With the world crying out for more people to be trained for the tech sector, we wanted to find out what it is really like to code at UK schools, especially with the introduction of the new computing curriculum.

TechSPARK kid codersFrom 2015 ICT (Information and communications technology) lessons are compulsory for Key Stage 3 (KS3) while Key Stage 4 students have the option of either choosing ICT or computer science. The curriculum includes a mixture of ICT and computer science schemes of work: they build a website, develop excel spreadsheets and use Scratch to create their own computer game for example.

In addition to this, from Key Stage 4, students have the option of taking the subject for their GCSEs. Here they use software such as visual basic, HTML, PHP, SQL, and Scratch to complete the coursework section.

“The most confident computer programmers in the school are those who have friends that share the same interest and passion for programming and work on projects together”

 

We spoke with a teacher on the ground, Carl Wyatt, who is tasked with delivering a future phase of coders into the world. Carl is a PE teacher turned ICT teacher at Hanham Woods Academy. We also spoke to two 13-year-old coders at Hanham Woods Academy, to share their perspective. Jess Phelps and Molly Silsbury (pictured above) are both in year 8 and are coding within their ICT lessons.

ADLIB: What is the rationale behind the curriculum for this class and why is this course offered?

Carl Wyatt: Government changes in education policies initiated a shift of emphasis from developing expert users of ICT software to developing creators of ICT software within schools.

Within Hanham Woods Academy, we already included aspects of computer programming so the shift was not so great, and to offer computer science at KS4 felt like a natural progression. I still believe there is a need to include ICT within the curriculum as not everyone will be suited to computer science. I often use the analogy that being an ICT student is the equivalent of being a formula 1 driver, being able to use the software, while a computer science student is the formula 1 mechanic, being able to build and create the software. I think there is a need for both courses within today’s society.

ADLIB: Do you think children code for fun and / or do they see that it might help them with their employability in future

CW: I have a number of students who tell me they are going to work for Google when they are older! However, in order to become a successful programmer, students need to practice outside of lessons. The same principles apply to computer programming as training an athlete or a musician; if you don’t practice you won’t be good at it!

Tcomputerscreen21he most confident computer programmers in the school are those who have friends that share the same interest and passion for programming and work on projects together and learn new skills from each other both inside and outside of school.

I have a number of students from year 7 to year 11 who come in at lunchtimes and work on computer games and websites they are building. That’s why the clubs we offer within the ICT department are so important; it gives students the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who are not necessarily from the same social or year groups and offers them a platform on which to develop friendships based around a common interest in programming. Coding is really starting to take off here at Hanham Woods Academy, and these clubs are crucial to future success.

ADLIB: What do you think motivates children to start coding?

CW: The motivation for getting into programming is varied; having an initial confidence of using a computer certainly helps but the students who excel at programming are often those who are the best problem solvers; the sense of achievement a student shows when they overcome a programming problem is incomparable.

Students with an interest in maths enjoy the lessons because they get to make formulas and variables which alter the resultant data.

Students with an interest in ICT enjoy programming because they feel as though they are doing ‘real’ ICT work; they often think of themselves as hackers!

Students with an interest in languages enjoy programming as they can learn a specific language, and often use the same skills to learn a spoken language to learn a programming one.

An art student will enjoy programming because of the opportunity to create anything they want to, allowing them to express their creativity and individuality.

Programming is such a varied and far reaching subject, there is an opportunity to engage a whole range of backgrounds and motivations.

So, what is life as a Coder aged 13 like you might ask? Here are 8 facts we gathered when having a chat with Jess and Molly:

1. Coding is promoted from within the school and something they haven’t come across elsewhere.

2. There is an equal split between girls and boys in the class. This is especially interesting in the light of the shortage of females in tech.

video-game73. Games are one of their favourite things to code.

4. They actually think that the class is quite easy – it involves a lot of copy and paste. They are shown once, to then apply again in other examples.

5. They don’t actually feel like they are writing the code – it’s a bit more like assembling pieces in the right way.

6. Coding seems repetitive at times.

7. Having grown up only knowing the world as technically ‘always connected’ place, they find tech devices ‘usual’, nothing special and they can’t actually see the connection between the class and real life technical devices.

8. What they like the most about coding is: “to see that it works when you finish the project, and to know that you have made it”.

 

Want to know more? If you head over to the ADLIB website you can see the full interviews with Carl Wyatt and the two girls.

Image credit: Icons made by “http://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik”

 

Bex Tilling