Computer programming is a hot topic. We all know how crucial technology is to daily life – most industries from agriculture to banking are heavily reliant on computer software and we can’t imagine life without our favourite apps and games. With programming (or coding, the terms are interchangeable) now taught in all UK primary schools, we are finally starting to face up to how crucial an understanding of code is for today’s children. What’s more it is fun, satisfying and relatively easy to learn! Once you have learned to code you can very quickly make a simple game or a mobile app. Studies have shown that the logic required for coding strengthens maths and literacy skills as well as fostering creativity and resilience, so it is not just for engineers. It is a life skill that many of us wish we had!
In the UK, we are lucky that coding is part of the national curriculum, but to become truly computer literate it’s important for children to practice at home too. So what can we parents or carers do to help? The main thing is to show an interest and encourage your child. Even better, learn with them - you might surprise yourself! We know it can seem daunting so to help you keep up, we have put together a guide to what happens at school and what you need to know about programming languages. If you want to know more, check out this TED talk from an 11 year old app developer explaining everything you need to know about coding for kids.
KIDS CODING LANGUAGES IN SCHOOL
Years 1 and 2 (KS1)
Most schools use a robot such as a Bee-Bot to introduce the basics of programming at first. By the end of year 2 pupils should be able to do more complex tasks such as drawing out numbers or letters on the floor.
Years 3 to 6 (KS2)
Students are introduced to a visual programming language (more on what this is below), most often Scratch. They will then progress to writing their own code in the language and by year 6 they should be able to write code to develop their own ideas. Some children may then go on to start learning a textual code language (see below).
Years 7 to 9 (KS3)
At this stage, students should be able to use at least 2 programming languages, including a textual language. They will be able to accomplish much more advanced programming projects.
Confused? Don’t be. The terminology may be new to you, but the concepts are simple. So, what is a programming language? It’s just a way to teach a computer how to complete a given task. There are two types of programming languages: visual and textual. As you would imagine textual languages use typed text and visual languages use something visual, such as drag and drop. Visual languages are used in primary schools as they are much easier to get to grips with, but they are less powerful, so keen programmers will need to move on to textual languages to complete more advanced tasks.
For anyone interested in computer programming, selecting which language to learn is the first step. The choice can be daunting with so many on offer. Each one has its own particularities and benefits but much like choosing which foreign language to study, any one you pick will give you lots of transferable skills, so choose one that appeals to you.