How North Ayrshire council is making coding accessible to all

Back in May, North Ayrshire Council in Scotland made a pledge to tackle the digital skills gap by providing access to Code Clubs for all learners aged 9–13 by August 2020. Here the team behind the initiative tells us why they think Code Club is important and how they plan to achieve their goal.

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James McNeil is an IT Support Officer at North Ayrshire Council.  His passion for coding made him want to share his knowledge at his daughters’ primary school, and so he started volunteering with Code Club in 2016.

“I had always wanted to do something coding-related at the school, but with work and kids I never had much time to plan content for lessons. Then I discovered Code Club and its fantastic resources! Having this pre-written curriculum made it possible for me to approach my girls’ school and offer to run a club.” – James McNeil

James loved the experience so much that he decided to team up with colleague Michele Laverty, Project Manager in the council’s Transformation Team, to run a Saturday-morning Code Club at their local library. Like James, Michele also runs a club at a nearby primary school.

The ‘Coding the Future’ pledge

As a result of this enthusiasm for Code Club, in November 2017 the council set up a ‘Coding the Future’ project team, recruiting together staff from from Customer and Digital Services, Education and Youth Employment, and Economy and Communities. This team had the aim of expanding and supporting Code Clubs across the authority.

Within a few months, the team’s wider council services pledged to provide access to Code Clubs for all learners aged 9–13 by August 2020. Since then, pilot Code Clubs have been set up across North Ayrshire, with 24 active clubs currently registered in schools, libraries, and community centres.

“Our ‘Coding the Future’ programme is all about improving digital literacy here in North Ayrshire, with the aim of addressing the digital skills gap that exists in this country. There is no better way to improve this than by developing our younger generation and equipping them with the necessary skills.”
– Michele Laverty, Rosslyn Lee, Clare Bethell, and James McNeil, ‘Coding the Future’ project team

Finding volunteers

When looking for volunteers, the project team turned to staff from the three services that signed the ‘Coding the Future’ pledge. So far 30 volunteers have signed up, becoming STEM ambassadors in the process.

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These volunteers are part of a ‘train the trainer’ approach: they support schools and libraries to set up their own clubs, and then taking a step back once the venue staff members feel confident to run the clubs by themselves. Moving forward, the project team is also interested in involving secondary school pupils as volunteers and STEM ambassadors.

Summer Code Camp!

To celebrate the launch of the ‘Coding the Future’ initiative, this July the team decided to run a week-long Summer Code Camp, which gave up to 25 kids per day the chance to learn how to code using Scratch, Spheros, and micro:bits.

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As the location for the camp, the team picked a local primary school that offers free school meals and activities during the summer break, ensuring that the event was accessible for all.

“Over the week, we saw kids who had never used Scratch before use a selection of the fantastic Code Club Scratch projects to design and build their fully functioning games. Along with the coding skills that Code Camp taught the kids, they also learned creative problem-solving, logical reasoning, decomposition, and computational thinking.

It was brilliant to watch their confidence grow over the week and demystify coding, making it something they can control, rather than just interacting with someone else’s creation. Along with their new coding skills, the kids made new friends with a shared passion and shared experiences.”
– Michele Laverty, Rosslyn Lee, Clare Bethell, and James McNeil, ‘Coding the Future’ project team

Help a Code Club in your community

At Code Club we believe that any child, no matter their background, should be able to develop computing skills to prepare themselves for an increasingly digital world.

Join us on our mission by volunteering to help run a Code Club at www.codeclub.org.uk.