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back to article Schoolkids learn coding at GCSE level in curriculum trial

Teenagers could be taught to write their own software programs at GCSE as part of a major overhaul of the UK schools' IT curriculum. The new approach is being trialled with 100 students in a two-term experiment that will be rolled out across the UK if it proves successful. Launching the “Behind the Screen” scheme, science …

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More of this type of teaching.

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Anonymous Coward

It would help...

if companies stopped farming out all their software dev overseas

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Unhappy

Redundancy

I still don't understand why it's illegal to make somebody redundant and then just give their job to someone else who's cheaper, but it's suddenly not illegal if their replacement is in India or the Phillippines?

Speaking from experience, those cheap offshore developers are cheap for a very good reason - they're crap. By the time it comes to light, the arsehole who offshored it has pocketed their bonus and disappeared...

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Go

If they could find the talent here, they probably would

It's about time this happened. When I started looking around at secondary schools for my youngest I was appalled to discover that not a single one (including the selective schools) taught anything more than ICT. Only one independent school I know of teaches some c# at A Level. I don't know when in the last 25 years since I started high school this was dropped, but I still have fond memories of being given the task of wiring up my junior school's first BBC Micro 'cos the teacher knew nutin' (some things don't change, apparently).

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Anonymous Coward

It's because of the crazy tax breaks on Intra Company Transfers

Companies are able to undercut UK nationals by up to 20% by transferring staff on less than the UK minimum wage, and then meeting the 25k minimum salary requirement for such staff by including rent, flights and costs for that staffer as "wages" (HMRC and our Government kindly allow this), also no employers NI or employee NI is payable in the first year (which is why they are rotated so frequently).

As most companies will rent a house and then have ten or so sharing a three bed house the "rent" charged is what the company decides, the employee gets an allowance on top of their normal salary to make up for living expenses so everybodies happy, except unemployed UK IT workers and the Government should be due to the loss of tax revenue but they are obviously too stupid to realize or just in the pockets of big business for allowing what is essentially a legal tax scam to continue.

I've got a few links on this but not sure of the posting policy here Computer Weeklys Inside Outsourcing column has a couple of good articles on this especially :

"Offshore IT workers in the UK avoid paying taxes but are not breaking the law"

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Pint

@AC 11:54

Ahh, but then the trusty contractor gets to pick up the pieces. Expensive? Yes, but then they shouldn't have offshored it in the first place, plus untangling the mess undoubtedly made by our foreign friends shouldn't come cheap.

Beer, cos I can afford it ;)

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@Arnold Liberman

I can tell you that Pascal (via Turbo Pascal, anachronistically) was still on the roster for Computer Science A-Level when I left sixth form in 1999. I don't recall any programming cropping up at GCSE level or earlier but there weren't any sort of computer-related courses at my school so that may not be typical.

At a guess, A-Level changes probably happened in or around the transition to fully separated AS and A2 curricula — around 2000.

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N2
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It would help

If every company stopped farming out any activity overseas.

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Anonymous Coward

re: If every company stopped farming out any activity overseas.

funny they do, but only if it is senior management role

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FAIL

19 upvoters so far who live in a dream world.

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@ThomH

I remember finishing my GCSE in Computer Studies in 1990 and we had to write our own piece of software. Mine was a periodic table interface onto underlying element information implemented on an Atari ST using Fast Basic of all things.

I guess this means we may finally be coming full circle.

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Happy

My, my. Old code

I remember writing code in Z80 Assembler at Uni to produce a LAN system. Crikey, I used to be pretty clever. (Sound of personal trumpet blowing noisily). Of course I can't even open the Windows now... :-)

I would carry on and say "Wow, see how sharp he is now", but I'll be shot down in flames probably.

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BTDT

I trust that they'll have to show that their programs are equal opportunity, conform to health and safety laws, do not significantly increase global warming and all the other crap that seems to infest the modern science curriculum.

I did computer science A level back in 1982 which had a programming element, so obviously things have gone seriously downhill since then.

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WTF?

Definitely the way forward. In a more technology focused world, why is IT allowed to become irrelevant in schools???

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Yay!

At fecking last.

(From someone whose entire work career has come from providing IT to schools, witnessing IT lessons from age 5-18 and being utterly disheartened by them).

