Volunteer spotlight: Sean’s story

Our wonderful volunteer Sean has shared his Code Club set-up story, a must-read for any potential volunteers (but great for current ones too!). If you’d like to share your story, or tell us about anything exciting happening in your club, please do get in touch. :)


My name is Sean McManus and as well as being a Code Club volunteer, I’m a copywriter and book author, specialising in business and technology. I wrote Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, Web Design in Easy Steps and co-wrote Raspberry Pi For Dummies. Like many volunteers, I grew up at a time when almost everyone in the playground knew how to write a few lines of code, and I used to beaver away writing programs on my Amstrad CPC at home.

When I first heard about Code Club, I was looking for a volunteering opportunity that was a good match for my skills and interests, after volunteering at the London 2012 Olympics. Code Club seemed like the perfect fit.

I was excited about the impact Code Club could have on young people, especially at a time when education is shifting gear to focus more on computer science and less on office skills. I was lucky enough to have computer clubs available to me when I was in school. In junior school, the headmaster formed a computer club for a small group of us who learned to program LOGO on the Link 480Z. At secondary school, the IT teacher gave a group of us lessons at lunch time so we could take a GCSE in Computer Science, which wasn’t officially supported by the school at the time. Both of these extra-curricular activities had a huge impact on my school life, and helped lay foundations for my later career.

Since January I have been running a Code Club at a local junior school. The process of setting up the club took a little bit of time but was easy. First, I had to get a DBS certificate (which used to be called a CRB check), which I did through STEMNET. STEMNET ran an introductory session for volunteers with some helpful pointers on working with children and young people. Through the Code Club website, I was introduced to a school near me that was looking for a volunteer.

I set up the Code Club in partnership with the deputy head from the school, who has been hugely enthusiastic. He’s been preparing the exercises before going into each session, as have I, so that we can guide the children through them when they hit a sticking point. Our club has 24 members which is a lot of children to get around during the session, so it’s made a huge difference that we’re both able to help squash nasty bugs in code. It was only at Code Club’s second birthday party when I was talking to other volunteers that I realised how unusual it was to have a group this large!

The club members have been excited by the idea of making video games, but they were equally inspired by simple things too. They loved making a rainbow-coloured circle and adding a password to their Scratch game. They were excited to share even their simplest Scratch projects online, and publish websites that their families could see. The best bits are when you see them have a real “aha!” moment and figure something out for the first time.

It’s all possible because of the Code Club projects. They’ve made it easy for children to start making cool things quickly, and have made it easy for us to prepare to lead the group too. It would have been extremely difficult to run the club without having those resources available.

One thing we found is that some of the children would race to finish the projects by copying the blocks of code without really thinking about what they were doing. We really wanted them to be able to make their own games, not just copy other people’s, so we made some small demos to explain topics like Scratch broadcasts and loops. We ran through one of these before going into a full project each week, so they would understand what they were using when they came across it in the full project later. I published these 10-block Scratch demos on my website. I hope they prove useful in other Code Clubs too!

My advice to people considering becoming a volunteer is to definitely do it. It’s been a great experience, and it’s gone really smoothly. Although I had a headstart with the technologies, they’re all easy enough to pick up, so you don’t need to know Scratch, Python or web design to run a successful club. I’d strongly recommend running through the project before each session so you’re familiar with the potential pitfalls and can warn the children about them. That also makes it easier to guide them back on the right path if their projects don’t work.

The school I volunteer with was looking for someone for over a year before I registered. I had lots of other approaches from other schools too that were interested in working with me, so it’s clear that there is a huge demand for volunteers. If you can spare a couple of hours a week, I hope you’ll consider becoming one. It’s a great experience for the children, but it’s extremely satisfying for the volunteer too.

New Coordinators: East Midlands & South West!

The Code Club team has grown again! We now have 3 more regional coordinators joining the others already working their socks off to support and grow our community around the UK.

