University inspires next generation to get into computer coding

Date 21.03.2018

The University of Northampton is playing a role in trying to plug Europe’s IT skills gap, by inspiring the next generation to get into computer coding.

The European Commission has predicted that in 2020, there will be a shortfall of almost one million ICT professionals in Europe. An O2 report also finds that over 745,000 new ‘digital workers’ will be needed by 2017.

Computing and coding was introduced into the UK school curriculum, in 2014, and a year later, the University of Northampton kick-started a project to help further inspire primary aged children to get into IT.

The University joined forces with Northamptonshire County Council, the Code Club and The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT) to launch a coding competition for county schools.

The initiative has been such a success, that the competition has now been opened up to surrounding counties, with a view to a UK-wide contest being organised by 2020.

Scott Turner, Associate Professor and Principal Lecturer in Computing, said: “The competition is something the Computing team at the University is proud to be involved with and believe it not only fits with our passion for promoting the relevance of Computing, but gets across to children how much fun programming is.

“The aspect of fun is crucial, because if it’s fun, all of a sudden it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ and that will hopefully spark a passion inside the children which will stay with them as they get older.

“If they see coding as something they can do at such an early age, they lose their fear and they should become more open to continue studying computing as they get older. And with the demand for digital workers ever increasing, the opportunities for the next generation will be countless.”

The latest competition, which was for eight to 11-year-olds, saw school groups, code clubs and even individual children produce videos of a game they had written, using the Scratch coding system, to promote healthy lifestyles.

The overall winners were Team Jarl, which comprised pupils from Wellingborough’s Park Junior School – pictured.

Headteacher, David Tebbutt, said: “We have put a great deal of time developing a whole school approach into coding. This competition allowed some of our more able children and members of our ‘Coding Crew’ to develop their skills further. Working together in collaboration as part of a team, the children were able to hone their skills and share ideas with their peers.

“We are very grateful to WCIT as sponsor, Code Club, The University of Northampton and Northamptonshire County Council for all their support in developing this competition. We very much look forward to the 2018/19 competition and are already planning potential entries.”