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Computer programming to be taught to 5-year-olds under new curriculum

Children in England will be taught computer programming from their first year of primary school under the new national curriculum (opens in new tab) for five to 14 year olds published this week.

Under the plans, Key Stage 1 pupils - those aged five to seven - will be expected to "learn how to create and debug simple programs" and "understand what algorithms are and how they are implemented as programs on digital devices."

By year nine, pupils will be expected to be able to "use two or more programming languages, at least one of which is textual" and "design and develop modular programs that use procedures or functions."

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the new "rigorous" curriculum combines elements from the world's best education systems and is designed to boost England's standing internationally.

"I want my children, who are in primary school at the moment, to have the sort of curriculum that children in other countries have," he said.

"We've looked at what's been happening in parts of the world like Massachusetts and Singapore where children are facing a much tougher curriculum, sitting much more rigorous exams and as a result are better equipped to succeed than our own children."

Computing is not the only subject to be overhauled as part of the plans. In design and technology, pupils will learn about robotics and how to use 3D printers, whilst in maths children will learn fractions from the age of five. History will now have a much bigger focus on dates and chronology.

Not everyone has welcomed the changes however. Dr Mary Bousted, head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "Like most of Michael Gove's political acts they are rushed in, they outrage the profession, he retreats and then we get a mismatched version, which is very problematic."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "This is now Michael Gove's third attempt to rewrite the curriculum.

"He should listen to the experts and not try to write it himself based on his personal prejudices. We need a broad and balanced curriculum that prepares young people for the modern world and gives teachers in all schools the freedom to innovate."

The changes will be introduced in September 2013 and are part of a wider attempt to transform the UK education system. Throughout the plans, a notable level of attention has been placed on technology and IT (opens in new tab).

Image: Regional Cabinet/Flickr

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.