Cracking the Computing curriculum

Nuno Guarda tells us five things all education establishments need to know about the new National Computing Curriculum

By September this year, all education establishments in the UK must adhere to the new curriculum changes from the Department for Education in subjects such as computing, design and technology.

In the new computing course, pupils will be expected to understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation. Pupils will also be taught how to analyse problems in computational terms and have repeated practical experience in writing computer programs.

However, the success of the curriculum relies on teachers being in a position to teach these new skills and at this point there seems to be a lack of confidence out there. According to a recent study by Schoolzone, only a handful of primary school teachers have been positive about the new ICT curriculum. A recent survey by social enterprise company MyKindaCrowd found 74% of ICT teachers did not believe they have the right skills needed to deliver the new computing curriculum.

With only a few weeks to go, here are a few things teachers should be aware of before the new National Computing Curriculum commences:

1. September is just the start of the transition 

Most schools are not planning on introducing the new curriculum in its entirety this September. Many will phase the changes in over the next few years, giving teachers and IT departments the time needed to get up to speed. There are a lot of different options available, ranging from online resources to industry led courses, to help make this process as seamless as possible.

2. Help is out there

There’s a range of free advice and resources available to them online. The government has started ‘CAS’ (Computing at School), a master computer teachers’ network across the country, to provide guidance on how to go about implementing the new curriculum. This programme has been designed to specifically help teachers with no prior experience of computer science. CAS has published a number of digital resources, available online, but also offers real-life workshops where master teachers can help get others up to speed on the new curricula. Birmingham City University is one of the education establishments involved in training ‘master teachers’ who then share their insights with their school. This is an ongoing programme.

Another interesting initiative, Barefoot Computing, funded by the Department for Education, helps primary school teachers by equipping them with the basic computer science subject knowledge and confidence needed to deliver the new curriculum.

3. It’s not just about coding

With so much focus on publicity initiatives such as The Year of Code, teachers and parents would be forgiven for thinking coding was the primary discipline of the new curriculum. However, it encompasses far more than just programming.

The new course incorporates techniques and methods for solving problems and advancing knowledge, and includes a distinct way of thinking and working that sets it apart from other disciplines. Computer science will now sit at the core of the syllabus alongside digital literacy and further ICT concepts such as security and networking. 

4. Upskill yourself with an industry-standard course

The curriculum covers the fundamentals of computer hardware and software, so having a more practical knowledge of IT and how it fits into organisations will be highly beneficial. Teachers wishing to get to grips with the basic principals of IT and networking can explore industry training initiatives such as Cisco Networking Academy, a non-commercial ICT training programme, which helps people prepare for ICT careers by gaining industry-recognised certifications. The Cisco IT essentials course, for instance, gives an introduction to the computer hardware and software skills needed by ICT professionals.

5. The changes will help to address a national skills shortage 

It was recently revealed that London’s tech sector will create 46,000 jobs over the next decade. Meanwhile, research commissioned by Reconnix revealed that 74% of current IT leaders have experienced difficulty recruiting staff with the necessary skills and experience. By supporting children and teaching them these new IT skills, an even broader range of IT expertise can be introduced at a younger age. This will stand young people in good stead for future employment prospects and help to close the current IT skills gap.