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.

Getting with the programme: Code Clubs and the digital challenge in Brent Libraries

Sarah Smith, Libraries Development Manager at Brent Libraries, tells us what the organisation is doing to offer more Code Clubs for local young people, and how her Code Club Regional Coordinator has helped her organisation take steps forward.

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Sarah Smith shares the success of Brent libraries with attendees at a recent London Code Club meetup

We launched our first Code Club in January 2016. It was a service we always wanted to get up and running, and the opportunity presented itself in autumn 2015. We got an offer from Neil Benn, a local Code Club volunteer and software engineer at a West London tech company.

Neil’s own journey into the world of computer programming began during his teens through writing simple “Hello, world”-style programs in languages such as BASIC and Pascal. This was also the time when the internet was just beginning to take shape, so he dabbled with making simple websites. He made the decisions to study Computer Science at university, and went on to have a rewarding career writing software for a range of different purposes.

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Fast-forward to the present day, where Neil’s passion for working with computers has led him to volunteer with Brent Libraries, running digital making workshops to offer new learning opportunities for local children in the community. He’s done amazing work with the young people in our Code Club sessions, and we certainly would not have achieved so much without him on board.

Our first Code Club started at Willesden Green Library in January 2016, and since then we have worked with dozens of children aged 7-11. We started with Scratch-based projects only, and have since progressed to a mixture of Scratch projects and BBC micro:bit projects.

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Each club session lasts one hour, and although the Code Club projects are structured, we encourage children to take them in whatever direction they choose and to display their creativity. A successful session is one after which the answer to “Did you enjoy today?” is a resounding “Yes!” from all the kids.

In July, we ran a Code Club training session for potential to recruit more people who want to help us offer weekly term-time Code Clubs in all six of our libraries. The session was delivered by Mickey Day, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for London & East of England, who did a fantastic job and really made volunteering sound easy and doable. You don’t have to be somebody with the knowledge and skills of a young Steve Jobs!

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Around 26 people attended the volunteer training, which was a fantastic turnout. It was heartening to see so many adults from different walks of life who are keen to volunteer and get Code Clubs up and running in schools and libraries. Among our libraries, only Willesden Green Library currently has an active Code Club, but considering the success of the training session, we hope we will be able to add more clubs in autumn.

On top of that, we’re also looking into starting monthly STEM clubs, and are hoping to launch our first one at Ealing Road Library this autumn with support from the National STEM Learning Centre. So the future for Brent Libraries is bright and, to borrow my own school motto, ‘Yet Higher’!

Join our network

Are you keen to set up a Code Club in your library, or to get stuck in with volunteering? Head to our website to get started.