Why teaching children computing is vital for all our futures

We’re all part of an increasingly digital world. From global supply chains to buying our weekly shop, computing is central to all of our lives.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation and robotics are changing the way that we live, work and socialise. Schools play a vital role in teaching young people the skills they’ll need to thrive in a digital future, through the national computing curriculum.

This framework is at the heart of a strategy to create a generation of computer-literate citizens who can help the UK lead the world in digital development and services. It means that children as young as five will learn the basic principles of computer programming, robotics and computational thinking.

Primary school children are learning to create and debug simple programs and how to use technology safely and respectfully. Children in key stage three are learning multiple programming languages and how to build computing systems that communicate with others.

The computing curriculum offers powerful benefits for young people. Early use of digital technology improves children’s language skills and promotes social development and creativity.  Having a deeper understanding of computing also helps students to be better equipped when tackling maths, science and engineering problems in STEM classes.

Socially, the computing curriculum offers a step-up to the 20% of students in the UK who don’t have access to an internet-connected device at home for learning, and the 10% of households without internet access. Digital and computing skills are more important now than ever. Digital skills are a universal requirement in the job market and data from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport suggested that acquiring baseline and specific digital skills makes career progression more likely, unlocks more opportunities and ultimately increases social mobility.

In the longer-term, it’s hoped that encouraging children to gain skills in computing will help plug the UK’s growing IT skills gap. Demand for jobs in robotics and AI is increasingly rapidly, while the number of students completing GCSEs in technology related subjects has fallen by 50% in the last seven years. One recent study found that 3 in 20 UK employers face a digital skills gap, and 82% of all jobs in the UK now list digital literacy as a requirement.

The best place to tackle the digital skills gap is in the classroom but research by the Royal Society found that 54% of secondary schools in England did not offer GCSE computer science, and the Department for Education also reported that recruitment for computer science teachers has fallen short by 25% or more since 2015. At the same time, demand for courses is soaring. Between 2013 and 2019, computer science was one of the fastest growing GCSE subjects. Entries are roughly 19 times higher in 2021 than they were in 2013.

To address this issue, we must support schools that are struggling to recruit qualified teachers who are experienced and confident in teaching computing. Schools need access to continuing professional development to help teachers make the switch from teaching ICT to computing, along with access to specialist support where needed.

We must also ensure that young people are aware of the wide range of careers available in computing, by providing many more relatable role models, especially to young people and girls. Schools can help students to explore the potential career paths in areas such as coding, cyber security, software development, digital marketing and analytics.

Entrust is striving to support school leadership teams to deliver high-quality, effective computing teaching at all levels, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.

Get in touch to learn more about how Entrust can help your school to inspire young people with a high-quality computing curriculum. Email [email protected]  or call 0333 300 1900. You can also learn more about our support packages here.

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