Westminster Education Forum: the big message about computing

On Wednesday I presented at a very different sort of conference compared to what I’m used to. Different because the audience wasn’t predominantly teachers or those from the world of education, but instead a mix of folk from the tech industry and plenty of journalists too. Also, after I presented I was part of a panel that took open questions from the floor – it felt a bit like Question Time on a smaller scale and with The Economist’s Ludwig Siegele chairing instead of David Dimbleby. Anyway, the event in question was a seminar at the Westminster Education Forum in Whitehall on preparing for the new computing curriculum.

There were many issues being discussed that day and I was asked to focus on how computing will fit in with the wider primary curriculum and my thoughts on the internet safety elements of the new programme of study. My main message in my five minutes at the microphone was that although computing certainly has a heavier focus on programming than ICT ever did, it is not interchangeable with coding. There is more to the computing programme of study (PoS) than programming. In fact, the computing PoS states that pupils must be taught to ‘create a range of digital content’ which can be interpreted as anything from animation to blogging to photo editing and so fitting computing in with the wider curriculum by making purposeful cross-curricular links should pose no more of an issue than ICT does.

Interestingly, the theme of ‘computing not just being coding’ was a thread that wove through the majority of the presentations I saw. Clive Beale, Director of Educational Development at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, commented that ‘coding isn’t just what computing’s about’ and also mentioned the idea of programming by stealth by embedding it within other contexts such as music. This tied in with the emphasis David Brown, Ofsted National Lead for ICT, put on teaching computing in contexts relevant to pupils’ lives – something he says many schools fall down on.

The comparison of algorithmic thinking and coding to architecture and bricklaying seemed to strike a chord and reinforced Clive Beale’s above point about the real value of computing.

Others also highlighted the fact that not all computing jobs involve coding.


All in all, the message was clear: computing is definitely not just about coding. Spread the word.

Other reports about the event:

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