MP WRITES: Let’s crack coding

If your family is anything like mine, and you have kids or grandchildren, you know that computers are a huge part of their lives.

Whether it is using them at school, at home for homework or for playing games or using social media like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, computers have revolutionised the economy and society, and kids in particular feel comfortable with tablets, smartphones and computers in a way that perhaps other generations didn’t.

I was part of the first generation, back in the 1980s, to have a personal computer. I remember getting a Commodore 64 for Christmas when I was 11 or 12.

In those days you got cassettes to load the games. The first game I ever had took 28 minutes to load and even then, nine times out of 10, it crashed at the last minute.

Processing power and computer capability has changed out of all recognition.

The building blocks then, as well as now, was computer code. How do you get a computer to do what you want it to do?

Back in the days of Commodore 64s and Spectrums, magazines used to be sold to allow users to code their own games and accessories. I’m afraid I never got further than typing: 10. Print “Hello”; 20. Goto 10.

Once you hit “return”, the screen would scroll down with infinite “Hello”s. That was the limit of my coding prowess – Angry Birds it wasn’t.

However, the ability to master code will be one of the lucrative professions of the 21st century.

Companies which make apps to be used on smartphones are being sold for hundreds of millions of pounds.

People who are able to code are highly sought after by companies right across the economy, from games manufacturers to aerospace firms, from films to construction companies. There is the possibility of an interesting, well-paid career if you are capable of writing code.

The key is to get kids interested in this at the earliest possible age.

They are interested in computers anyway, so the trick is to get them to think about code at a suitable and appropriate age. This is when they are in primary school at the ages of about 9-11.

I recently met with Accenture, a global company, who are willing to put so-called Code Clubs in Hartlepool primary schools.

These Code Clubs are extracurricular activities that teach computer programming skills to 9-11 year olds.

The Clubs are run by a professional from the business community with a teacher present and will help primary school children understand and learn the ability to code.

This is an exciting and promising opportunity and I really hope Hartlepool schools will participate.

This week, I’ve written to every primary school in the town informing them of this offer from Accenture and asking if they would consider taking up the opportunity.

It helps children with essential skills like science, maths and technology as well as sparking interest in computer programming.