Time to get coding in Belfast

Back in August, the Code Club team went to visit a Code Club in Belfast run by some fabulous volunteers from PwC as part of their Hive Hackers project, which engages with 6- to 11-year-olds and teachers at primary schools across the region to teach coding and technology. PwC was also collaborating with the Time to Code programme run by Business in the Community Northern Ireland to set up the sessions.

Ciara Mulgrew, Programme Executive at Business in the Community, came along to the session too. She said: “In today’s digital age, IT literacy is so important. Young people are growing up surrounded by technology, but many still lack the basic IT skills that future jobs will demand.”

Hive Hackers

At this Code Club, the children had been using Code Club Scratch projects to build up their programming skills, and the volunteers had begun each of their sessions with a presentation explaining the learning objectives of the project the club members were going to work on.

“The increase in knowledge that the children displayed was testament to the amount they had learned over the duration of the course. They all gave 100% in every session and weren’t afraid to dive into the deep end.”
— Mark, volunteer from PwC

Our visit took place during the club’s final session, and the volunteers had arranged some special activities. To celebrate the projects that they had created, the children had the opportunity to present and explain their animations on-screen.

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The volunteers had created something special of their own: they finished the session with a quiz, asking questions based on computational thinking concepts and recording the young people’s answers on a live scoreboard. Children viewed the questions on-screen and voted for the correct answer. The scoreboard generated lots of excitement!

“It was great to see that the kids were getting loads of correct answers, reflective of how much they had learned.”
— Niall, volunteer from PwC

We’re thankful for the support of Business in the Community Northern Ireland’s Time to Code programme, whose team connected us with these committed volunteers to get more kids coding.

Get involved

If you’d like to get involved in running Code Club sessions in your local community, you can find out more about volunteering here.

Tinkering and sharing at Sheldon School Code Club

Earlier this year, we announced that we are growing Code Club by extending its age range to include 12- and 13-year-olds. We caught up with one of the secondary schools who are running a club and spoke to Computing and IT teacher Tom Shaw at Sheldon School in Chippenham to find out more about his Code Club for Year 7 and 8 students.

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Sheldon School, Chippenham

What inspired you to get involved with running a Code Club?

The club is run after school, and although I assist, I wanted resources which allowed the students to get stuck in with a high degree of independence. I was really looking for accessible resources to get students experimenting and dipping into code-based projects with minimal hassle.

Tell us as a bit more about your Code Club.

The club runs on a Tuesday after school, and I have approximately 20 to 25 regular attendees who are mostly in KS3 Year 7 or 8. My sixth-form computer science students come and help whenever possible.

Once set up, Code Club is very simple to deliver. I also haven’t had to push the club too much — I just put it on our school clubs list and students came and had a go. Word quickly spread, and now the club is basically full!

The Python projects are very popular — I have used those in the classroom as well as in the club. Some students have also used the projects at home.

In addition to coding, we do mix it up with a little Minetest for pure fun, and with some team competitions.

Can you explain a bit about why running an extra-curricular coding club is important for your students?

One of the more ethereal aspects of promoting a subject in school is trying to generate a ‘culture’. We have lots of enthusiastic users of computers who love to game and so forth. Capturing that enthusiasm and turning it into something productive without losing the element of fun — that is a trickier thing to do. The Code Club structure and resources are enormously useful in helping a coding culture develop, and I really enjoy the non-formal tinkering and sharing that goes on.

Are you interested in starting a Code Club at your school? Head to the Code Club website to learn more.

Working with Councils

Here at Code Club, we love to collaborate to create new clubs and opportunities so that even more young people have the chance to get involved in computing and digital making. In this blog post, Anna Pearson, Code Club Regional Coordinator for the North East, tell us how she has been working alongside Northumberland County Council.

Improving digital literacy

18 months ago, the Northumberland County Council noticed there was a strong focus on digital skills in the North East, but within the Northumberland area there were only two active Code Clubs. With this in mind, the Council set out to grow their Code Club community — and they really did! Since this project started, the number of clubs in the area has increased to 25. These clubs actively help to decrease the digital skills gap, as well as providing young people across the county with skills and career goals.

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Nathan Fuller getting involved in a Code Club training session

When I started with Code Club in March 2017, I was introduced to Nathan Fuller, Project Support Officer at Northumberland County Council, and I was really excited by his enthusiasm about Code Club.

Skills for the younger generation

I asked Nathan the million-dollar question: ‘Why are Code Clubs so important to Northumberland County Council?’ He answered:

‘As in much of the UK, we have identified a clear digital skills gap in our county and the wider region, and we strongly believe that one of the ways to improve this is to start developing our younger generation. Code Club has been a great way to start this, and the reaction from hosts, volunteers, and, most importantly, the children, has been phenomenal’.

One of the clubs started in Northumberland is at Pegswood Primary School in Morpeth. The club is run by a volunteer duo who are mother and son. Nathan says:

‘This approach has given them a wonderful shared experience, and also developed the son’s confidence, providing real-world experience he can use to strengthen his future university and job applications. We see huge benefit in a volunteer running a club, as the children generally respond well to an external person going into school’.

Fun for Code Clubbers and volunteers

The Code Club at Pegswood encourages playful expression, so that pupils learn from one another and gain new skills and confidence surrounding coding. The volunteers even designed their own competition, in which the pupils’ task was to design and develop their own project and let their imaginations run wild.

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Local support

Northumberland County Council has taken a very hands-on, proactive approach to collaborating with Code Club, and it is great to see so many new clubs being set up.

I asked Nathan to describe Code Club in three words, and he answered: ‘Fun, rewarding and inclusive.’ For people who are considering running or hosting a Code Club, he has these encouraging words:

’We appreciate that before volunteering you may be nervous, especially if you aren’t used to working with children, but the reactions we have seen have been positive all round.’

Volunteer with us

Whether you’re a coding expert or an absolute beginner, volunteering at your local Code Club is a great way to extend your digital skills. To get started as a volunteer, all you need to do is register online and connect with a club in a local school, library, or community venue that needs your help.

If you are a teacher or a member of staff at another venue which has space for a Code Club, and you’re interested in becoming a Code Club host, head to our website to register your new club and start looking for volunteers.