In the first phase of its introduction to the school curriculum, programming in schools was often developed by enthusiasts who would in many cases be located in mathematics departments, or, in Primary school contexts, would identify themselves as mathematics specialists. However, the introduction of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a National Curriculum subject has led to programming in schools being deprioritised both in relation to computing and in the mathematics curriculum.
Recent policy and curriculum changes mean that there is a renewed focus on computing being (re-)introduced into Primary schools replacing the old ICT curriculum. From September 2014 primary schools are now required to teach the new national curriculum for computing, which includes learning about how computational systems work, using technology to develop ideas and different content as well as designing and building their own programs. Computing is not just about programming, but programming is a key aspect which allows ideas to be brought to life.
The computing curriculum comprises of three aspects which include Computer Science, Information Technology and Digital Literacy and the full programme of study can be found here. The curriculum itself is quite high level and teachers are given the freedom to interpret it in a number of different ways as well as decide how much time to dedicate to each of the different aspects. As with any curriculum change it can be challenging for teachers with little background in this area gain the necessary skills required to teach this new content. The professional development and resources provided as part of the ScratchMaths project intend to help overcome this skills gap and provide a detailed set of engaging, varied and educationally rich activities to help teachers meet curriculum requirements in both computing and mathematics.
This is what one of our design school teachers thinks about the new primary computing curriculum: