussion: Digital transformation in UK higher education

Digitalisation has changed how we interact, live and work. Cloud, mobile-first platforms and the Internet of Things are driving a new digital economy, and it’s growing fast. As these connections grow, the digital economy is literally transforming the UK’s education sector.

Education Technology is delighted to host this panel discussion in partnership with HE cloud specialist Okta and Aris Koliopoulos, head of IT at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.


Technology provides students with unprecedented information and power to shape their environment, and institutions with opportunities to transform how they manage their workforce and engage with students.

That opportunity doesn’t come without challenges, however. It also leaves institutions with a complex, large-scale web of users and apps as well as a new threat landscape. Managing and securing these new technologies can be challenging, costly and time-consuming for institutions.

Join us at 3pm on Wednesday 19th June 2019 to share your views on:

  • How to successfully, and safely, manage the technologies for all users: staff, students, partners, alumni
  • Security landscape of cloud computing, mobile solutions and other technologies
  • Authenticating identity and authorising access as the new front in the escalating war with cyber adversaries

Our audience are encouraged to contribute to the discussion and time will be made available at the end for any questions for the panel.

Register to join today

EngineeringUK releases free guide to engineering careers

EngineeringUK has released a free guide for schools, helping to deliver outreach programmes to inform young people about the possibilities of an engineering career.

The guide, entitled ‘Getting the message across’, encourages STEM professionals and ambassadors to plan inspiring and impactful activities by providing real-world examples of engineering.

You might also like: Northumbria University invests £300,000 in primary school STEM outreach

Real-world examples can then be aligned to what students are already learning in school. Suggestions in the guide include making links between the skills involved in subjects such as maths, science, D&T, computing, geography, art and languages, and job roles in the engineering sector.

Gemma Taylor, technology CPD lead at STEM Learning UK, said: “When running inspirational engineering activities for young people we need to make sure that the content supports the learning taking place in schools and colleges.

“‘Getting the message across’ is provides additional support to the thousands of STEM ambassadors that are working every week to inspire young people and illustrate the wide range of careers available in engineering.”

When running inspirational engineering activities for young people we need to make sure that the content supports the learning taking place in schools and colleges.
– Gemma Taylor, STEM Learning UK

The guide has been created with the support of Tomorrow’s Engineers Careers Working Group, and helps to reinforce what makes an impactful talk or activity, including which factors motivate students when thinking about a career.

Research from Tomorrow’s Engineers Week has found that 90% of young people are looking for a career that tackles social issues, so examples of how engineering helps address issues such as renewable energy, disease cures, and tackling homelessness, could be of interest here.

You might also like: Smallpeice Trust launches aircraft-themed STEM kit

EngineeringUK also provides a work experience guide for companies to help plan an inclusive work experience or placement for those interested in learning more about the day-to-day work of engineers.

‘Getting the message across’ can be views and downloaded for free at

Supercomputer transforms archaeology at University of Bradford

Leading archaeologists at the University of Bradford are utilising a supercomputer to create accurate 3D models of endangered and destroyed ancient monuments and sites.

The high-performance computing (HPC) system, designed by HPC developer OCF, is helping to support sustainable heritage initiatives, such as the Curious Travellers project, led by the University of Bradford.

Curious Travellers is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded Fragmented Heritage project, under the Digital Transformations programme. It is run in conjunction with the University of St Andrews, University of Nottingham Ningbo, China (UNNC), University of Birmingham, and the University of Durham.

Technology is not only broadening the scale at which archaeologists work, but also is making an unprecedented volume of extremely accurate data available for multinational analysis.
– Professor Vincent Gaffney, University of Bradford

Heritage sites are reconstructed using hundreds of digitally recorded images. Reconstructed sites so far include the Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Kathmandu, and Stonehenge.

Professor Vincent Gaffney, from the University of Bradford’s School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, said: “Computing technology is shaping archaeological practice.

“Importantly, the project is more than just the 3D content. By using geospatial and archaeological data that describes the site within its landscape, its context is included, providing a lasting legacy that contributes to local historic environment records.

