Programming set to be core of new computing classes for English kids

Programming set to be core of new computing classes for English kids

Summary: The UK government has detailed plans to teach schoolchildren in England programming and networking skills.


A plan to teach all schoolchildren in England basic programming and networking skills has been published.

The draft curriculum (PDF), published by the Department for Education on Thursday, proposes a new course of study for children aged between five and 16.

The curriculum would see children aged between five and seven being taught what algorithms are and how they are implemented as programs.

And by age 14 children should have mastered a range of computing skills including:

  • designing computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world objects;
  • understanding at least two commonly used algorithms for sorting and searching;
  • using two or more programming languages, at least one of which should be a written programming language, to solve a variety of computational problems. They should be able to create data structures such as arrays and use functions to write modular programs;
  • understanding how simple Boolean logic, such as AND, OR and NOT, is used to determine which part of a program is executed;
  • understanding the hardware and software components that make up networked computer systems and how they interact;
  • understanding how various data types can be represented and manipulated in the form of binary digits.

The government scrapped the previous ICT curriculum in September 2012 after accepting criticism that its heavy focus on office skills was putting children off from pursuing a career in IT. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of students taking computer science at university in the UK fell by 27 percent (PDF).

Questions remain over how well qualified existing IT teachers would be to teach an IT curriculum with a heavier emphasis on programming and computer science: a report by the national schools inspectorate Ofsted in 2011 found that only a limited number of teachers in English schools have the ability to teach programming.

Since the scrapping of the ICT curriculum in September last year, teachers have been able to decide on how they teach the subject, but there are signs many have not focused on computer science. Last year a survey of 770 IT teachers in primary and secondary schools found that only 14 percent felt programming skills should be a high priority in their new IT curriculum.

The draft computing curriculum for England will be subject to consultation before the final version is introduced in September 2014.

Topics: Education, Software, United Kingdom


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Scratch is an excellent beginners tool

    A really good stating point for late primary age kids to teach them the basic concepts.
    Alan Smithie
  • Bravo

    My nine year old just recently expressed an interest in what I do at work, and I figured the thing she's have the most fun with is Powershell scripting. Looking forward to spending time with her teaching her how to code.
    • Re: Powershell scripting

      Please, not something proprietary. Even Bash would have more of a future.
  • Quite Interesting

    Seems like its a good start !! I read few more posts today which according to me should be considerable ones,
    Flavia Johnson
  • Focus on office skills

    mostly due to platform dependency no doubt... ;)

    I'm glad this is changing; while the standard of basic education is supposed to be rising, our reliance on technology seems to have robbed the younger generations of the ability to spell, count and navigate their environment.

    Yes thats a bit of an exaggeration, but everywhere I look I see handwritten signs in shops and advertising spaces that barely function as writing because of the prevalence of spell checkers.
    Tinned and packet foods, convenience foods and electronic cash registers mean we no longer need to weigh, or even count much, so kids leave school with painful memories of such procedure as mathematics and never touch it again.

    It'll be good for the little cyborgs to learn the value of syntax and metrics as well as how the little box of light that they have attached to a pudgy hand - practically from birth these days - actually works as well.

    Microsoft did a very good job of persuading everyone they needed Windows to run a computer, when you simply need a computer to run Windows, and that really hasnt helped because its focus is on office productivity. My daughter's school has and teaches use of both Pi and Stamp now, but its taught as electronics, and only to students who need it for technical project work.