Katharine Childs is our coordinator for the East Midlands, and Seemah Burgess-Nahome will be looking after the South West.


Hi, I’m Katharine, and I’m the new East Midlands Code Club regional coordinator. My first encounter with computers was playing Hunt the Wumpus on a BBC Micro then going on to code my own simple games in BASIC. Ten years later I went on to study for a BSc (Hons) in IT & Computing.  My career history is a mixture of private sector IT work, managing volunteers and projects in a community group and, most recently, working as an ICT Technician in primary schools.

I am involved in a few Code Clubs in my local area in eastern Derbyshire and am also a Code Club Pro trainer. I love facilitating opportunities for kids to code and learning from their enthusiasm, logic and creativity.

I am looking forward to travelling around the East Midlands meeting existing Code Clubbers (watch this space!) and also to expand the network of Code Clubs over the coming months. Whether you’re new or have been code clubbing for a while, you can get in touch with me via email at eastmidlands@codeclub.org.uk or tweet me: @primaryicttech. It would be great to hear from you!


Hey there, my name is Seemah and I am the new South West Coordinator for Code Club.

When I think back, I remember having an Atari game console and playing with my sisters at home on a box like TV. Today, now I watch my son swipe his finger over an Ipad with endless amounts games on hand. My 3 year old has learnt to play Minecraft too. I still find it hard to get my head around that! With playing games and the growing reach of the internet into kids lives, we need an understanding of how it works and I am so excited to help be a part of our kids future learning.

After setting up a Code Club in my son’s school, I am intent for more schools to start and create a buzzing community here.

I am also a mum of 3 kids, get involved in voluntary projects in my community, like to run and try to balance my kids tech interests with getting stuck into nature and the outdoors.

You can get in touch with me at southwest@codeclub.org.uk, or on Twitter @seemahb. :)

Autumn term greetings

Hardware hijinks!

We love to hear about what’s going on in all of our clubs, from cool game innovations through to hardware experiments, by way of digital art and robots!

If you’d like some hardware for your club but aren’t really sure how to go about it, you should know Hubbub is a great way to crowdfund for educational tech and all Code Clubs can start a campaign. :D

It’s super simple:

  1. Decide what hardware you’d like to get for your club
  2. Set up a crowdfunding page on Hubbub and check out their advice for a successful campaign
  3. Promote your campaign to raise the funds
  4. Buy the hardware for your Code Club
  5. Awesome tech is a-go!

We have a list of programmable hardware we think can be really great for Code Clubs if you need any inspiration (with a list of prices, to help you work out what makes best sense for you), and our friends at Hubbub have a great academy to help you make your campaign a success.

You can find lots more details over on our website. (The first of the Code Club and Technology Will Save Us DIY Gamer Kit projects are also now available; that’s also a really brilliant piece of hardware to consider!)

Adventures in code…

Whilst everyone was in a flurry of buying new shoes and stationery sets ready for the new school term, and getting things ready for the lots of Code Clubs to kick off, we were giving out database a spring/summer clean (you may well have had an email from us asking for a club status update), moving from the lovely TechHub offices in Old Street to our new home in Bethnal Green, and preparing to welcome a few new members of staff in September.

Our Code Club community wasn’t lazing the summer away either, oh no. Some were preparing for a term of DIY Gamer club sessions, others were involved in YRS Festival of Code (supporting and coding!), and one code clubber gave his time to help other young people at The Story Museum in Oxford.

Alex took what he’d learnt from a year of Code Club sessions to help 7 participants in a digital storytelling workshop after the museum put out a call for volunteers on Twitter. He told us that the most difficult and most interesting part of being Scratch Expert and Debugger Extraordinaire were challenging questions which made him think hard about the best way to advise the workshop participants: helping other people with their coding is a great way to develop your own skills too!

You can take a look at the work Alex has been doing on one of his own games over here, and if you’d like to tell us about your own adventures in coding please do get in touch. :)