“Technology is not only broadening the scale at which archaeologists work, but also is making an unprecedented volume of extremely accurate data available for multinational analysis.”

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own images of heritage sites for the project at

New ‘health check’ for edtech startups

Jisc and Emerge Education have co-launched a ‘health check’ programme for edtech startups.  

Step up greenlights emerging edtech businesses after a careful assessment of their long-term sustainability.  

Paul Feldman, Jisc chief executive, said: “Our step up programme is a vital development in giving universities and colleges the confidence to engage with innovators offering some fantastic solutions that can make real change in the sector.” 

In April 2019, the Department for Education (DfE) launched the edtech strategy with an aim to integrate the education sector with industry.  

Our step up programme is a vital development in giving universities and colleges the confidence to engage with innovators.
– Paul Feldman, Jisc

Feldman said: “A key step toward this is contributing to the government’s edtech strategy by supporting startups that can help education institutions access products bespoke to their needs, for example platforms that collect real-time feedback on courses.” 

So far, nine edtech startups have received the greenlight from step up, including Unitu. The digital platform facilitates real-time student-staff discussion and feedback.  

Anish BaggaUnitu founder, said: “Jisc’s health check gives that extra reassurance to institutions looking to work with us, helping Unitu support universities to improve the relationship between students and staff.” 

To find out more and learn about the other eight startups that have passed the step up programme, visit  

Roundtable: The impact of combining arts and science, with Ubongo

The third in our series on STEAM, we speak to Doreen Kessy, chief business officer at Ubongo

Q. What benefits can an arts education provide for more technical career paths?

Arts help young people to develop their creativity, confidence and divergent thinking, skills that are increasingly critical in technical careers – and in all careers, for that matter. 

Art also gives them space to express themselves and to explore life beyond purely academic disciplines. 

And, of course, there are so many career paths these days that combine artistic and technical skills. Here at Ubongo, most of our team use a mix of these skills – from writers who draft screenplays about science, to animators who use advanced software to develop beautiful graphics.

Q. How key a skill will creativity be in future job markets?

With increasing automation, routine tasks are being done by computers and machines. The jobs that remain available to – and must be performed by – humans will be those requiring creativity and skills that cannot easily be automated.

Q. And how much of the onus is on the arts, specifically, to nurture this creativity?

Well, part of the problem is that we make too much of a distinction between areas and subjects. So rather than saying that the onus is on the arts to nurture creativity, I would say that the onus is on us to incorporate arts and creative thinking across all areas of education. If we truly value creativity and want to nurture it, we need to be more creative in the way that we teach and support kids to learn.

Here in Africa, very strong lines are drawn between subjects, but at Ubongo we use our programmes to blur those lines. For instance, our Ubongo Kids episode that teaches the physics of sound follows the story of a music competition. Elsewhere, in Akili and Me we teach early numeracy to an accompaniment of vibrant animations and music. 

Q. What about the benefits in the opposite direction: how can technical subjects such as maths and physics help inform the arts?

 Again, there are so many areas of crossover. These days, many forms of art are created using fairly advanced technical tools and skills. I guess you could say that’s been true for a very long time – Leonardo could not have painted the Mona Lisa without a deep understanding of the physics of light and biology of visual perception.

We truly do students a disservice when we force them to pick between ‘the arts’ and ‘technical’ subjects. I was lucky enough to be able to pursue dual degrees in the arts (film) and sciences (biology), and I’ve built a career through combining the two.

Examples are everywhere. Music is sine waves. Photography is a manifestation of the physics of light. And new advances in technology, from virtual reality to big data, are allowing us to stretch our creativity even further to create new kinds of art.

Q. How are educators and innovators embracing a mix of science and art in order to develop soft skills such as empathy and ethics?

