To inspire more young people to fall in love with computer science, some Code Club volunteers and teachers have had a brilliant idea: get the young people to do the teaching! Here we talk to members of two different Code Clubs that are led by teenagers, and that prove that young people often are the best role models.
St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School
Calvin Robinson is the Assistant Principal and Head of Computing at St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School (SMSJ) in London. He currently runs two Code Clubs in the school as a way to encourage pupils to have fun with computing outside of the curriculum.
One of the Code Clubs is exclusively for Year 8 girls, and it’s run by six girls from Mr Robinson’s GCSE Computer Science cohort:
“The idea behind this was that as a male teacher I appreciate that I may not be the best person to bridge the gender gap, but I certainly recognise it as an issue.”
– Calvin Robinson, Assistant Principal and Head of Computing
Positive role models for younger learners
Interest in the club is high, with a huge amount of Year 8 girls wanting to get involved. Being taught by older girls means that the learners can identify with the people teaching them, and they learn to view what their older peers have achieved as possible for themselves.
Mr Robinson thinks that participating in Code Club enables the Year 8 girls to become more confident and passionate about the subject, making them more likely to take GCSE Computer Science next year.
“We currently have a higher than national average number of girls taking GCSE Computer Science, and it’s the most popular GCSE option in the school, but we’ve still got a long way to go in bridging that gender gap.”
– Mr Robinson
Benefits for the teenagers
Of course it’s not just the younger pupils who benefit from having older students as their mentors: running a Code Club also gives the GCSE students the perfect opportunity to solidify their coding skills:
“I like how I get a chance to develop my coding skills by teaching younger children. Coding is hard to explain and understand, and being able to teach others is a whole other skill, which is why it has helped me so much in my Computer Science GCSE.”
– Weronika Pawelczak, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer
“Running the sessions means that I get to consolidate my knowledge and share it with younger people who may take Computer Science GCSE in the future. Also, the sessions improve my coding and I learn new things I could use in my code in lessons. For me individually, it has boosted my confidence to socialise more.”
– Nadia Wu, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer
The Year 10 girls at SMSJ are clearly proud to be encouraging younger girls to fall in love with computing. They also think that more female Computer Science GCSE students should be setting up similar clubs, seeing how successful it has been in their school.
Dragon Hall community centre
Another Code Club that is partly led by a teenage volunteer is one at Dragon Hall community centre in London. After volunteering at the centre over the summer, secondary school student Alvin was encouraged to participate in running their weekly Code Club.
Club host Keeley Reed has been hugely impressed by the effect Alvin has on the club members:
“Having a student volunteer allows the young people to have a role model to look up to. Alvin has been an asset to the group, as the young people connect with him very well. He brings the whole package to Code Club, that you wouldn’t get with adults.”
– Keeley Reed, Youth Work Manager at Dragon Hall and Code Club host
Like the girls at SMSJ, Alvin recognises the positive impact that helping at Code Club is having on his studies:
“I am now a lot better at explaining concepts, especially in exams, because
explaining code to children always has to be clear and precise. Teaching helps me learn new things as well, because I have to explain concepts very clearly so that the children understand.”
– Alvin, secondary school student and Code Club volunteer
Start a student-led Code Club
Peer-led Code Clubs offer huge benefits, not only for the learners but also for the young people leading the clubs. If you’re starting a Code Club in your school this term, why not get one of your older students to act as a mentor? Anyone over 16 can sign up on our website and help run a Code Club alongside an adult — find out more at www.codeclub.org.uk.