Expert interview: coding in the classroom

In a skills-short IT industry, coding in the classroom has become a pressing topic. Nurturing the next generation of technological innovators is not only of national importance, it’s also a subject that’s close to home for us here at Parker Software.

We’re a company of techies, and our live chat software is only as strong as the code running behind it. So, we took time aside for an expert interview. Here, we speak to resident Technical Manager Daniel Horton about coding in the classroom, its importance, its issues and its potential for our country.

Is teaching coding in the classroom enough to help Britain become a tech leader?

Teaching children computer programming  and coding in the classroom will play an integral part in developing Britain’s future web designers, computer programmers and digital entrepreneurs. Children absolutely must have the opportunity to develop tech skills as part of the curriculum. However, it’s important to remember that most children with a genuine interest in this area will be developing their own skills at home.

It’s also essential to ensure that teachers have an appropriate, up to date level of expertise. All too often in the current system, students have more advanced knowledge than teachers, due to the supplementary learning they undertake in their own time.

How can we interest young people in code?

We should allow students to develop skills and see quick results using website and app design. (With tools like WordPress or Laravel.) This will help spark interest in programming and coding in the classroom. Importantly, it will also encourage students to see the subject as a creative art as well as a technical skill. This could stimulate a higher interest in coding from female students, as they see opportunities for creativity through code. In turn, this could contribute to bridging our current gender gap and developing future female technological leaders across Britain.

Teaching and testing coding in the classroom will encourage students to appreciate that, while jobs like web/app design and computer programming can be creative outlets, there is also a need to adhere to best practice guidelines and ensure that developments are business appropriate. These are all skills we need in the workplace.  Teaching them can only help to nurture a generation of British technological innovators.

How can educators work with employers?

Many organisations, like Parker Software, already work with local schools and universities, shedding insight on the subject in business and offering useful work experience opportunities. While there are currently apprenticeships available in the IT sector, they often leave employers in the dark. IT is taught in a very broad nature at schools. So, many employers have no insight into a student’s proven skills in areas relevant to the industry.

If businesses knew which niches students were skilled in, they would be able to create targeted apprenticeships. These would be focused on specific, relevant roles.

Currently, for example, there is no way to ascertain whether the A* IT student would suit an apprenticeship for web development or for network engineering. In the real world, these two fields are as different as finance is to HR.

Final thoughts

We need a more developed classroom-based curriculum which teaches students the relevant craftsmanship of coding and programming. This would create potential for more skilled apprenticeships and school-leaver junior roles.

So, stimulating a new generation of British technological innovators and leaders needs to start at school.