By mixing science/tech, arts and character development, we can help kids learn in an environment that more closely mimics what they’ll face in their adult lives, and give them the skills and agency to find their own way in a rapidly changing world. We know that character strengths like growth mindset, grit and emotional intelligence are just as important as IQ when it comes to ensuring positive life outcomes. Bringing arts and technical subjects together creates opportunities for students to exercise all these crucial extra-curricular strengths, while also developing their academic skills.

Arts add ambiguity and nuance into technical subjects, while science and technology can tie art back to practical applications. Projects that combine these two sets of disciplines help students to develop, both academically and more generally, as they deal with challenges and ambiguities that they would not be finding in the study of one single subject.

Q. What more can schools and universities do to maximise this cross-fertilisation between the arts and the sciences? And what more can governments and tech companies do to help here?

To be honest, where we work there is almost no integration or cross-fertilization between the arts and sciences in formal schooling. So we’re working to help kids integrate them with supplementary resources like our TV shows, books and apps, which present STEM subjects through artistic forms.

With the current focus in education on memorisation-based exams and testing, it’s hard to make a case for this cross-subject integration at the moment. So a great first step would be to encourage more project-based work and assessment, and to lessen the emphasis on rote memorisation and testing.

Q. What initiatives (e.g. the BBC micro:bit) have gained traction so far in the movement towards arts and science integration?

There are some great programmes in Africa that are picking up STEAM (pun intended)! We love the Dageno Girls School in Northern Tanzania, which supports girls to do STEAM projects and human-centred design. And there’s FundiBots, which brings robotics to Ugandan schools. In tertiary education there are some great programmes like the African Digital Media Academy in Rwanda, which teach both technical and artistic skills.

And if you want a good argument for integrating arts and science to enhance student motivation, then check out our cartoon Ubongo Kids. We get millions of kids each weekend excited to learn everything from algebra to plant science to DIY engineering, via some beautiful, musical cartoons.

Further reading

Exning Primary win cloud award from LGfL

Exning Primary School has won the cloud transformation award at the LGfL Digital Excellence Awards.

The school in Suffolk was commended by the judges for the transformation the cloud-based tools have had on formative assessments, pupil collaboration and working at home.

It’s fantastic to see how our schools are using cloud-based software to infuse creativity in the classroom and reduce administrative tasks for teachers – John Jackson

The school, which uses G Suite, has also successfully reduced teacher workload and improved live formative feedback.

It is the first time LGfL has presented the award which aims to recognize schools for creatively using cloud-based tools provided by LGfL’s ‘Let’s Get Digital’ subscription.

John Jackson, CEO at LGfL, said: “It’s fantastic to see how our schools are using cloud-based software to infuse creativity in the classroom and reduce administrative tasks for teachers. As the pressures on teachers continue to grow in the face of dwindling budgets, LGfL is committed to helping schools through providing the latest cutting-edge software at no extra cost to schools.”

Natasha Warren, deputy headteacher at Exning Primary, said: “We’re committed to providing our pupils and staff opportunities to benefit from the latest technological innovations because it makes us more effective teachers and helps our pupils achieve their full potential.”

Roundtable: The impact of combining arts and science, with KUBO Robotics

The second in our series on STEAM, we speak to Rikke Berggreen Paaskese, educational curriculum manager at KUBO Robotics. 

Q. What benefits can an arts education provide for more technical career paths?

A grounding in the arts can help to provide more technical and scientific careers with better interdisciplinary, creative and innovative approaches to technology. This can encompass everything from light installations, aesthetic decoration and interaction to design of products and environments that influence our surroundings and wellbeing. 

The arts also play a very important role when it comes to the field of robotics, including social robotics and human-robot interaction. For example, designers can help make technology better suit its surroundings and fit within specific environments; psychologists and sociologists can help engineers in the creation of responsible designs so that social robots don’t reflect or provoke an uncanny effect on those not used to this kind of technology; and philosophers can help debate the consequences, influences and outcomes of human-machine interaction. These sorts of views can help us to reflect on, say, the intentions behind a given technological product development, or what socio-cultural implications might ensue when robots are developed to act as caretakers, teachers or assistants.

