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Coding’s now in the curriculum, but can teachers keep up?

I’m always keen to do what I can to foster the enthusiasm of tech entrepreneurs and support the growth and development of tech businesses in Shoreditch.

But I’m also constantly challenging businesses in Shoreditch to look back into Hackney and help develop skills locally. I often read about achingly cool Shoreditch and Dalston but my constituency is also achingly poor and digitally divided.

Businesses for their part raise concerns with me about the school curriculum.

National coding

This week sees the launch of Hackney’s Code Club for primary schools and nationally the introduction of basic coding for five year olds.

Code Club puts together Shoreditch’s coders and programmers with groups of 6 to 9 year olds and 9 to 11 year olds for an hour a week in Hackney schools.

This is just the reach back that should be happening. Hackney’s pupils getting a glimpse of the world on their doorstep and the possibilities open to them. At the same time businesses fostering links with its future workforce.

It makes good business sense; engage with Hackney’s international, multi-lingual and savvy young pupils, getting them to speak code as well as their other languages.

The teaching skills gap

These primary school initiatives come on the back of the recent changes to the secondary and GCSE IT curriculum with coding now embedded. Hackney Council have also set up code clubs focusing on digitally divided adults, as well as providing additional coding support for school pupils.

But with all these initiatives we need to look at coding as different to other parts of the curriculum.

I recently spoke to a teenager who’s been advising his teacher about how to develop basic coding work for younger pupils. The lost generation – those who never learnt to code at school – are now teaching in our schools. It’s not surprising that a geeky teenager can be teaching his teacher.

Can we keep up?

And this raises questions about how we manage the ongoing professional development of teachers. No academic subject is entirely static, but teaching coding requires teachers to be up to speed about the applications in industry.

I’d like to see teachers spending time in the industry and the industry being involved in the curriculum.

It’s common sense that we should be teaching todays’ teenagers to be ready to compete in the international jobs market for the tech jobs of tomorrow.