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What does a good Computing curriculum look like?

‘A high-quality Computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world. Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.’

National Curriculum Purpose of Study

The national curriculum has six objectives for KS1 and seven objectives for KS2. Although not explicitly defined in the curriculum, these objectives can be split into three distinct strands; computer science, information technology and digital literacy.

Miles Berry has a useful analogy to describe these three strands:

Computer Science (CS) is the ‘foundation’ of the subject (i.e. the underlying principles that make up the subject).

Information Technology (IT) is how you ‘apply this knowledge’ and understanding to purposefully create and make things.

Digital Literacy (DL) is about considering the ‘implications’ of how you going about doing this. 

A successful Computing curriculum will ensure a broad and balanced coverage of all of the above strands.  It is important that your staff have adequate subject knowledge in all three strands of the curriculum to be able to effectively deliver this to your pupils. Staff audits, in-house CPD and our in-built teacher CPD videos can all support this. You can also get help from our Computing subject leader toolkit.

Computer Science covers the ‘how’. How computers and computer systems work and how they are designed and programmed. Computer Science units cover programming units alongside units such as understanding how a school network and the internet works.

Information Technology is the application of Computing. Ensuring your pupils can use a wide range of products and software to enable them to plan, develop and create. These units should cover a variety of media such as video, audio, art, photography or music. 

Digital Literacy is about the understanding and implications. Why you are choosing to use something for a particular purpose. This strand also covers Online Safety, knowing how to use things safely, respectfully and responsibly.

Online safety sits within the Digital Literacy strand of the curriculum. Online Safety is now statutory to teach pupils since the introduction of the new statutory RSE framework. Online safety lessons should still be present within your Computing lessons, but this should now be covered in a whole-school approach with online safety also being taught within your RSE & PSHE curriculum. The guidance document, Education for a Connected World, provides a clearly structured progression for covering online safety in schools. Kapow Primary have mapped this document to their computing and RSE & PSHE curriculum to ensure full coverage. The mapping document can be viewed here.  

Further ways to ensure a whole-school approach can include national events such as Internet Safety Day is inviting guest speakers such as your local police into schools for pupils and parent workshops and hosting online safety assemblies throughout the year.  Digital Leaders are also a great addition to your schools. Like a school council team, your Digital Leaders can be made up of a few pupils from each class. Digital Leaders can then support the promotion of Online Safety in school alongside other roles and responsibilities such as testing out new technology or supporting other pupils in school. 

In an ideal situation, you would have both discrete Computing lessons to teach the skills, and then cross-curricular opportunities to transfer these to enhance learning in other subject lessons. For example, after learning about Stop Motion Animation in Year 2 or Year 5 the pupils could use these skills to show the life cycle of an animal or explain how the digestive systems works in science. It is not always possible to fit everything into your timetable, so some Computing units can easily be taught in a cross-curricular way. For example, our Year 4 Investigating Weather’ unit may link nicely to your Geography unit or our Year 5 Programming:Music’ unit could be used to support your Music lessons for a half term. 

It has to be noted that some parts of the curriculum do need to be explicitly taught in dedicated Computing lesson time such as understanding how the internet works or how to create a selection. Consider key skills your pupils need in order to access the Computing curriculum such as knowing how to log in or type need to also be factored in. 

It is also important for teachers to understand that using a device in a lesson may not be teaching the Computing curriculum. Lessons such as using apps like TTRS or researching a chosen topic are not supporting the teaching and learning of Computing. Pupils need to plan, analyse, create and evaluate digital content. They should be the creators and not just the consumer. 

Not all Computing lessons need to be completed using a digital device. Unplugged lessons are lessons that do not use any devices. Unplugged lessons can be used to support computational thinking and are also great for introducing new concepts to pupils such as understanding algorithms and the importance of sequence in our Year 1 ‘Algorithms unplugged’ unit or understanding how websites and packet of data or transferred in our Year 3 ‘Networks and the Internet’ unit.

Physical programming

Physical programming is a great way to engage and include all pupils. It provides a physical output for the code and can support pupils with their understanding. There are numerous physical programming devices out there to use. In KS1 our physical programming units use Beebots and in KS2 we use the Micro:bit. These units can still be accessed without the physical kits by using either the Beebot app, online Beebot or an unplugged ‘fakebot’ and the Micro:Bit emulator

Enrichment activities within Computing helps raise the profile of computing. It gives your pupils opportunities to take part in a wide range of activities, including extra-curricular to develop their love of computing. 

Clubs: There are a wide range of clubs out there to support your pupils with developing their curiosity and knowledge of programming. 

Code Club provides a wide range of free resources that can be used to deliver your own after-school club or you can request one of their volunteers to run the club for you. Code Dojo also offer a wide range of free resources to start your own club or pupils can find a local club that they can attend after school or on a weekend.

Volunteers: 

Stem ambassadors will come into your school face-to-face or virtually, free of charge to support with numerous projects. STEM Ambassadors make an impact by:

  • Supporting Learning
  • Illuminating Careers
  • Raising Aspirations

Simply contact your local stem ambassador hub or use the contact form from their website to request an ambassador visit to your school. 

  • Know your curriculum, use the Computing curriculum overview to help you.
  • Ensure sequence and progression is evident, use the Computing progression of skills to help you.
  • Ensure both yourself and your staff have the required CPD knowledge – you can use the in-built Computing CPD to help you.
  • Use unplugged activities to introduce new activities.
  • Look at opportunities to enrich your curriculum through clubs and competitions.

To access these Computing lessons, sign up for a free trial today!

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Written by:
Sarah Vaughan

Sarah has 13 years of experience teaching in a primary school and leading computing.

 

She now works as a Subject Matter Expert for the NCCE across the East Midlands. In this role, she supports primary schools with bespoke training to develop and implement their computing curriculum. Sarah facilitates computing courses for STEM and runs a series of local network meetings for computing leads.