Such influences on everyday life will change patterns of social interaction and will cause changes in our values system. In summary, the humanities and the arts should play a major part in the thought processes of scientists and engineers, when developing technology for the betterment of human wellbeing and social welfare.

Q. How key a skill will creativity be in future job markets?

Creativity is hugely vital for future job markets. 

As machines and automation become part of our everyday lives, we need to be able to develop our creative skills and abilities to do what automation and robots cannot help us with. This includes social belonging and values, moral intelligence, creativity and coming up with new ideas, nursing specifically human capacities such as empathy, and making ethical decisions. 

Q. And how much of the onus is on the arts, specifically, to nurture this creativity?

There is quite a lot of onus on the arts to nurture creativity, and rightly so as the arts field is typically more aligned to these types of characteristics. It is this creative nerve, attention and development which must be reflected in our contemporary society. In terms of social responsibility, sustainability and wellbeing, the arts also play a significant role. 

Q. What about the benefits in the opposite direction: how can technical subjects such as maths and physics help inform the arts?

Engineers can inform the arts in many ways. 

Developing, improving and refining sustainable product development and improving social responsibility relies on a complex mix of the two disciplines, with each contributing to and depending on the other. 

Q. How are educators and innovators embracing a mix of science and art in order to develop soft skills such as empathy and ethics?

When using technology in the classroom, educators can ask a series of relevant questions when it comes to ethics. For example, what would be the human benefits of a world surrounded by automation? Are technologies serving the betterment of human wellbeing, or are they serving other purposes – purposes that might have (too) big consequences? Philosophy, critical thinking and asking children questions that make them think about technology will all help them to better reflect on the wider issues at stake in our technological revolution.

Q. What more can schools and universities do to maximise this cross-fertilisation between the arts and the sciences? And what more can governments and tech companies do to help here?

Schools and universities can acknowledge, promote and make room for interdisciplinary approaches and cross-curricular projects, and encourage the arts, technology and education to collaborate on projects. Governments can encourage such cooperation by ensuring more flexible structures and transparency in the field. Tech companies and universities can also work together on projects – for instance, helping students to develop pilot projects in partnership with tech firms. The education industry can also invite tech firms to deliver presentations and organise events to explain and demonstrate what the industry needs from a long-term – and sustainable – perspective. 

Q. What initiatives (e.g. the BBC micro:bit) have gained traction so far in the movement towards arts and science integration?

Alongside the BBC micro:bit, there are lots of resources available to schools that combine the arts and science, to help children better understand the connections between what they’re learning in class and how it can be applied to everyday practice, as well as bringing a more creative and engaging environment to their learning. 

For example, while a teacher can teach coding using a computer screen or a robot, it is more inspirational to encourage children to get hands-on, and to set real-world challenges for which they must find solutions. 

Taking this one step further and looking at the higher education sector, there have also been initiatives coming from manufacturers who have co-operated with universities, as well as initiatives from artists that demonstrate – and play with – the influence of technology on the human body. Elsewhere, universities have facilitated research between different disciplines, around the historical and contemporary changes produced by technology. 

Q. Can you give examples of where coding and other technology could be worked into arts and humanities subjects?

There are plenty of ways in which coding and robotics can be used in a cross-curricular sense, in order to give children a more collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to learning. For example, at KUBO we are strong believers in using storytelling to teach students how to control technology, to help them develop a sense of agency and ownership of the content as they decide where, how and why a robot should be coded to act out a certain behaviour, or to solve a specific task.

This works across other subjects too, such as geography (they get to know one or more continents of the world and their associated culture and characteristics), history (they learn significant cultural and historical features that are specific to each continent), literacy (they can read a story from a given country and use a robot to play a role in that story), language (let students investigate what language the local citizens speak in the city) and maths (let students investigate the size of the country using a scale, and research its population). 

Again, looking ahead, scientific literature can help us to discuss themes and possible scenarios for the future. A high-tech music installation, combined with light and pictures, can help promote the healing process, for instance, in a hospital setting. Similarly, history can help us to understand contemporary developments, to promote an understanding of the past as well as a reflection on where we might be heading. 