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I am genuinely irritated about this.

When I did my GCSEs way back in '03, we weren't even offered the option of IT. Nor were we at A level. I'm now on a software dev degree, and I'm struggling to keep up with the people 4 years younger than me who got to study it. It should have been part of the curriculum from the day they introduced computers in schools.

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That's the stupid thing

It was on the curriculum a couple of decades ago. I remember drawing flowcharts in "computer science" lessons and learning to count in binary as well as simple assembler-type languages. Now all the kids get to do is create stupid animations in Adobe something-or-other.

You've been disadvantaged big-time compared to us old-timers.

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>> It should have been part of the curriculum from the day they introduced computers in schools.

Better - they should've been putting it into the milk (or into the water, after the evil witch Thatcher stole all the milk and mixed it with orphan blood to feed to her vampire ministers).

It's absolutely horrendous the way that British governments seek to deny the populous the education which is their Zeus-given right. Not only do they force publishers to charge people for buying books, and libraries to charge for not returning borrowed books, they positively discriminate against the vast majority of people, denying university degrees to people whose only crime is not reading these scarce and hard-to-obtain books.

I propose a mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square tomorrow. If you plan to join us, please bring a banner reading "We dont wanna no about you're education plans - gimme my digree now or were gonna pwn u all".

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I was the first year to take computer studies GCSE in 1988. I can confirm at that time it had flowcharting (remember the hexil? stencils) and BBC Basic programming - I wrote some school library software.

I also remember the porno version of the Frak! caveman yo-yo game being on all the networked Beebs in the computer lab. The monsters were naled women and instead of a yo-yo he used something more pokey.

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Pre 1988 Geekery

There was actually a small pilot scheme across the UK that the known as I.Te.C. that ran for several years teaching computer studies, electronics and office/ computer skills to school leavers that started way back in 1985.

Classes were small, with tutors at the top of their game and at a time when many schools had merely one or two computers for all its pupils to share finding oneself in classroom with twenty kids that all had a BBC 'b' micro each plus all the toys was mindblowing at the time.

Students had one month in each area to get a taster, after that was an intensive crash course. As I recall nearly all were offered jobs shortly after finishing and some even had jobs offered before completion.

I'll get my coat... it's the one with the orange flowchart stencil in the pocket

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Flowchart stencils...

Absolute nightmare. How can you write a prog when you can only fit ten boxes on a page. Who the hell invented that!

And the sodding triangle, where you could only fit one or two words in there.

Perhaps that was when "Goto" was invented. Goto the next bloody page, it won't fit here.

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Sorry to hear it

Back in the 80s we did Pascal, BASIC and logo.

It's amazing how IT skills have faded in the curriculum. Of course, it wasn't perfect back then. I took computer studies in my forth year and was really disheartened when the course work was a feasibility study with practically no time on the computers. Needless to say it put me right off computing for a few years and I studied electronics for a few years (which I didn't end up liking much).

If one thing would help the education system it would be stopping the governments messing around with it every 4-5 years and let somebody with a clue determine what is best for the education of children. Not just businesses getting what they want, we need a balance between people being able to live a meaningful life and people being able to earn a living.

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Headmaster

ITeC

Yes, I remember ITeC very well! it was part of the YTS scheme at the time - £35 a week!! At 16, it was a first introduction to computer programming and led me into being a COBOL programmer before the bleak mid winter of the early nineties arrived!! Went onto become a software engineer, after going to uni first, for which I still am! But I do recall having to learn Basic/Pascal and binary math for my GCSE's (24 years ago!!!!) and can't believe they dropped it!! But its all about targets and dumbing down education nowadays!

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Finally

Finally they are going to teach kids how it works rather than how to work it. Maybe there is some hope for software development in the uk rather than india.

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Anonymous Coward

In my experience, they probably need to have the courses in India too.

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Didn't this used to be an O level in computer studies

Mine's the one with "Programming the 6502 processor" in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes it was..

...we learned C&G Mnemonic code and BASIC and were lucky enough to have access to a PDP 8i via a teletype, and I bet that shows my age!

I find it remarkable that programming is not taught any more. Even if you are not going to be a programmer it gives you an understanding of how things work.

