Evaluating Code Club’s impact

Earlier this month, we celebrated Code Club’s fifth birthday. Over that time we have grown from 25 clubs to a network of over 5,000 active clubs in the UK and many thousands more across the world. That’s only been possible thanks to the fantastic work of our community of volunteers and educators, and the enthusiasm of parents and young people. Thank you.

We know from the many messages and feedback we get that kids, teachers, volunteers, and parents all get lots out of their involvement with Code Club. You also help us make Code Club better. We work hard to listen to your feedback and that leads directly to improvements in the way that we support Code Club through our projects, training, and much more.

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We are also committed to formally evaluating what we do. That’s why, between June 2015 and September 2016, we worked with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER) on a randomised control trial that explored the benefit that Code Club has on children that participate. As far as we know, this is one of the only randomised control trials of an after school programme focused on computing. We are very grateful to NfER for conducting the research and to Nesta and the Cabinet Office who provided funding to allow this to happen. We’re also extremely grateful to all of the teachers and young people who helped us by participating in the trial.

The trial worked with 21 schools that set up Code Club as part of the trial. Children who said they wanted to attend the Code Club were randomly assigned to either attend for the year of the trial, or to attend in the following year. That way everyone got to benefit from Code Club, but the researchers were able to measure what impact attending a Code Club had compared with a control group.

The trial showed that Code Club had a significant and positive impact on children’s programming ability in all of the programming languages we use: Scratch, HTML/CSS, and Python. Teachers said that Code Club improved children’s skills and confidence in programming, as well as general ICT skills and problem solving, and many teachers also reported the benefit of being able to use the confidence and skills of Code Club children to support other pupils in lesson time. The research also highlighted how easy it was to set up and run a Code Club, with lots of positive feedback for the resources and projects that we provide.

The trial has also given us lots of good feedback to work on. What do we mean by computational thinking and how can we support volunteers and teachers to teach those concepts in an engaging way? How do we get better at managing the transition from visual to text based programming languages? How can we most effectively identify and spread practice between Code Clubs?  

Over the coming months we’ll be reviewing the findings of the research in depth and using them as a springboard for further improving the support that we give to teachers and volunteers that deliver Code Clubs in the UK and around the world.

You can download the full evaluation report from the Raspberry Pi Foundation Research and Insights page.

Celebrating Digital Schools in Scotland

by Dave Hazeldean, Code Club Community Support Assistant

It’s really exciting to see how schools across the UK are getting involved in different digital activities. Running a Code Club is just one of many ways that schools can develop their school’s digital offering for pupils.

I recently paid a trip to Wormit Primary School in Fife to attend Scotland’s inaugural Digital Schools Awards – a national awards programme which recognises excellence in the use of digital technology in primary schools. Overseen by Education Scotland, the programme also supports the efforts of schools, teachers and learners in making the best use of digital technology in the classroom.

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It was fantastic to see that nine out of the twenty-one primary schools who received awards were running their own active Code Clubs, and the event was a wonderful opportunity to meet with some amazing Code Club leaders and members.

I spoke to some of the awards recipients to find out more about how running a Code Club has helped build their school’s digital skills.

Gemma Sanderson is a teacher from Largo Primary School in Fife, which has been running a Code Club for the past four years. She told me that “it’s been amazing to see the children’s skills developing, and also their self-esteem”. One of her pupils, Tristan, who has been attending the club for two years, said that “at Code Club, I really enjoy making my own games in Scratch, and using Python.”

Ruth MacDonald, Head Teacher of Echt School, told me “The school has worked very hard to get their Digital Schools Award.” Seven of the thirty-six pupils at her small rural school regularly attend their Code Club. “We have been encouraging other schools to sign up for Code Club as it’s not a hard thing to do. You don’t have to know all about coding to run the club as the children get on and do it themselves”.

195 primary schools in Scotland have signed up to become a Digital School since the launch of the programme in September 2016. The programme aims to sign up 400 primary schools in Scotland to participate in its first full year, and we hope many of those register Code Clubs as part of their effort to achieve digital excellence.

Come along to a Code Club meetup!

by Katharine Childs, Code Club Regional Coordinator for East Midlands

Meetups are a great way for anyone running a Code Club to get ongoing support and for anyone new to find out more. Run by our team of Regional Coordinators, they take place all around the country and are a relaxed, informal way to meet others in the Code Club community to share experiences, swap tips and hear the latest Code Club news.

Last month our Derby meetup took place at the Silk Mill Museum, and had a mixture of existing volunteers, new volunteers and hosts who came along to chat, eat doughnuts and tinker with tech for a couple of hours.

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Lots of clubs had received BBC micro:bits back in September 2016, and more clubs were applying in the second round of applications this year, so we had three of the Code Club micro:bit projects on display to play with.

We had a great talk from a host who plans to set up several clubs in a Radio Communication Museum later this year.  Several volunteers were looking for a venue to volunteer at, and so were able to chat to all the hosts who were there and link up to get a Code Club started. As one attendee said, “I found the evening fascinating, enlightening and enjoyable.  All in all, a first class meetup.”

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For clubs who had done lots of the Scratch projects and were considering what to do next, there was a presentation about our Python projects including some information on how to use the online coding environment Trinket. This led onto a really interesting discussion about the challenges of using a text-based programming language with children aged 9 – 11, and we crowd-sourced community tips such as:

  • linking back to children’s literacy skills when checking the syntax of their code
  • commenting sections of code to explain what they do and modelling patient
  • methodical debugging by getting it wrong yourself and then working through how to put it right.  

Is there a meetup coming up near you? Find out more on our events page and come along. Whether you’re a host or a volunteer, looking to get involved or running an existing club, there’s bound to be something for you!

Photos credit: Samathy Barratt, new Code Club volunteer