What will your child be learning?
There are three distinct stages for the new computing curriculum:
Key Stage 1 (5-6 year-olds): Children will be learning what algorithms are, which will not always involve computers. When explained as “a set of instructions” teachers may illustrate the idea using recipes, or by breaking down the steps of children’s morning routines. But they will also be creating and debugging simple programs of their own, developing logical reasoning skills and taking their first steps in using devices to “create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content”.
Key Stage 2 (7-11 year-olds): Slightly older primary-school children will be creating and debugging more complicated programs with specific goals and getting to grips with concepts including variables and “sequence, selection, and repetition in programs”. They will still be developing their logical reasoning skills and learning to use websites and other internet services. And there will be more practice at using devices for collecting, analysing and presenting back data and information.
At all these levels, children will also be studying computer and internet safety, including how to report concerns about “content or contact” online. The full breakdown of the changes can be found here. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study)
What can you do to support your child?
Do not be afraid – 60%-plus of parents do not know about the changes to England’s computing curriculum. Reading this is a good start!
Talking to experts about what else parents can do, we found a common theme: simply be interested. Just as parents chat to children when they come home about what they have been reading, writing, drawing and discussing at school, so they can talk to them about what they’re doing with computing and coding.
For parents intimidated by the idea of programming, talking through what your children have been doing – particularly at primary level – may be a good way to demystify the subject. “I suspect children will be delighted to tell parents something they don’t know about!”
Don’t forget that parents can learn with their kids, if they’re worried about being daunted by it. Parents can also show schools that they are interested in how computing is being taught.
There are ways to go further, including learn-to-code apps like Tynker, Hopscotch, ScratchJr and Hakitzu that can be downloaded and used at home; an online coding contest Shaun the Sheep’s Game Academy began earlier this year. The BBC is getting coding into some CBeebies and CBBC TV shows in the coming months.
The Scratch programming language, already used widely in schools, is freely accessible online at home too. Meanwhile, Codecademy, which runs online courses in programming and is working with a number of schools already, has plenty of courses suitable for although these are mainly for secondary-school children.
The Kano build-it-yourself computer may be worth a look: it goes on sale soon, and includes its own visual programming language designed for children. Although expensive, the upcoming Play-i robots may also appeal: two personal robots with companion apps that encourage children to code to control the devices.
And then there are after-school coding clubs: Code Club has a network of nearly 2,500 around the UK for 9-11 year-olds, CoderDojo has dozens in the UK too, and a growing number of schools are running their own, run by enthusiastic teachers and/or parents and developers from local companies.
The above examples are just to give you an idea of some of the products that are available. However, this is not to imply that the best way to support your children is by buying products and signing them up for services and clubs. The most important support remains showing an interest in what your children are doing at school.
Even if you’re daunted by programming as a subject, seeing it through the eyes of a child will hopefully make it much less intimidating.