A new independent, non-profit campaign, the “Year of Code”, has recently been launched to encourage people across the UK to get coding for the first time.  At the launch event the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and Education Secretary, Michael Gove, also announced a new £500,000 Government fund to train teachers in software coding, with the aim for schools to inspire the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.  

What? 

The Year of Code campaign will see a series of events take place over the next year to promote computing. It will include a week-long programme in March encouraging all schools to teach every pupil at least one hour of coding in that week.  This links to the new computing curriculum which, as reported in our October 2013 briefing, schools will start teaching in September this year. The curriculum replaces the old ICT programme of study which focused on computer literacy, with more up–to–date content teaching children how to code, create programmes and understand how a computer works.

The £500,000 Government funding will be provided to businesses who are prepared to match the funding and will be used for projects whereby new and existing teachers will be trained by experts in coding and computing. This will equip schools to teach the new computing curriculum introduced in September which, according to the Government, will be “designed with input from the Royal Society of Engineering, and industry leaders such as Google and Microsoft”.  

The Chancellor said “backing technology and making sure our children are equipped with the skills for the future is a key part of our economic plan.”

So what?

Introducing children to skills like computing and coding from an early age is part of the government’s long term plan to ensure young people are better prepared for the increasingly digital world, and the Year of Code is one of the flagship initiatives announced with this in mind.  However the Year of Code has attracted criticism from some quarters with Emma Mulqueeny, one of the schemes former advisors, saying she no longer supported the Government policy after Lottie Dexter, the person placed in charge of the Year of Code, revealed that she could not code on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. 

While the Year of Code initiative has come under some fire, most people would agree that the ICT school curriculum is due an overhaul and that increasing technical computer skills such as coding will be key in building a platform for a successful technology sector in the UK in future.

The initiative wants to encourage people across the country to get coding for the first time in 2014. The initiative together with the new ICT curriculum and Government funding for coding should indeed make 2014 the ‘year of code’ in the UK. However, we will have to see what the rest of 2014 brings to know whether the Year of Code achieves what it set out to do after a somewhat shaky start.