SVW 2017: student volunteers inspiring the next generation

svwwebsiteAs part of Student Volunteering Week, we’re profiling some of the awesome people who work with Code Club student volunteers to run clubs and help inspire the next generation to get excited about coding and digital making.

Chriss McGlone-Atkinson is Network Manager at the Flying Bull Academy and runs the school’s Code Club a alongside student volunteers from the University of Portsmouth. He told us a bit more about why he got involved, and how his club is run…


I first found out about Code Club when I was approached by another member of staff, who was in the process of setting up a reading group with volunteers from the University of Portsmouth.  The staff at the University explained to us that they were working with Code Club and asked whether we’d be interested.  I’d been looking to set up a coding club, but finding time to prepare resources and run the sessions had been difficult, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a club started. The partnership with the University has taken the entire burden off of me, with well-prepared resources and volunteers willing to run the sessions.

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We started our club last year, and run every Monday for an hour.  We have approximately fifteen children from years five and six, with many more interested in joining at a later date.  There are currently three student volunteers from the University of Portsmouth who run the sessions, and they have been absolutely fantastic for us.

In the club sessions we have been working through the Scratch projects supplied by Code Club, which the children have really engaged with, and look forward to each week.  

Last week we had a year 5 pupil who was overjoyed that he had managed to finish one of the projects we’d been working on.  He can sometimes struggle to pick up certain instructions, but the structured nature of the projects has enabled him to make steady progress in the weeks since we began the club.  The children take real ownership of their projects and work hard to complete them, therefore to see how happy he was just confirmed to me how effective the club has been.

We have now begun using some of the Code Club projects in our computing lessons, and those children who are members of the club have been assisting their teachers in the delivery and support of the lessons.  I would expect going forward that we continue this practice, as children take pride in being able to take responsibility for the development of their peers.

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Code Club and the University of Portsmouth have been so supportive in helping get our club up and running, having taken out all the stress of resourcing and running the sessions.  I’d highly recommend speaking to them if you’re interested in setting up a Code Club.

Find out more about what Code Club can offer for student volunteers and for schools.

SVW 2017: supporting Code Club’s student volunteers

svwwebsiteIt’s Student Volunteering Week! And to celebrate, this year we’re profiling some of those who work with Code Club’s student volunteers to help them in running clubs. Student Hubs are just one of the organisations that have been supporting our work with students across the country. We spoke to Rachel Tait, Student Hubs’ Network Operations Manager, who told us about their work with over 50 Code Club student volunteers from a wide range of universities who work with pupils at over a dozen schools…

But what brings students to Code Club? Rachel explained to us a bit about what motivations students have to volunteer their time to Code Club: “The three primary motivations are to improve things / help people, to develop skills, and to gain work experience. It’s almost always a combination of these things. Applicants have been evenly split across first, second and third year students, which shows that it’s a relevant opportunity whether you’ve just started uni or are graduating soon. 95% of applicants study a STEM subject, many of which involve programming, so it’s no surprise that this is a popular volunteering opportunity for them. The good news for non-STEM students is that the software used in Code Club, Scratch, is very easy to learn, so don’t be put off from giving it a go!”

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“There are definitely some common themes for what people get out of volunteering,” Rachel told us. “Volunteers find it very rewarding to see the children’s increasing interest and confidence in coding. The other is that volunteers gain valuable skills and experience themselves. Teachers agree as well, with one teacher telling us, ‘I think working with the student volunteers has given our children some understanding of where their education can take them, what university is and has raised their aspirations to go to university when they are older.’”

Rachel also mentioned that volunteers can face challenges along the way. “It’s worth noting that volunteering with children in schools isn’t always smooth sailing. There have been issues such as low pupil attendance or challenging behaviour in the classroom, which can put volunteers off, but we’ve found that regular communication with the volunteers and additional coaching/training when necessary can help volunteers to solve problems themselves which makes their experience even more rewarding and developmental.”

