Art loving students may also have a passion for computer coding

Students with a passion for art might be surprised to find they may also love computer coding, says the principal of a girls school that started coding classes last year.

Under Department of Education plans, computer science is be offered as a Leaving Cert subject to fifth-year students from September next year. This follows rising demand from the IT industry and fears about skills shortages.

Presentation Girls Secondary School in Waterford began offering coding classes to transition-year students last year and at least a third of the students fell in love with the subject. Class projects included building a Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens galaxy using computer code. Principal Adrian Gibbs believes students should have the opportunity to try coding, as many will be surprised at how much they enjoy it.

“Yes, some of the students who turned out to be talented would have an aptitude for maths, but there were also students who would have more of an aptitude for art who really took to it. Coding is so visual. Nowadays, it isn’t about numbers and letters,” said Mr Gibbs.

His interest in introducing the subject was sparked by an outreach evening at Waterford Institute of Technology in 2015, when maths and computer science lecturers revealed that just one in 10 students on computing courses were female.

The class at Presentation School is taught by Claire Power, a maths and business teacher who has a background in web design. She is passing on her skillset to other teachers, who expressed an interest.

Ms Power has received support from Waterford Institute of Technology lecturers, who are interested in establishing a course on coding for teachers.

“Despite the fact that computer science is being introduced as a Leaving Cert exam subject next year, such a training course doesn’t exist for teachers. To be honest, I don’t think a 2018 start is realistic as we need to build the skillset in teachers. How can we upskill teachers that quickly?” said Mr Gibbs.

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