Primary Computing – Cryptography Lesson Plans

Encryption & Decryption

Cryptography Enigma Machine

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Since man first began writing there has been a desire to send messages in secret: in code.  Codes and ciphers are forms of secret communication. A code replaces words with letters, numbers or symbols.  A cipher rearranges letters or uses substitutes to disguise the message. This process is called encryption. The art of writing and solving codes and ciphers is called cryptography.

Codes and ciphers have been used throughout time when people wanted to keep messages private.  Cryptography has, and is still, used by governments, military, companies, and organisations to protect information and messages.

Today, encryption is used to protect data and data transfer between computers.  Documents, data and messages are encrypted to protect confidentiality.  Modern encryption methods are very clever but their underlying principles remain that of those ancient methods.

Cryptography Unit

I have written a 6 week unit introducing cryptography for iCompute for Primary Schools computing scheme of work.  Here, the children will unleash their inner spy and learn about how data can be transferred in secret over distances. They will learn how codes and ciphers have been used throughout history and explore a number of different ways that data can be encrypted and decrypted.


As part of it, along with step-by-step lesson plans and pupil/teacher support materials, I’ve been putting together resources on the history of cryptography.  Download a brief introduction to the Enigma machine and how the magnificent men and women at Bletchley helped shorten World War II with their code breaking skills!  Practise secret code writing in your classroom by downloading and making a cipher disk.  Lots of engaging activities to learn about encryption methods past and present and the importance of keeping data private in the modern digital age.

cryptography cipher wheel

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The new cryptography unit – iCrypto – is available now in our Whole School Computing Curriculum for the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2.

Visit to find out more about our acclaimed primary computing scheme of work.

iCompute and The Hour of Code

Hour of Code Lesson Plans & Resources


The Hour of Code is coming…

We in England are very fortunate that Computing is now a statutory entitlement for pupils aged five and over, with the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014.  We owe it to our children to equip them with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will enable them to fully participate in the modern digital world.  We lead the way in teaching and learning in computing science.  Elsewhere around the world there is not (yet) the same emphasis on preparing our children to – not just consume technology, but to – understand how computers and computers systems work.  In doing so, we set the next generation on a path to become the innovators and digital creators of our future.

I’m passionate about getting across the message that Computing is so much more than just ‘code’ – see this post for more on that.  At Computing’s heart, and the heart of the National Curriculum, is developing computational thinking.  A fundamental life skill in itself but, with regard to computing, computational thinking enables children to become effective problem solvers: teaching them skills to solve problems (as yet unknown) for technology that does not yet exist!  Find out more about computational thinking in this post.

The Hour of Code is a global movement by Computer Science Education Week reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.  As I’m very keen for others to see the benefit of computing throughout the curriculum, I’ve put together three teacher-led cross-curricular activities as iCompute’s contribution to this year’s Hour of Code – scheduled to take place this December – find out more about that here.

Here’s a sneak look.  Watch this space as I might have time to contribute more…

iCompute for Hour of Code iJournalist

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iCompute Hour of Code iMathematician

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iCompute Hour of Code iControl

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iCompute Finalist in two Bett Awards 2015

iCompute shortlisted for two BETT 2015 Awards

iCompute celebrate

iCompute finalists for two BETT Awards – 2015

iCompute, the digital computing scheme of work for primary schools, is proud to announce being shortlisted for the ‘Primary Digital Content’ and ‘Best Whole Course Subject Curriculum Resource’ BETT Awards 2015 for its whole-school and iPad computing scheme of work.

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iCompute: Making Teaching Computing Easy

iCompute Launch

The launch of iCompute

Cumbrian firm launches first product of its kind to support primary schools in teaching the new Primary Computing Curriculum

 21st March, 2014; Lindale, Cumbria: With September’s deadline to start delivering the new Primary Computing Curriculum fast approaching, primary schools across England don’t have much time to prepare for this, now statutory, subject. Thankfully, help is at hand from a new start-up: iCompute, which provides primary schools with digital lesson plans and instant access to all the support and materials they need to teach the new curriculum from Years 1 to 6. Based in the Lake District, iCompute has been set up by Liane O’Kane who, as a computer scientist turned primary school teacher, has a unique insight into what schools need to do to teach the subject effectively.

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