Python becomes a ‘modern language’ for Putney High School’s next generation of digital nomads

Posted on: 21 Feb 2023
Posted by: James Mutton

James Mutton, of Putney High School GDST, considers the wealth of benefits that come with a broad language curriculum and explains how Putney is expanding its horizons even further by offering the coding language Python as an option for linguists.

Post Brexit, you might have thought language learning had slipped off people’s priority lists and with it our global ambitions. You’d be wrong. Following years of COVID restrictions, post-pandemic cabin fever has put travelling firmly back on many people’s ‘to do’ lists, and not just for recreation.

enter image description here Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Flexible working patterns and improved digital infrastructures mean that working remotely is now a serious option and many young people with the skills and desire to travel are increasingly opting to set themselves up abroad, working remotely as so-called ‘digital nomads’ or ‘techpats’. An understanding of foreign languages, including digital ones, is becoming an essential part of their toolkit.

Countries such as Germany, Spain, Costa Rica and even Barbados are capitalising on this trend and are just a few of those offering temporary residence permits, or ‘digital nomad visas’, to those wanting to work remotely for a foreign based business, often in the field of technology. These visas are increasingly common, with over 50 countries currently offering some kind of permit, for periods of typically up to 12 months – and the numbers are growing. Having the ability to ‘get by’ in a number of languages is a key skill; add to that a fluency in coding, and the world really is your oyster.

It is in acknowledgement of this, and the increasing opportunities offered to linguists across a variety of sectors, that at Putney High School GDST language learning is very much championed. Putney has always had a global outlook, with over 40 languages spoken in the senior school alone. There is a burgeoning bilingual programme and the modern language department is one of the busiest in the school; every year students leave Putney to pursue language degrees at some of the top universities in the UK.

This year Putney is expanding its horizons even further, taking an innovative approach to the modern language curriculum which sees a coding language, Python, included as an option for linguists. No longer confined to lessons in computer science, design thinking, or coding clubs, Python can now be a third language choice in Year 9 alongside the five modern foreign languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin, and classics such as Latin.

We know that learning a language brings enormous cognitive benefits and acknowledging the importance of coding languages within our language curriculum is an exciting and important addition.

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Putney High School student learning Python in the school’s Innovation Centre

Students already develop their coding skills in their computer science lessons and coding clubs, but with Python added to the modern language curriculum, they now have the possibility of deepening their understanding of this essential skill and exploring its application in a wealth of exciting careers.

Aside from their cognitive benefits and the deeper understanding they offer of other cultures, it is clear that languages—spoken or in code—really are the key to an exciting and flexible future. The dream of working on a laptop from a far-flung beach somewhere is rapidly becoming a reality, and being able to chat to the locals while enjoying your tropical paradise, the cherry on top of the piña colada.

About James Mutton

James Mutton is deputy head (digital innovation and curriculum) at Putney High School.