Informatics in Primary Education: Approaches, Current Issues and Lessons Learnt

Ivan Kalas, Torsten Brinda, Peter Micheuz, Joyce Malyn-Smith, Valentina Dagiene, Miroslava Černochová, Daniela Tupareva, Margaret Leahy, Miles Berry, Maciej Sysło, Izabela Mrochen, Andrej Brodnik, Christophe Reffay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In 2014, England replaced information and communication technology (ICT) with a new subject, computing, in its national curriculum. The new subject included program-ming and other aspects of Computer Science alongside aspects of critical digital literacy such as online safety. Uniquely, the subject required primary school teachers to teach material few of them had learnt whilst in primary school themselves. Whilst much thought had been given to the content of the curriculum, details of implementation such as pedagogy, training, resources, assessment and incentives were largely seen as not the responsibility of central government. Sector led initiatives focussed on improving subject knowledge in relation to programming and computational thinking, and in facilitating peer to peer support through local hubs and ‘master teachers. Commercial publishers released schemes of work for computing alongside lesson plans and other resources developed by teachers. Such initiatives were welcomed by many in schools. but lacked the coherence to effect the change needed at national scale.
It is thus unsurprising that by 2017 the state of English computing education was described as 'patchy and fragile'2. Substantial central government funding was secured to establish a National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), tasked with support-ing computing teachers' professional development, through face to face and online training. Other NCCE activities have included the development of a comprehensive scheme of work for primary computing, enhanced support for local communities of practice in computing through Computing At School, collaboration with the Oak National Academy to offer online learning for pupils during the periods of lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an accreditation scheme for schools.
The transition from multiple grassroots implementations of England’s computing curriculum to a more centralised approach drawing can be seen as necessary and largely effective. The very brief requirements of the curriculum have been expanded as a care-fully sequenced syllabus, with high quality teaching resources and assessment materials. A set of pedagogic principles derived from research have been articulated and are evidenced in the lesson plans available. Many teachers have engaged with centrally designed professional development activities, and there is now a stronger sense of a national entitlement to a high-quality computing education in practice rather than merely by intention.
Challenges remain, including the need for computing to be given sufficient curriculum time and priority in all schools, the opportunities to interweave computing with other subjects studied in primary schools, and the desire to allow scope for both teachers’ and pupils’ experiment and creativity in primary computing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWCCE 2022
Subtitle of host publicationIFIP TC3 World Conference on Computers in Education
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2022

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