Nevertheless, there has been a great response from students who have been volunteering with Code Club. In fact, the feedback has been unanimous; “100% of our 2015-16 Code Club volunteers would recommend volunteering with Code Club to a friend which speaks for itself. It’s a fantastic opportunity whether you’re looking to make a difference in your local community, learn basic programming, put your existing programming skills to use, or gain practical leadership, teamwork and communication experience. If you’re at Bristol, Brookes, Cambridge, Kingston, Oxford, Southampton or Winchester, please contact your local Hub team to find out how we can support you to become a Code Club volunteer. If you’re at any other uni, visit the Code Club website.”

Student Volunteers: Giving back to your community with Code Club

Code Club are looking for student volunteers who would like to share their skills and spare time to help inspire the next generation of digital makers!

If you haven’t already heard of us, Code Clubs are weekly coding sessions for children aged 9-11, which take place in schools, community centres and libraries across the UK (and in countries around the world!).

We have some amazing student volunteers who have been helping to run Code Clubs in their local communities. This includes Kirsty Hayward, who volunteers as part of Success4All, an educational charity in Newcastle that helps children, young people and families through their learning hubs.

Read on to learn more about Kirsty’s experience volunteering with Code Club – perhaps it could inspire you to start your own Code Club as well!img_7280

What inspired you to volunteer for Code Club?

When I arrived in Newcastle for my undergraduate degree, I was keen to find a good volunteering opportunity to give something back to my new local community. Through Newcastle University’s Go Volunteer Scheme, I contacted Success4All and got involved volunteering as a tutor in STEM subjects in S4A’s Learning Hubs. During the year, S4A’s Code Club needed some extra help and I began learning more about Code Club and helping out. In September 2015, I took overmanaging S4A’s Code Clubs; as well as growing the number of clubs, volunteers and outreach events that Success4All works with. When I started volunteering, I recognised Scratch and some HTML coding from my own secondary school ICT education back in 2008, which I enjoyed greatly, but I am no tech expert!

robot-004-copyTell us as a bit about your Code Club

Currently I host 4 Code Clubs across Newcastle upon Tyne with a team of 5 volunteers. Last year, we reached over 40 children between all of our Code Clubs with around 10 children at each club. The children have worked through many of the Scratch projects and enjoy making many of their own from their incredible imaginations! We have also worked through some of the HTML/CSS and Python projects using Trinket. Our Code Clubs have been able to invest in a few Lego robots and received several BBC micro:bits from Code Club, so we have been learning how to code with these extra gadgets. The Lego robots and micro:bits are especially popular in the Code Clubs and definitely engage the children to think outside the screen and how things work in the real world.

What would you say are the benefits of volunteering for Code Club?

Code Club develops a fantastic little community amongst the children, helping them learn a new skill, of which they become very proud. Many of the children delight in sharing what they have learnt with each other, building friendships between children who may not usually talk to each other. They love becoming experts in Scratch and returning to their curriculum ICT lessons brimming with all their new tips and tricks to share with the rest of their peers. It is incredible to know you have created this environment for children to be inspired by their own work and the code behind their favourite games and websites. Running a Code Club tests many of your interpersonal, teaching and managerial skills, and gives you a fantastic array of examples of using your skill set for job interviews and CVs.

Why is Code Club important to you?

The Code Clubs I run are in areas of Newcastle marked by poor educational achievement. Working with a group of children who may have a negative relationship with learning and education, it becomes all the more rewarding when the children become inspired by something they have discovered in Code Club and develop a renewed enjoyment of learning new skills. In our Code Clubs, we embrace the chaos and take a friendly self-directed approach to learning, encouraging the children to create their own questions and experiment with the possibilities of coding and the depths of their imaginations. This is an aspect of our Code Clubs that I am really proud of. I hope Code Club helps the children to think differently about learning and enables them to develop transferable skills that they can use to improve their education in school and into the future.

How does volunteering fit into your schedule?

robot-003-copyThe Code Clubs I run all take place after school in the evenings. Currently, as a full time university student, my schedule is relatively flexible, so it works for me to volunteer for Code Club around it. On a typical Code Club day, I will travel to the club straight after university, compensating for the study hours spent at Code Club by taking 1-2 hours out of my weekend or evening.

What has been your best ‘Code Club moment’?

There have been so many Code Club moments where I have been very proud of the coders, by their achievements and behaviour towards each other. I was particularly proud of one child, who is normally quite quiet and focused on his own work, who began sharing tips to help others with their Scratch projects.