Early 2016 saw a change in the national curriculum in the UK, which is arguably the most ambitious attempt to get children coding and interested in pursuing further education and a career in IT. The curriculum has replaced ICT with Computing. There has been a shift of focus from children learning ICT literacy skills, such as PowerPoint, to learning how to code and this is available for children as young as five. Coding for kids isn’t a new trend, it was popular during the 70s and 80s, Usborne Publishing released books that taught children how to code, and this trend recently resurfaced after reports indicating a low number of children who are interested in IT and who pursue this in further education.
A 2016 study revealed that girls are less inclined to pursue an academic career in Computing, as the study revealed that only 20% of girls took a computing GCSE and only 10% for a computing A level. This is supported further in figures released which show that only 17% of the IT and Computing workforce are female.
Raspberry Pi Foundation worker Carrie-Ann Philbin said that in the early stages of the computing education transformation, the way computing is often sold “alienates teenage girls, who already have a negative idea of what it means to be a ‘computer geek’.
Projects and organisations have been set up to quash any negative perceptions and to get the younger generations interested in this field of study. Projects such as Code First Girls UK, offer free community courses, masterclasses and different events to encourage more girls to become interested in tech and computing. Since 2013 they have delivered £1.5 million worth of free education to young women across the UK.
One of the most innovative and interesting methods of generating interest has come from Sam Aaron, a live coder who has created a programme called Sonic Pi, which is specifically designed for teachers to use in the classroom for children to learn how to code in an enjoyable way, by making music. Sonic Pi is a scheme of work targeted for KS3 Computing, developed in harmony with the new UK curriculum.
Sam believes his work is the embodiment of modern composing. He has collaborated with Radio 1 and 1Xtra DJ MistaJam and recently performed with Sonic Pi at Moogfest, where the Rolling Stones described his performance to have “transcended the present.”
Are these the types of organisations which will make a lasting impression on the younger generation? Will we see a rise in IT and Computing roles in a few years to come? It is certainly looking to be that way, and here at Westpoint, we can’t wait.