The big question is what DO they study? Apart from "This is how you use Word snd Excel"?

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Unhappy

just and only that

and don't you dare suggest they use something other than microsoft; the exams are set only using microsoft word; excel and powerpoint.. My experience (kids now 18 & 16) of school ICT is that there is no interest in anything outside 'teaching' microsoft office. They don't cover pc mainteance and don't you dare suggest they talk about networking. I get the impression most ICT teachers think networking is something you use facebook for,

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Anonymous Coward

So what do they do now?

Actually, I can't complain about the "kids of today". I didn't take IT at GCSE because it was all about how to use shitty wordprocessors and spreadsheets ("Mailmerge is so cutting edge!") on overpriced, low-end, not-quite-IBM-compatible PCs rather than writing programs. As soon as the Computer Literacy project ended, it was all about training children for "jobs in business" which apparently meant being able to push paper at Wernham Hogg.

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Childcatcher

Good idea, I'd vote for a curriculum that includes:

1. Intro to assembler, preferably using an embedded system with ARM or Motorola CPUs;

2. Intro to operating systems;

3. Intro to basic design patterns;

4. Intro to a high level typed language (no recommendation here to avoid flames);

5. Intro to debugging and debuggers.

Please no AI or parallel computing, just include practical basic skills and no multi-threaded code should be allowed.

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When i was at school (left in 1992) we used to do programming (Basic and a bit of COBOL), database design and macro type coding albeit on Acorn Achimedes and ye olde BBC's. I just assumed this was still taught but obviously not. Lets hope they are teaching current or up and coming languages that will actually be useful in later life! Imagine a large batch of HTML5 coders hitting the UK sector in the next 3-4 years!

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Brilliant idea, let's just hope that it is deliver a bit better than current ITCS courses in schools.

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Optional

When my daughter started at her high school a few years ago - her Specialist in Maths and Computing high school - I asked the head of IT what programming they taught. Turns out - none at all. I got briefly excited when I found out they would create some sort of website as part of their GCSE (or Aida or whatever it's called), but this is basically create it in Word and save as HTML.

I was disappointed. My own Computer Science GCSE from many years before at least included BBC Basic coding!

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Anonymous Coward

Still the same

Sad to say the same useless crap is still taught IT specialist status schools. I work in one so the AC

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IT Angle

What British curriculum?

Pffft. I was writing COMAL programs in third year of secondary school. A Scottish Standard Grade in Computing has lots of programming. I'm perpetually amazed that England just teaches kids how to make Excel spreadsheets. For that matter, if you'll expand the definition of "programming" to include Logo, I was doing it in primary school.

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It never used to.

When i did GCSE computer studies in the late 80's, one of the modules i did was to make a sliding puzzle thing (Which could use an arbitary picture) controlled by one of those Concept keyboard things on the Archimedes in BBC basic. things like spreadsheets and wordprocessors were covered, but not in any detail.

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Yeah me too...

Why is this news? I was coding as part of my Scottish secondary education in the 90s.

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Anonymous Coward

COMAL at Scottish secondary for me too from 1989/90. Worst thing schools ever did was stop using Acorn kit. It may well be out of date, but the basic principles of computing can be taught on it. The 6502 processor operations using a visual emulator of the Program Counter, Address Bus etc, on a BBC.

The problem is, which school is going to fork out silly money to supply Visual Studio for all their PCs? With a Beeb you had BASIC built in and for a few quid they could all have COMAL ROMs or use COMAL over Econet from the file server. Yeah, ok COMAL was fairly crap but it's the principles of strict programming that it taught. And HTML is NOT programming, it's scripting.

Not sure why they don't use some Linux machines with some very basic terminal programming. Learn to use text editors (GUI or terminal based) and then compile from the terminal/command line. All this Microsoft point and click nonsense needs to stop, they don't learn anything. Linux is free, GCC is free and they can still use their Windows PCs to teach how to type numbers and letters in to a spreadsheet. They can learn the advanced formulae stuff on a training course while signing on the dole.

My niece uses Apple Macs and Apple Works at primary school, am impressed it's not Windows.

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"The problem is, which school is going to fork out silly money to supply Visual Studio for all their PCs?"

Maybe they could do something useful and get them started in Python?

