Switched on Computing…

Feb 12, 2013

Miles Berry

A short summary of the change from ICT to computing at KS1-3, written for Rising Stars’ news blog, and posted originally at http://www.risingstars-uk.com/blog/?p=799.

This is really quite radical change to the curriculum, with a much stronger focus on programming and other aspects of computer science than we’ve had thus far. Whilst the draft PoS covers IT, DL and CS there’s no mistaking that the emphasis is very clearly on the latter of these. This is challenging as it’s going to mean teachers are teaching things most of them weren’t taught themselves, even many secondary ICT teachers.

The name of the subject changes, from ICT to computing, in line with the recommendations from the Royal Society’s Shut Down or Restart report in January 2012. However the proposed PoS goes significantly beyond the minimum entitlement of a rather narrow definition of digital literacy in that report.

KS1 includes work on algorithms and programming. This can be taught using programmable toys, although I anticipate most schools moving to some screen based programming during KS1, perhaps using iOS tools or games (eg Bee Bot app, Light Bot). There is no entitlement to creative work in digital media, despite this being included in the aims and in the BCS/RAEng draft.

KS2. Again we see an emphasis on programming, linked to algorithms probably motivated by a desire to develop computational thinking. The programming work here may be easily accomplished in Scratch (but perhaps not Kodu) through developing a game or drill and practice maths quiz. There’s an expectation that pupils understand how the Internet works, and that this is different from the Web. They should also understand how search engines operate and be able to use these. Creativity is missing from the subject content, which was not the case in the BCS/RAEng draft.

KS3. The content here is quite exceptionally ambitious, with a strong emphasis on computer science (seven of the nine bullet points). Programming needs to be in two languages, one of which is text based (this could be logo, although the smart money will be on Python, I think). There’s much detail specified here, that might not have been expected before KS4, such as fetch-execute cycles, Boolean logic and two key search and sort algorithms (although these are not specified). This is going to demand quite some work in terms of CPD for schools and academies working to this programme. In contrast to KS1 and 2, the two remaining bullet points both provide some entitlement to creative work.

As with other subjects, the statutory requirement to specify an attainment target is met simply with the statement that:

By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

I’ve also spent some time looking through the Switched On ICT units, written by Naace immediate past chair Rachel Ager and me, and edited by Terry Freedman, himself a former Naace chair. These already had a strong programming strand from Year 1 onwards, and I think could still be used, perhaps with some modification or change in emphasis, to provide one structure for covering the new programme of study at Key Stages 1 and 2 and much of that at Key Stage 3.

The above is (c) Rising Stars, all rights reserved. It is reproduced here with permission.