By Tracey Herald, Head of Community at O2
The new computing curriculum is coming. In what will be one of the biggest classroom overhauls in recent years, children as young as five will be taught – amongst other things – how to code.
The new changes show that, at long last, young people’s natural aptitude for digital is being formally recognised. At the same time it shows a broader appreciation of the importance of digital skills – not just for the future of our young people but for the future success of UK plc.
While the new curriculum is a step in the right direction, there’s plenty to be done to create the right conditions for young people to prosper. Let me explain what I mean.
Firstly, we need to equip teachers with the right knowledge and resources to inspire young people about technology and effectively deliver the new syllabus. This was highlighted by a recent study from NESTA, which found that over half of teachers – 60 per cent – lack confidence in their ability to teach the new curriculum.
Secondly, we need to make sure the curriculum devotes enough attention to considerations such as online safety and literacy. Large swathes of the curriculum and accompanying resources are currently heavily weighted towards computer science and programming, and while coding is currently in vogue and viewed as the new “cool”, it’s important to equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills to stay safe online.
However these challenges aren’t for schools to tackle alone. Businesses of all sizes can and should play their part, whether offering advice to teachers, giving mentoring to pupils or sharing guidance with parents. At O2, we have teamed up with DigitalMe to co-develop an exciting programme called Safe – a free programme aimed at keeping young people happy, confident and safe online as they hone their native digital skills.
Built around the ‘learning through doing’ philosophy, Safe helps teachers to deliver the digital literacy aspects of the new curriculum, teaching children aged seven and upwards the competencies they need to stay safe on the internet – from setting up a secure social network profile, to online copyright. Teachers can access a secure, moderated online community that allows students to practice digital activities – known as ‘missions’ – in a safe environment as they explore their attitudes towards safety, privacy and online conduct. As part of the partnership, we’re also using our expertise and working with DigitalMe to co-develop a new module dedicated to mobile safety and helping young people to use their devices confidently and responsibly.
We’re creating new resources so parents, as well as teachers, can play their part. Safe will help make digital skills learning more accessible than ever before – not just in the classroom but at home too – to help young people and parents alike feel more confident in the digital world.
It’s not just about building new skills. Young people are a hugely valuable asset to any organisation (36% of our own workforce are aged 30 and under) and it’s important that they are given a way to show off their skills to future employers. The Safe programmes recognises young people’s learning and progress using Open Badges – a digital version of the more traditional scout, guide or swimming badges, which enables employers to recognise students’ digital skills. At a time when business are crying out for the right people with the right digital skills, Open Badges can help to draw businesses’ attention to the valuable skills young people possess as they enter the world of work.
There’s still a way to go, and there’s no doubt that the next few months will present a steep learning curve. It is a very exciting time and we’re looking forward to supporting teachers, parents and young people along the way, to help them make the most of this milestone moment.
For more information about the Safe programme or to sign your school up, visit: https://www.safesocialnetworking.org/