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Happy

BBC BASIC for Windows

"The problem is, which school is going to fork out silly money to supply Visual Studio for all their PCs? With a Beeb you had BASIC built in"

A large multi-user site license for BBC BASIC for Windows costs less than two hundred quid.

http://www.bbcbasic.co.uk/bbcwin/bbcwin.html

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Anonymous Coward

At GCSE level?

GCSE is between 14 and 16: the old style O-Level. Better to do it at A-Level where it would be to a much greater depth and be more useful for uni.

Perhaps one missed point too: do we have the staff who can successfully teach software engineering at our schools? My general experience is that we do not.

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Coat

I did coding for both; I think that 14-16 was called "computing", but 16-18 was called "Computer science". I can't rember when, but we covered Cobol (shudder), Pascal, Fortran and possibly C. We also did wordprocessing using Tex in greenscreen. WYSIWYG meant that when you looked at the printout, that was what you got!

I think I still have some Cobol coding sheets with the margin at column 7 that you hand-wrote code on for someone to type it up onto punched cars to run over the weekend at the local insurance company. After than it was RM 380Z / 480Z. We weren't supposed to do any machine code, but given that the thing had a built-in memory editor of course we played :)

I can't believe that they don't even teach coding in schools?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: At GCSE level?

"Better to do it at A-Level where it would be to a much greater depth and be more useful for uni."

Yeah, that's right: at GCSE level the most you should expect to learn is how to update your Facebook status. Sheesh!

In fact, children should be able to write programs at half that age, or at least know what programs are. The fact that adults can have difficulties relating to what a program is should be a serious concern in a modern society, and the fact that some of these people are teaching IT is particularly worrying.

No-one expects children to leave school knowing how to produce large, complete software products, and a firm grip of mathematics is arguably better than any programming qualifications at all - you used to get people showing up at university thinking they knew it all and dropping out because they obviously didn't - but being exposed to programming isn't something that has to wait until sixth form.

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Childcatcher

Disagree; everyone needs to have a taste of CS

GCSEs (or equivalent) are compulsory, A-levels aren't, and A-level choices are informed by what GCSEs the kid liked doing. If they've had no exposure to computer science, they're only going to choose it as an A-level if they already had an interest.

FWIW, I'm interested in computing but wasn't going to drop two A-level slots on double-award A-level Computing.

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Maths Vs IT

The comparison I always make is that I found Maths a bit tough, not hard hard but it wasn't natural. However, for GCSE I needed to do trigonometry and quadratic equations, and all kind of fun stuff, and I wasn't good enough so only got a C, you had to be fairly good to get an A. However, in IT there is this belief that it can't be "too hard" so anyone can get an A. I saw people in my school who didn't really know anything about computers come out with an A. It's disgusting, you'd never see that with Maths, or even science really.

A-level IT (AVCE, computer science) wasn't much better, in-fact the AVCE which counted as 2 A-Levels was frankly TERRIBLE

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Anonymous Coward

during my IT A level

I noticed that the kids with litte/no interest in computers were scoring consistently higher than everyone else. I also noticed numerous glaring innacuracies in our text book. funny that

Oh well, at least if I run out of toilet paper, I now have a copy of this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Level-ICT-Pat-M-Heathcote/dp/190446713X

It has many uses, some others I can think of:

> mopping up spills

> protecting the desk when working with small power tools

> learning about IT? not so much.

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IT Angle

only found out this recently...

... having to teach my kids (who want to learn it) coding myself.

i was writing machine code on a zx spectrum and hand compiling when i was 12

I told their IT teacher about Microsoft Dreamspark, and how concerned I was about it. they'll teach the A-level students some programming though.

great.

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Umm...

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Over the past century the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. There's been a drift to the humanities ... engineering and science aren't championed.

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Surely a polymath would do humanities AND sciences (and art)? Like a Flash/Flex app developer who does the graphics and the programming, or the two chaps that made "Space Pirates And Zombies"...

The IT market in this country was saturated years ago... you can earn more as a plumber than a programmer these days, so _why_ would you want to go into programming (unless, like me, you're one of those weirdos that actually enjoys it).

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About bleeding time...

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, it was part of the O-level. Bloody stupid it was ever stopped.

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