Ultimately, though, as educators we must keep in mind what we do best – to educate our younger generations and to give them the best possible tools to navigate, to influence and to engage the best possible behaviours in their everyday life and surroundings, adding human value to our contemporary society. 

Further reading

Manchester Met and Cisco launch IoT ‘makerspace’

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Cisco and the Foundation for Digital Creativity have launched a new campus “makerspace”.

The new Internet of Things (IoT) innovation hub, thingQbator, will enable students to learn hands-on skills and create technological solutions to local problems.

The newly launched digital lab will provide on-campus tools, training, mentoring and advice to encourage students’ creativity and entrepreneurialism.

We see that working more closely with business and creating project-based learning across discipline boundaries will be an important aspect of university teaching for the future.
– Paul Bason, MMU

MMU’s new design centre is open to students on all degree courses and is engaged with projects that aim to reduce social isolation, improve local air quality and create new wearable technology.

Cisco is opening thingQbators at partner universities as part of its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) strategy which it is delivering in partnership with government, industry and academia.

Maria Hernandez, head of innovation at Cisco UK, said: “We’re excited to be continuing our collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University as it cultivates the business ideas and entrepreneurs of the future. ThingQbator quite literally helps to bring the biggest and brightest ideas to life in IoT prototypes.”

Paul Bason, director of innovation at MMU, said: “We see that working more closely with business and creating project-based learning across discipline boundaries will be an important aspect of university teaching for the future.

At Manchester Met we are intending to grow our capacity in this area through our £35m investment in the School of Digital Arts (SODA) – this new school is due to open in 2021 and will teach the next generation of technologists and content producers.”

The Report: Is coding a ‘waste of time’?

The Breakdown

  • The OECD’s education chief Andreas Schleicher has warned against an over-reliance on coding in computer science education at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Paris and in his LinkedIn blog. 
  • The UK government’s 2017 autumn budget announced an investment of £84m to increase the number of computer science teachers.
  • Computer science is officially the hardest-to-recruit-for subject with only two-thirds of places filled last year.
  • Coding languages students will frequently learn at school include Blockly and Scratch (often for those in Key Stage 1 and 2), Python (often for those in Key Stage 3) and Ruby (often for those in Key Stage 3 and 4). Java is sometimes introduced to GCSE computer science students. The national curriculum states that each student should leave school with a functioning understanding of at least one coding language.
  • Python is the fastest growing code in the world – last year it was more googled than Kim Kardashian.
  • US-based job market analytics firm Burning Glass estimates that jobs that require coding skills could command on average $22,000 more per annum in the next few years.
  • By 2020, there is a predicated skills shortage of 800,000 skilled IT jobs across the EU, the EU has predicted. The UK is one of only 15 members that has embedded coding in its curriculum.

What’s the issue?

In February, the OECD’s director of education and skills, Andreas Schleicher, warned against coding education. Speaking at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Paris, Schleicher said: “In a way coding is just one technique of our times and I think it would be a bad mistake to have that tool become ingrained.” 

He added: “You teach it to three-year-olds and by the time they graduate they will ask you ‘remind me what was coding’. That tool will be outdated very soon.” 

The statement sparked discussion around the usefulness of the UK’s curriculum. 

If teaching coding is pointless, why then has the government invested £84m in pushing something which, in Schleicher’s view, would be better replaced with data science and computational thinking? 

The question to grapple with is this: in a landscape as fast-changing as ours, how do we make coding implementable in classrooms? Does it provide the necessary building blocks to understand a complex subject, and will it unlock future potential? 

Do you remember binary, Fortran and Ada? 

Brett Victor offers an interesting introduction to this topic with his talk at Dropbox’s DBX conference in 2013 on the history of computer science innovation. His argument rests on the response to computer science development. “Technology changes quickly and people’s minds change slowly,” he said. 

