Computer Science Concepts

What is computer science?

Computer science encompasses the theory, design, development and use of computer systems. It is a broad field which includes, but is certainly not limited to, the development of computer components, the development of computer systems and networks, and programming. Computer science makes close links with subjects such as maths, logic and science.

Computer scientists have a vast range of specialisms within this field. Some, for example, might develop programs to generate weather forecasts; others might be coding the next blockbuster platform game, and some might be working for the Government to test if their websites can be hacked! They’re called ethical hackers if you fancy that as a career change!

Concepts and Approaches

Computer science involves 14 different concepts.

Why is computer science important?

We live in a digital world and your classroom is full of digital natives. That means they’ve grown up surrounded by technology, but that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically become confident digital citizens. Helping them embrace computer science and the key concepts that make up computational thinking will stand them in good stead for the future, whatever they decide to do in our increasingly digital world.

And it’s not just about computer science, there are wider benefits too. Teachers tell us that where they bring computational thinking alive for their pupils they’ve seen improvements in soft skills like collaboration and problem solving, as well as positive impacts on numeracy and literacy.

What does computer science look like in the Primary curriculum?

Throughout the primary curriculum, pupils learn how to use a range of ‘programming languages’. This includes developing computational-thinking skills associated with the process of programming, such as algorithms and decomposing problems into a sequence of steps and using logical reasoning to predict outcomes.

As pupils progress, specific knowledge and understanding relating to programming is defined, for example the use of sequence, selection, repetition and variables. In addition, pupils learn about the workings of computers and computer networks such as the internet.

3 - 5 years

In role-play, pupils can explore how programmable devices work, such as washing machines, mobile phones, etc. As teachers, we can model this technology, pretending to send messages across the world to people we know, giving an opportunity to talk about how devices are connected and how to stay safe on the internet. Pupils develop an understanding that computers in their school are connected together and to computers in the outside world.

Pupils might play (tinker) with programmable toys such as Bee-Bots, Roamer® and BigTrack, finding out about the programming languages which control these digital devices. They learn what the buttons do and in what order to press them. Their problem might be how to navigate a route: they think about how to solve it, press the keys and then debug (work out where the route might have gone wrong) as they go along. They are programming!