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Microsoft demands primary school computer science training

BETT education show gets underway with message from Redmond

Microsoft has called for a "radical shake up" in the way computer science is taught in schools in the UK.

On the eve of the BETT education technology show in London, Redmond is warning that the UK risks falling behind other countries in the race to develop and nurture computing talent, if "we don't ensure that all children learn about computer science in primary schools".

The government is already in the process of revamping computer science education in secondary schools with a new curriculum, but Microsoft wants to catch them younger

Microsoft said there were currently around 100,000 unfilled jobs in the UK that require computer science qualifications, but that last year only 30,500 graduated with a degree in that subject, a fall on the previous year's figure.

Steve Beswick, director of education at Microsoft UK, said, "Computer science is something that we have been calling the 'fourth science' for some time. We believe that it is every bit as important as physics, chemistry and biology."

Most primary schools don't even break down physics, chemistry and biology into separate subjects though, and roll them into a single science stream, so Microsoft's call seems optimistic.

"By formally introducing children to computer science basics at primary school, we stand a far greater chance of increasing the numbers taking the subject through to degree level and ultimately the world of work," said Beswick.

Microsoft said "a number of primary schools" already teach computer science using simple programmes like Microsoft's Kodu, a visual programming language made specifically for creating games, although there is currently no formal programme of training for teachers, admitted Microsoft.

Microsoft is this week launching the Kodu Kup, a national competition designed to unearth the next big selling game, chosen from entries all designed by young people.

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