The recent report by the Sutton Trust demonstrated that Britain’s youngsters are only half as likely as their contemporaries in other developed nations to achieve the highest results in mathematics.
Neglecting maths education in our schools will have a profound effect on the future of Britain’s IT industries. Numeracy and computer science exist hand-in-hand. A child that is interested in mathematics will almost invariably be interested in computer programming.
ICT education in UK schools is based solely on teaching children how to find their way around software. Whereas, what we should be teaching them are the basic principles of programming and coding whereby they will cultivate their own numeric skills as their interest develops.
As if to compound the problem, the Department for Education (DfE) is about to remove Information and Communications Technology (ICT) from the UK schools curriculum from September (for at least a year) whilst new information is considered.
A sound knowledge of mathematics and computer science can be a liberating factor on an individual’s life. The world-wide-web has truly democratised business opportunity and children who leave school with a knowledge and enthusiasm for maths and computing will have a very real advantage.
As well as handwriting we should focussing on typing skills from an early age. It is astonishing how many high-grade programmers continue to ply their trade with a ham-fisted, two finger technique. Every child should be given access to a computer, be able to type and have knowledge of basic programming before they leave primary school.
As a bear minimum, all youngsters should possess reasonable programming skills by the age of 14 before they make any career choices. This country has a massive computing heritage and we have to take steps to preserve it. We should not underestimate the beneficial effect that the BBC computer of the eighties had on our current generation of innovative computer scientists.