New school year sees major overhaul of ICT teaching

The new school year, starting this week for British children, brings a number of major changes to the National Curriculum – especially in the way ICT is to be taught, including the need for five years olds to be able to both understand what algorithms are, as well as be able to create and debug simple programs.

But many parents may be surprised at the new depth and rigour of what their children will be expected to be able to cope with – and they may feel the need to turn to outside help, according to mobile giant O2.

So convinced is the firm that parents will be aghast at the changes, which include the aspiration that 11 year olds will be able to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems," it’s set up a set of in-store and online guides to help.

It may have a point, according to its own poll of some 2,000 parents: 64 per cent didn’t know about the radical changes to the computing curriculum - and 33 per cent admitted they are worried they wouldn’t be able to adequately support their children with their computing homework.

Unable to use ICT themselves?

The stats get worse when parents were ‘tested’ on the kind of IT knowledge their little ones will soon be expected to have: a “significant number” admitted they didn’t think they could complete tasks expected of five year-olds, with 32 per cent claiming they themselves cannot use technology to create, organise or store digital content.

Hence O2’s ‘Guru Bytes’ ‘workshops’ to aid the digitally challenged, which will focus on online safety and discovering the Web.

“More needs to be done to help parents get to grips with the fast-changing world of digital technology,” claimed the firm’s CEO, Ronan Dunne. “It is our hope that these free sessions will help parents and young people feel more confident in the digital world.”

While for Claire Lilley, Head of Online Safety at the NSPCC, which is a co-participant in the online safety aspect of the programme, “For children and young people, the Internet is part of everyday life, rather than being a separate online world.

“It is crucial that parents are involved right from the start of their children’s digital journey and feel confident about guiding and protecting them as their online footprint grows into their teenage years.”

BBC weighs in, too

The BBC has also started to offer a set of similar online resources to help kids get to grips with programming.