Source: Brookings via

For example, educators would not teach a child to learn binary (the precursor to all programming) or Fortran and Ada (which gained popularity in the 1980s) because there is no modern application for those skills. We now communicate with computers in a completely different fashion. By teaching coding, are we simply creating a new generation of Luddites? 

April 2019’s TOBIE index, which lists coding practices by their popularity, illustrates this diversity. JavaScript is widely used to code websites and Python has been used by the Central Intelligence Agency for hacking, Google for crawling websites, Pixar for producing movies and Spotify for recommending songs. R and SAS are used for handling statistics and AutoCAD programmes are used by engineers. If each individual code has limitations and there are new ideas on the horizon, is rote-learning one particular language an educational dead end? 

Does coding compute? 

Andreas Schleicher wrote in his LinkedIn blog: “How can we strengthen a deep understanding of and engagement with the underlying concepts of digitalisation without being distracted by today’s digital tools?” He added that “coding can be a great means to achieve this, but there is a great risk that it becomes the end”. 

Jonathan Edwards, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory,  said on a recent episode of the Future of Coding podcast that the goal of his research was to make programming like spreadsheeting. “You don’t really have professional spreadsheeters,” he said, “It’s just normal people who learn how to use a spreadsheet, and programming should be that way. You should be able to pick it up, solve your own problems without being some brainiac super nerd.” His research looks at creating modern programming tools inspired by old tools like COBOL, Visual Basic and HyperCard that minimise the amount of specialist coding-language knowledge required. 

Karen Panetta, a fellow at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a dean of graudate engineering at Tufts University explained in an interview with TechRepublic how future programming tools may appear to their users. 

She said: “Programs will be built using coding blocks, like the wooden alphabet blocks we used when we were children. Developers will be able to connect the blocks to implement whatever functionality they need, and the blocks may not even be required to be written in a textual form.” 

These academics point to a more simplistic, user-friendly future which would make much of the Python that children learn today redundant. There are already companies on the market offering these services. Bubble is a US-based company that lets you design and host web applications without having to write code, Sparkster have built a drag-and-drop platform that allows anyone to code, and Zeroqode have created a codeless creation service. 


Is coding a waste of time?

It is important not to lose sight of the larger point Schleicher makes. “Teachers are ploughing through a large amount of subject-matter content but students develop limited depth of understanding. Adding new material provides an easy way to show that education systems respond to emerging demands, while it is always hard to remove material from instructional systems,” he said while at the WISE summit in Paris. He added that teachers should aspire to teach children to “think like chemists or historians”, not memorise facts. 

In this area, there is much agreement. Speaking to Education Technology, Simon Peyton-Jones, chair of Computing at School (CAS) group and the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) – who, incidentally, helped to write the UK’s computing curriculum – points out the curriculum for primary-age students fills two sides of A4. In Peyton-Jones’ view, the curriculum’s strength is its brevity. 

He told ET: “The problem with the old ICT curriculum was that it was focused on the digital tools. The goal of the 2014 reform of the computing curriculum was to focus on the “essence” of the discipline, just as Schleicher says.” 

Peyton-Jones concedes that there is a risk that the new focus on learning the fundamentals of programming replaces one issue with another. “I frequently say the number one risk of the new computing curriculum is that a future secretary of state will say, in 10 years’ time, ‘the new computing curriculum is a great success – every child leaves school able to program in Python’. 

“If that was the case, we’d just have swapped one technology focus (office software) for another (skill in Python).” 

Python, Peyton-Jones says, may become obsolete but programming, in some other form, will not. 

However the curriculum does not specify a language which students should be taught. 

The director of the Bath node of the Institute of Coding (IoC), Prof James Davenport, says that at present students are arriving at university needing to be taught programming from scratch. He hopes that with a better foundational understanding at school, the jump to university courses will be lessened. Subjects taught at university that increasingly rely on coding, like chemistry, engineering and mathematics, will also benefit from a better educated stream of students applying in two years’ time. 

The first line of the national curriculum states that the purpose of study is to “equip pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world”. 

Davenport explains: “There are many ways to teach computational thinking, but at some level you need to be completely precise and for that you need coding.” 

