Call for schools to teach programming

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Leaders of high flying Sheffield Hallam University computer games courses are calling on schools to teach pupils to program as part of IT studies.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, schools which did have access to computers did just that, but nowadays they focus on using commercial software.

“These days, when schools teach IT they teach how to use software like Microsoft Office and Word, but they don’t teach programming,” says Bob Steele, principal lecturer at Hallam’s highly successful Games Software Development department.

“We would like to get back to that and see computer science back on the school curriculum. It would certainly help us as we have to teach it from scratch.”

While the department insists Masters degree students pass a programming test, it accepts BSc students without programming skills as long as they are relatively IT literate and have a certain level of mathematical skills.

Meanwhile, those students who do arrive with programming skills will almost certainly have taught themselves to programme - ideally in C++, the industry standard language for developing games, which is also widely used to develop applications software such as Microsoft Windows and in hardware development.

Some may even have already published games – a reflection of the way the games industry has almost gone back to its roots with the development of technologies that no longer require multimillion pound studios and massive development teams.

Of course, the big budget blockbusters, produced by large teams with a range of skills, are still the major market for Hallam’s students.

Recognising that, the department added a lab full of PlayStation III professional development kits to its hardware facilities earlier this year - more than any other university across the whole of Europe, according to Sony itself.