How Code Clubs foster independence and creativity through non-formal learning

Code Club is about so much more than coding. Not only do young people build coding skills at their own pace, but they also develop their independence, creativity, and leadership. At the Clubs Conference in March this year, Code Club leader and teacher Fiona Lindsay shared her experiences.

Fiona Lindsay asked the children attending her Code Club at Hillside School in Aberdeenshire what they felt they gained from Code Club. Not only did she discover her students felt their coding had improved, but they also recognised a wide range of personal development skills that had come through attending her Code Club.

“Our Code Club at Hillside makes a difference to the young people that attend, because it’s inclusive and the children work together across different classes and stages. They support each other, they’re developing leadership and meta-skills, and the Code Club is something they look forward to. In fact, they want it to be extended to later in the day!”

Fiona Lindsay from Hillside School

All schools in Scotland are encouraged to follow Skills Development Scotland’s meta-skills framework which covers three key areas: 

  • Self-management – the ability to focus, adapt, and take initiative
  • Social intelligence – communication, collaboration, and leadership skills
  • Innovation – curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking 

As informal spaces — where having fun, building relationships, and developing resilience are just as important as learning to code — Code Clubs can help children become adaptive learners, developing a toolkit of skills to help them take on future challenges. 

Learning outside of the classroom

Evidence suggests that learning outside the classroom has multiple benefits. Non-formal spaces (where informal learning happens in a school venue) can attract a wider range of learners — something that is particularly important when encouraging more girls or young people from minority groups that are less likely to engage with computing. Around 41% of young people attending Code Clubs identify as girls, compared to the national average of 20% who go on to study Computer Science at GCSE.

Speaking to the team at the Clubs Conference, teacher Janine Kirk from the King’s Academy in Stoke-on-Trent shared how the informality and diversity of Code Club is her favourite part of running her sessions:

“I get a vast variety of students that come, and we get to have fun, engage with those activities, the students can experiment, and there’s no structure… It gives us the opportunity to be outside the classroom environment, which allows us to build relationships with the students.”

At Code Club, young people are able to learn through the lens of real-world topics or themes that they find interesting, and are given the agency to be creatively free, personalising their work in a way that is meaningful to them. Hillside School club attendee Emir, aged 11, shared how he prefers coding his own games to buying something premade:

“My favourite thing about coding club is being able to make anything you want… With coding club, you really have to code your own games and you have a lot of freedom with what to code. You can use your own ideas and it’s just very fun to make games and expand on them.”

In extracurricular clubs there are no specific learning objectives, which allows young people to work at a pace that suits them and develop independence within their learning. At a Code Club, this could mean children taking extra time to make sure they understand the steps of a project, jumping ahead to extend their project, or helping out others within the club as a peer-supporter. It could even be as simple as developing an understanding of when to ask for help, and when to try and solve a problem on their own.

Club attendee Lewis, age 11, at Hillside School shared how Code Club has helped him learn to support his peers:

“It’s leadership, because I feel like I can help people with things a lot more than I could last year and I feel I’m much better at leading.”

Perhaps most importantly though, non-formal spaces can allow young people to create a sense of community through peers and role models. Code Clubs are spaces where friendships flourish, and young people have fun as they swap ideas and share about their lives and interests through the projects they create.

How the projects work

Code Club’s 3, 2, 1, Make! projects were developed to ensure that having fun, feeling motivated, and making things that matter, were at the heart of each session. All the project paths are designed to develop learner independence and they all have the same structure:

  • Three Explore projects, to introduce creators to a set of skills and provide step-by-step instructions to help them develop initial confidence
  • Two Design projects, to allow creators to practise the skills they learnt and to express themselves creatively while they grow in independence
  • One Invent project, where creators use their skills to meet a project brief for a particular audience

Over the course of the path, young people develop coding skills and then put them to the test, exercising not just their understanding, but also their own creativity and imagination.

And you don’t have to stick to the path structure in your Code Club! The flexibility of Code Club and the range of activities available mean that if there are coding languages, topics, or particular things your club members want to try, you can use any combination of projects in your club. The possibilities are endless!

Start a Code Club at your school

You can watch Fiona’s full talk on YouTube to discover how she is inspiring young coders in Scotland. You can also follow Hillside School on Twitter (@SchoolHillside1) or reach out to Fiona (@MrsFLindsay).

If you’d like to start a Code Club at your school, head to, or find out more at an upcoming online workshop.