Educators call for reform in how programming is taught in schools

One survey found that 54 per cent of teachers felt their students knew more about ICT than they did

Teachers lacking the confidence to teach pupils computer programming skills need to change the way they approach their subject, a pioneering educator has said.

Computer teacher Alan O'Donohoe runs a series of workshops across the country aimed at introducing coding to youngsters.

But rather than formally teaching programming, he says he provides the right environment for pupils to explore the subject themselves. He admits he could not possibly teach children everything they need to know about computing.

There appears to be a lack of confidence among computing teachers. According to a survey by social enterprise company MyKindaCrowd, 54 per cent of teachers believe their students know more about ICT and computing than they do.

The poll of secondary school teachers showed that 74 per cent of ICT teachers do not believe they have the right skills needed to deliver the new computing curriculum which is set to roll out in September next year.

They also fear they do not have the time to learn the necessary skills.

Mr O'Donohoe, the principal teacher of Computing at Our Lady's High School in Preston founded the nationwide Hack to the Future and Raspberry Jam out-of-school events, and wants to boost teachers' confidence in their own abilities.

“I quickly discovered that I had to totally change my approach to teaching Computing,” he says. “Where I once believed I was 'the guardian of knowledge' and all learning was accessed through me, I now realise that I am more of a facilitator. I can never possibly know everything that my pupils might choose to learn. Instead, to arouse their interest and curiosity, I provide them with an environment with discovery and challenge and questions are welcomed.”

The Raspberry Pi computer: a cheap tool for teaching computer schools to children.

He primarily uses the Raspberry Pi computer – a £25 basic machine which allows for experimentation and coding – to open up the subject and his events have proven to be as popular among teachers as children.

“The main motive for setting up the jams was to allow for a classroom in which anybody could teach or learn, not just the preserve of teachers and pupils,” he says. “Teachers who attend the Jams tell met that they like attending the jams since the can both test things out that they wouldn't yet want to risk in a classroom and at the same time discover what appeals to their pupils.”

Such is the concern about the current abilities of computing teachers to teach coding, a briefing attended by Conservative MP for South West Norfolk Elizabeth Truss was held in London last month to discuss the issue.

As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education and childcare in the Department for Education she told of the need for children aged 11 and over to learn to program in two languages and the reasons for curriculum reform.

She said: “There is a massive imperative to make sure that all of our young people leave school with those really high level skills.” She said she wanted primary school pupils to understand algorithms and learn basic programming languages using packages such as Scratch.

Will Ackerman, managing director of MyKindaCrowd, was invited to the meeting after his survey discovered 69 per cent of teachers don’t think the Government will provide enough support for them and 96 per cent would welcome the closer involvement of business to help them build the practical skills and knowledge of their students.

“From our anecdotal knowledge and our survey, it is clear teachers don't feel able or prepared to teach the new curriculum,” Mr Ackerman said. “There has been a shift and it is a tremendous one but teachers have to hit the ground running. It could be fantastic and close the skills gap but people will say the initiative has not worked if teachers are not in the position where they can teach.”

He says the ICT curriculum for the past 15 to 20 years has been about consumption. “Children have not been taught to code and have only been taught Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so on,” Mr Ackerman says. “We have just been teaching skills that are not transferable to the workplace.”

He believes there will be even greater opportunities for programmers in the future. “Healthcare is as much about IT and coding as chemistry,” he says. “And if you look at the motoring industry Google is making headway with automatic cars and Milton Keynes will have driverless taxis over the next couple of years. Computing is driving industry.”

Companies and broadcasters are also getting involved. The BBC announced last month that, 30 years after putting BBC Micro computers into UK schools, it wants to “bring coding into every home, business and school in the UK.”

Director General Tony Hall said the initiative would launch in 2015 a year after education secretary Michael Gove wants the new Computing curriculum to roll out in schools.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

    Ashdown Group: European Recruitment Manager - Cheshire - up to £48,000

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions