In September 2014, the UK Government rolled out drastic changes to the computing national curriculum. For the first time, children from the ages of five to 16 were required to study computing; replacing the ICT syllabus with a computing syllabus designed to introduce children to computational thinking from an early age. The changes, it’s hoped, will work to bridge the future digital skills gap in the UK.
The Department for Education (DfE) collaborated with leading tech giants, Google, Microsoft and the Royal Academy of Engineering to produce a programme of study which addressed the digital skills gap, teaching the practicalities of designing and writing or ‘coding’ programmes to accomplish specific goals, right through to evaluating computational applications of real-world problems and scenarios.
In the lead up to the roll out of the curriculum changes, much debate was had around the preparedness of teachers who were reportedly nervous that the pupils in class would be more tech savvy than them. A survey by MyKindaCrowd revealed that teachers were not receiving the support they said they needed to introduce the computing curriculum. In addition, 74 per cent of ICT teachers admitted they did not have the right skills to deliver the curriculum – and nor did they believe they had the time to acquire those skills.
Clearly, continued personal development for teachers is the lynchpin to successfully rolling out the curriculum changes. The Computing at School (CAS) Annual National Survey 2015 found that 70 per cent of teachers reported that university based professional development was helpful or very helpful. Here at the University of Northampton, a specific course has been developed to address just that. The Postgraduate Certificate Primary Computing PGCert, is an innovative and flexible course designed to meet the needs of teachers in primary schools and enhance the capability of the schools they work in to produce outstanding work in the area of Computing; with learning and teaching focused on the three strands of the new computing curriculum: Digital Literacy, Computer Science and Information Technology. The course also is aligned with modules for the BCS certificate in Primary Computing; students studying the course blend academic study with practical use of digital resources and technology enhanced learning experiences, giving them a well-rounded, workplace ready qualification.
The Postgraduate Certificate Primary Computing PGCert focuses on two distinct areas; developing classroom best practice, and the leadership skills teachers need to coach others when developing their skills and knowledge. Beginners with an interest in the field are very welcome, and there is an option to study the course at a distance supported by the use of online communities, webinars and tutorials. Teachers will be encouraged to identify aspects of computing or technology enhanced learning to take forwards across their schools so that their work has a whole school impact.
As the revised computing curriculum puts a new emphasis on digital making, here at the University of Northampton practical, hands on learning is part and parcel of our courses. Our volunteer student digital leaders provide support for digital making events, both within the University and across a network of local schools; supporting both pupils and teachers with computing. They champion the use of simple but effective technology, such as Scratch, MaKey Makey kits, robots and easy to use apps on mobile devices. Using these tools allows children to learn through play, trial and error, and use problem solving skills to achieve a common goal – be that playing a tune through a carrot keyboard, programming a robot to walk around the room or creating an interactive game.
If you’re ready to take the next step, transforming and inspiring the digital learners of the future, check out the Postgraduate opportunities at the University of Northampton.
Senior lecturer in Education (Primary Computing) Fellow HEA ITTE Research Fellow
Helen’s university teaching and CPD work covers the use of technology across primary school subjects, implementing the computing curriculum and assistive technologies for SEND. She is a member of the Primary National Curriculum for Computing in ITT Expert Group supporting tutors and trainees in ITT in preparing for the new curriculum and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).