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Is your school ready for computing?

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Ian Livingstone, a leading figure in the UK games industry, recently paid a visit to The Key to talk about computing in the new National Curriculum. Ian was co-author of the Next Gen. review, an important driver for the move from ICT to computing in the new curriculum, so it’s no surprise that he’s excited about the changes coming in from September.

In Ian’s view, the 2014 computing curriculum is a world first. Covering the more technical subject matter in depth will give pupils a unique skill set. Knowledge of coding will set young people apart in competitive global markets.

The promise of the new computing curriculum is matched by the challenge of implementing it. Schools have been encouraged to phase in a computing curriculum over this academic year, but time is now short. When we asked school leaders back in November, most respondents said their school would not be fully prepared. So, how ready are schools to officially start computing this September?

We’ve received questions from members of The Key for School Leaders about teaching – which classroom resources to use, and even how to teach computing without a computer suite. Schools are investing in new software and hardware, but we’ve also seen that some are turning to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach. Members of our school leader service can read an article on BYOD policies to help decide whether it could help.

The school leaders I’ve spoken to have been divided on whether the biggest hurdle will be getting staff or pupils up to speed.

To teach computing, or support pupils’ learning across the curriculum, staff will need more subject knowledge than for ICT. Knowing where they are now is important: the Key for School Leaders has an article on auditing computing skills, which may help. The computer science strand of the new curriculum, in particular, includes topics which will be new to staff. At a CAS #include event in November, I met teachers from around the country who were learning programming languages for the first time, getting ready to pass on their new skills in September.

With so much new material in the curriculum, schools will also be wrestling with how to get pupils to the starting point for each Key Stage.  Key Stage 3 pupils, for example, are expected to “understand several key algorithms that reflect computational thinking”, while some will not yet understand what algorithms are.

The sheer breadth of new knowledge required makes computing essentially a new subject. From September, year 1 pupils will be learning about algorithms and simple programming, while older pupils will be working hard to catch up. They can make impressive headway with this. I’ll be adding a case study on an ambitious Year 3 computing lesson I saw being trialled at Castle Hill Junior School to our articles on the new curriculum.

How is your school getting ready for computing? What are the biggest challenges for you? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

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