Financial News

  • 4 March 2014, 4:34

Computer Coding Skills For Children 'Crucial'

A generation of British schoolchildren risks being left behind in an analogue world unless they learn computer programming skills, a group of some of the UK's leading digital entrepreneurs warn today.

Writing on the Sky News website, figures including Baroness Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com, and Ian Livingstone CBE, whose company created Tomb Raider, say young people could miss out on jobs if they are not taught skills like coding.

"Employers, entrepreneurs and government are aware how important the digital world will be in the future and we have to have a workforce with the right skills. It is vital that the UK is not left behind because we don't have the right talent who understand problem solving and are digitally literate," they write in an open letter.

"To ensure the next generation doesn't miss out on the potential this digital world will bring and the ability for them to succeed in it, we need to teach them about the fundamentals that underpin it."

The warning comes as the Hour of Code campaign is launched the UK, an initiative encouraging everyone to spend one hour learning how to write code.

It is part of a series of projects which will also see code taught in schools for the first time, following changes to the national curriculum from September.

Computer science will be taught in all schools for the first time - and at one school in central London where classes are already under way, pupils voiced their enthusiasm.

"I think this should be taught everywhere," said Arb, a Year 9 pupil at Westminster City School. "It will enrich children, it will inspire them to go into coding and software production.

"It's more fun than actually playing [computer games], it's fantastic," Arb added. "You play the game but you don't actually appreciate how much time is put into making it. Now you realise that just making a simple game like this is incredible."

But one tech entrepreneur warned that root and branch reforms of the education system were needed if young people are really to be equipped with the right skills in a changing world.

"There is a massive skills shortage of digital savvy teachers - it's an unfortunate reality of the internet revolution moving a lot faster than anyone would imagine," said the enterpreneur, who wanted to remain anonymous. "I'm supportive of the Hour of Code and the changes to the curriculum, but we are still taking baby steps."

The Government said its changes to the curriculum would give children the right start.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: "It is vital our children have the skills they need to succeed in the modern-day world which is why we are scrapping the old curriculum and replacing it with a forward-thinking programme that will teach them how to make computers work for them.

"From September every student will be learning code in the classroom so the Hour of Code is a great way for young people to learn about this exciting new skill and get a head-start for the new school year."

As people of all ages are encouraged to learn code this week, Ian Livingstone said he believed the UK could become a world leader if coding skills were more widespread.

"I would argue that we are the most creative nation in the world - if you look at our music, our fashion, our film, our design, our architecture, our advertising, and of course our games," said Mr Livingstone. " But we have to release digital creativity, and by learning how to code we can do that."

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

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