Could you be a Code Club student volunteer?

Are you a student looking to boost your digital skills and give back to your local community? Then we want you to become a volunteer for Code Club!

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You don’t need to have any existing computer programming knowledge to start a Code Club. In fact, volunteering with us is a great way to gain new experience which will look great on your CV – and have fun doing it!

But don’t just take our word for it, Chris Jones is a student from Portsmouth University who volunteered with us, read more about his Code Club experience below…


I decided to take part in Code Club as I was looking for something to do alongside my Software Engineering course at university. I felt Code Club was an excellent opportunity to broaden my skills and gain new experiences, while also volunteering in a subject I am familiar with, and feel confident to teach to younger children.

What stood out to me was that Code Club’s projects allow the children to be creative in what they are making, while they are learning new skills.

Starting the club

I started the club in November 2015 with another student volunteer at a local primary school. The club was attended by 30 children in total, who were all keen to do more in programming. The classes we taught ranged from year 3 to year 6, so some pupils had a lot more practice with Scratch than others. Once we realised this, we encouraged the older children to teach their younger peers. This meant that those more experienced were learning how to share their skills by helping others.

Code Club fitted into my schedule easily – I would be at Code Club once a week, for an hour and a half. The timing worked well for me, it ensured that running the club didn’t feel like an inconvenience while also at university trying to meet deadlines. The school I volunteered at was also considerate of us being at university, and were aware that we would need to stop for exam period and had no problem with it.

The benefits of Code Club

Code Club is an excellent way to build programming skills for children from a young age, giving them the opportunity to build other skills through programming. By learning through play and experimentation in an informal environment after-school, children begin to think differently about computers and technology.

Volunteering at the club introduced me to new experiences, which I would not have found in a lecture room. For example, the varying interests of the children meant that I had to work to keep them all interested and involved throughout the club. I wanted to ensure that they left the club feeling that coding was something they wanted to pursue in the future. Code Club also gave me a chance to develop my own skills away from university, and to give more variety in my weekly schedule.

After a couple of months of running the Code Club as a volunteer at the school, one child asked me to look at a piece of code which they had been working on at home, which they had thought of all by themselves. I was happy to look at this and was excited to see what they had done. Then I realised the amount of code that was there: this child, who had started the club as a beginner in coding, had written around 1000 lines of code that were too complex for me to fully assess in the club time!

Interested to get involved? Find out more about starting a Code Club on our website.

If you’re looking to host a Code Club in your school, library or community centre, you can read what it’s like to run a club with help from student volunteers here.  

Volunteer stories: Nick Peet

Are you a teacher keen to tackle the challenges of the computing curriculum? Running or hosting a Code Club is a great way to boost your own confidence, and to help give your pupils more opportunities to get excited about coding and digital making.

We heard from Nick Peet, a teacher in Portsmouth who, with some help from students at Portsmouth University, began running a Code Club in his school. Find out more about his experiences as a Code Club host below…


When we discovered that the new National Curriculum required primary children to learn Computing, rather than just how to use ICT, we realised that the school had a huge gap in the subject knowledge required to teach this new curriculum.  I attended several meetings of panicked ICT managers in the Portsmouth area and all of us agreed that, although we were very excited by the changes in the curriculum, there would be huge difficulty in training hard pressed primary teachers to learn the new skills required to deliver the new subject matter.  In a sudden flash of divine inspiration, I realised that it would be much easier to identify pupils who were really interested in the subject and teach them so that they could support their teachers and peers with the new curriculum.  So in 2014 we started the Craneswater Computing club.

laptopAlthough in a previous life, I had worked as a programmer and systems designer, it was in a very different, pre-internet world of main frames, punch tape, Assembler and machine code languages – not very relevant to the requirements of the current curriculum.  I had never even heard of Scratch!  So I bought a book, and 30 pupils and I started to work through the projects in it together.

This worked well and the club was very popular – we were able to develop the coding champions we needed to get the new curriculum up and running.  However, it became very time consuming, particularly trying to develop new projects and challenges for the (by now very competent) children.

Fortunately Portsmouth University got in touch with the school and told us they were keen to place volunteers who would run a Code Club. This sounded like a good idea and so we signed up – anything to reduce a teacher’s work load!  We negotiated with the university volunteers so that we would keep a 30 pupil code club (rather larger than normal) and also include children from Years 3 and 4 (slightly younger than normal).  This was agreed to and the new Code Club started in October 2015.

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The club has been a huge success with the children.  They really enjoyed having the undergraduates from the university teaching them.  We were incredibly lucky in our two volunteers who were really conscientious and competent and developed excellent relationships with the children (Thanks Chris and Dale!).  They ran the club entirely on their own and all I had to do was download and print the projects and be physically around the Computer suite just in case – I don’t think I was really needed during the entire year.

The other major benefit from having a registered Code Club in school has been the access to the resources on the Code Club website.  All the projects are well thought-out and very engaging for the children.  There is also lots of scope for the more able children to extend the projects and develop their own add-ons and variants.  The club itself has concentrated on the Scratch projects, but I have borrowed ideas and code from the HTML & CSS resources, to develop a new curriculum unit, again saving me a huge amount of time.  I am considering running an advanced level Code Club next year where the children will tackle the Python projects.

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I think learning to Code is a wonderful opportunity for children.  It is highly creative and teaches resilience – almost nobody’s code works as intended first time.  It also helps to develop logical thinking, and encourages teamwork and co-operation.

Lots of people have written lots of articles about why children should learn to code.  Steve Jobs himself said, “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”  Even more than this, children should have the opportunity to code because it is fun! I’d encourage anybody thinking about setting up a Code Club to go for it. Signing up online is straightforward  and setting up and running a club with their support is easy.  

It is also incredibly rewarding when pupils share their highly polished and technically challenging projects.  Last term a Year 5 pupil said to me, “Mr Peet, I have finally figured out how to get online multi-player games to work using Scratch!”  I have not yet checked to find out whether he has, but I was seriously impressed that he was thinking about the problem in the first place!  


Interested in starting a Code Club? Find out more at www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club

Applications for micro:bits now closed

The applications for Code Clubs to receive micro:bits are now closed. If you made your application already, do read on below to find out further details about getting your micro:bits.

Getting Your Package

We’ll be sending out your micro:bit packages via our lovely pals at Pimoroni, after 20th September, so keep an eye on the post!

If you haven’t received your package by 30th September, please get in touch with Pimoroni via codeclub@pimoroni.com for assistance.

Getting Started

If you’d like some help getting started, the BBC have created some great set-up guides. Check them out here.

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Projects

We’ve created 6 Code Club projects for your club, as well as a certificate to give to your club members when they’ve completed the projects.

Have fun and let us know how you get on by tweeting pictures of your creations @CodeClub.