KUBO Robotics produces educational packs to equip teachers with 3D tools that engage pupils from as young as four with computational thinking. Jinny Christiansen, KUBO’s head of marketing, said: “KUBO takes traditional coding language out of a digital context, and places it onto classroom tables. Young children control a robot using physical TagTiles to code movements, while learning each of the foundational coding concepts of sequences, functions, loops, conditions and variables.”

There are additional benefits to teaching coding, Peyton-Jones says, namely that students have skills to practically apply their imagination which can be “energising and motivational”. He adds that teaching without coding would be like “chemistry without experiments”. 

Davenport agrees that coding is just one element of computing education. He told ET that when the institute was established, the team behind it asked the government if it could instead be called the Institute of Digital Skills: they received a firm no. 

“We at the IoC,” Davenport said, “do not see ourselves as only coding but addressing all aspects of computer science, cybersecurity and employability, but nevertheless the Institute of Coding is the name government said it must have. Practically no one in parliament knows what coding is and you do end up with inappropriate labels.” 

The National Curriculum says that students must be able to…

  Understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation

  Analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems

  Evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems

  Be responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.

What happens next? 

There is much agreement in this field. Teaching any subject to a test will remove any imagination from its delivery – the curriculum allows the subject to be taught in an engaging and future-proof way. Coding must sit alongside computational thinking and data analysis – the national curriculum makes that clear. 

The only way that coding can be taught in a way that engages students’ problem-solving skills, computational thinking and communication skills is to improve teacher confidence. Davenport draws an analogy between coding and learning to drive in order to better explain his view: “A driving instructor should teach you a lot more than what the controls on cars do, but mastering those controls is an important step to learning how to drive on busy roads.” A functional understanding of a coding language, can provide the ladder many need to access the higher echelons of computing education. 

A 2017 report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) puts the five-year retention rate for STEM subjects at only 50%. Computing topped the list compiled in the report of hardest-to-recruit-for subjects; only 66% of vacancies were filled. Davenport says that a national conversation is needed if we are to properly address the quality of computing education. 

“I don’t think that programming, in some form, will ever be obsolete,” Peyton-Jones concluded. “The reason you learn the ‘stuff’ is not because it’s abstract knowledge and you need to tick boxes, but when you have that knowledge you can access education in a way you couldn’t before. We don’t teach Python because that is the goal.”    

Davenport agrees that it is impossible to know if “in 500 years’ time we will be teaching coding” but equally it is, for the time being, “an important part of education today”. 

You might also like: Over half of 18-24 year olds wish they had learned coding

Students win work experience at Arm

Three students have won work experience at Arm for their edtech app designs.

Vanessa, Gina and Luca were picked as the winners for their innovative and practical concepts.

The FXP Extended Challenge gets secondary school students to design a mobile game app that helps solve one of the three UN sustainable development goals. The challenge is part of the FXP Festival which aims to increase the uptake of STEM subjects in local schools.

The Cambridge-based software company judged the competition and offered the winners a chance to see behind-the-scenes at their global headquarters.

The UN’s goals address world hunger, climate action and health and wellbeing. Arm experts mentored the students through the project which required them to design a concept, develop the game and write about their new idea.

Simon Humphrey, senior manager of sustainability at Arm, said: “At Arm, we want to encourage young people to explore the exciting opportunities a career in technology can offer, and this competition uncovered several diverse and creative ideas. The three winners really stood out for the way in which they used technology to solve real-world problems in simple and intuitive ways.”

Alison Taylor, founder of FXP, said: “FXP Festival is all about providing exciting learning opportunities for the young people in our region. Each year, the competition takes place over a weekend in July at Cambridge Regional College and, while many students spend months preparing to compete in the competition, it has been fantastic to run the Extended Challenge as an additional activity during the quieter months too.

“One of our key motivations for organising FXP is to help drive social mobility in the region, so enabling three students to secure work experience placements at Arm is another step towards this goal.”