Royal Society – Data Skills Workshop

The Royal Society working with STEM has organised an educator data skills workshop on the 13th September 2019 in York to discuss data skills and how these might be taught in schools. To sign up for the day here is the link.

The workshop is aimed at education practitioners and discussions will encourage sharing examples of practice to build data skills into the curriculum.

Discussions will cover:

  • the challenges and opportunities around teaching data skills in schools;
  • knowledge sharing and best practice through practical sessions;
  • findings from the Royal Society Dynamics of Data Science Skills project, report and accompanying packs

As part of the day, Queen Mary University of London has been asked to present on data skills as taught within the primary computing curriculum. This page provides notes, resources and links from the material introduced.

Raising the profile of data with primary teachers – action by Barefoot, Teaching London Computing, TechPathways and the Institute of Coding.

Despite data science being an essential aspect of the computing curriculum, it’s significance is perhaps underplayed in the 2014 Computing Curriculum. In the aims of the Computing Programme of study, mention is made of the importance of data representations, and that problems should be analysed in computational terms and should be solved by writing programming or using IT. However, the data aspect of problem-solving is not emphasised.

In the previous ICT curriculum, databases, tables and models were was referenced across the KS1 and KS2 objectives but in the slimmed-down Computing curriculum data is now only specifically mentioned in the KS2 IT strand of ‘select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information’. KS1 teachers may overlook the fact that data is a form of digital content and therefore has a place in the attainment target of ‘use technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content’.

The data aspects of computational thinking appear to also have been overlooked. Led by a focus on algorithms and programming, data to the primary computing teacher appears to be lacking and yet data is fundamental to computational thinking.

 How then can the importance of data be brought back to our primary teacher’s attention?

Barefoot, Teaching London Computing, TechPathways and the IoC are providing resources and professional development to do just this!


According to the recent Royal Society report on computing in schools, Barefoot, is the most popular curriculum resource used by primary teachers. Until very recently Barefoot focused on the programming aspect of the computing curriculum. In 2019, aware of the lack of data related resources,  the Barefoot team produced a simplified data modelling lifecycle (see Figure 1) and a KS2 data classroom activity, called Pizza Party.

Barefoot data modelling lifecycle for use with spreadsheets

Figure 1: Barefoot’s Data Modelling Lifecycle for use with spreadsheets.

To produce the data modelling lifecycle, the Barefoot team reviewed and combined:

  • the data-related concepts and vocabulary used across the primary curriculum (including maths, science, geography, design and technology and other subjects),
  • terms used in secondary computing lessons,
  • the data literacy competency framework as outlined by Andreas Grillenberger’s research 

The lifecycle diagram was specifically developed for activities in which a spreadsheet would be used to solve the problem at hand.  
The Barefoot team are developing further data activities, including a KS1 unplugged data modelling activity and a KS2 activity which focus on data collection and data analysis. The Barefoot data activities draw upon research to scaffold sequences of learning experiences. Approaches such as using high-quality examples, the use, modify, create approach, code reading and PRIMM are being adapted for use in teaching about data.  

Teaching London Computing

Teaching London Computing (and our sister site cs4fn) have been producing classroom activities and training teachers on a range of data science topics for many years. Our page on machine learning brings together dozens of data-related resources. As shown in Figure 2, machine learning can be explained through levels. We have cross-referenced our resources and those from others to each level.

Example activities include the brain in a bag, articles such as crystal-ball coupons and I know where your cat lives. Other data activities can be found in our primary computer science magazine a bit of cs4fn and the cs4fn AI issue is brimming with machine learning articles. 

The different levels of machine learning

Figure 2: Teaching London Computing’s different levels of Machine Learning

Teaching London ComputingTechPathways (sponsored by the Mayor of London),  and the IoC (Institute of Code) are currently working together to develop teacher professional development on data. Watch this space!