How your voice has helped shape Code Club in 2020

This year, we asked the Code Club community to take part in two polls to help the team understand how the coronavirus pandemic was impacting clubs around the world.   

Dave Hazeldean, Code Club’s Data Analyst, shares why answering the polls was so important, how they gave us a better picture of how clubs were running, and how we adapted the programme to support educators to continue to inspire the next generation of digital makers.

Countries and territories of volunteers who responded to our poll in green

What we have learned 

This year we ran two polls, one in May and one in September. More than 3000 Code Clubs from 82 countries and territories participated and shared if their club was running sessions, planning to run sessions, or their club was paused.

As we expected, activity in Code Clubs has been severely disrupted by the pandemic, with many clubs forced to pause their sessions, however Dave shares that there has been some positive news: 

“What I found most encouraging is the increase in the proportion of clubs that were running or planning to run in September when compared with the results that we found in May.”

“Of the clubs that are running or planning to run, almost half will be running their sessions online. We are working hard to provide all of the guidance, resources, and support that clubs need to make the transition to online sessions.” 

“In a recent blog post, we heard from members of our community who are now running their Code Clubs online, which I found particularly inspiring.” 

What support is available to Code Clubs running online or in-person sessions? 

There are some great resources available to support you if you are looking to move your Code Club sessions online, or restart sessions in person. 

To help make the transition from running in person to online, we have created a guide for online sessions that provides a great overview of what you may need to consider. 

If you are eager to run your Code Club online, read our guides for parents supporting young people and young people attending online sessions for additional tips before you get started.

If you’re looking to restart your in-person sessions, take a look at our safety guidance for in-person sessions, and this blog post on clubs who have gone back to in-person meetings. 

You can also join us on a regular community call with the clubs team or listen back to previous calls.  

What’s next? 

The pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, but we are adapting to the new learning environment and hope to continue to give young people the space to thrive. 

From Dave and everyone at Code Club we want to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to inform us about their Code Club by responding to our polls this year. Your voice continues to inspire us to move forward.

Your participation in our campaigns is integral to helping us shape our planning and identify the support you need to run your clubs safely. We will be running more polls, and encourage you to take part and give feedback over the months ahead. 

We are always here to support you and if there is anything you need, contact our friendly support team at support@codeclub.org.

A tale of three Code Clubs: running in-person sessions safely

We share stories from three clubs around the world who are beginning to hold in-person Code Club sessions once again. Hear their stories and their top tips!

Meet the clubs 

The Mount School Code Club in York, UK had to stop meeting in person back in March when the UK lockdown began. The club switched to weekly online Zoom sessions, but when the school opened its doors again in September, volunteer Ruth was keen to try to resume meeting in person. 

“It was nice being able to carry on remotely, but somehow the atmosphere of an in-person club has a greater feeling of togetherness.”

For Rohima’s Code Club in Sutton, UK, it was a similar story. Club sessions were paused during lockdown, and a shift in focus to support parents and children to learn from home meant that they weren’t able to run their club online. 

As a parent governor at the school, Rohima was prepared to restart her in-person club as soon as it was safe to run after-school clubs again. When she got the go-ahead in September, she was excited to get started.

“I had really missed running my club. It was always a highlight of my week and the interaction in a face-to-face session is always different from running online.”

Ali and Mustafa in Baghdad, Iraq, have been working to support young people across the country as part of their volunteering initiative Coding4Kids. From the beginning of March, they worked to continue running workshops and club sessions via Google Meet and Zoom. 

“Although it was quite challenging to manage the classes, we did our best to continue with our passion. We worked on projects from Raspberry Pi, to Scratch, and tried to increase the awareness about COVID-19 with topics like wearing a mask, the importance of social distance, and other related suitable projects.”

The pair realised that a cinema could act as a safe space to run in-person sessions, and were able to secure a venue and sponsorship with the Iraqi Cinema.

Ali and Mustafa’s club ran at the Iraqi Cinema.

Getting back to in-person sessions

Regulations around in-person events and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic differ widely between locations, so it’s important to check your local health guidance and speak with your venue when planning in-person sessions. 

Ruth met with the head teacher in advance of restarting her club, so she was fully briefed on the school’s regulations. 

“We spoke about the maximum number of girls we could have in each session and how we could maintain social distancing between them. We also took into account the bubbles the girls are in during the normal school day.”

For all three Code Clubs, sanitising hands and equipment is important. Both Rohima and Ruth’s clubs ensure that no equipment is shared between attendees, with each young person either bringing or being assigned their own computer.

At Rohima’s club, volunteers must sign a form at the start of each session, so that they can be contacted if someone becomes unwell. She is also required to maintain social distancing, and has adapted the way that she runs her sessions to fit this format.

“Instead of now going to the kids when they’re stuck, I use the whiteboard and the teacher’s PC to demonstrate steps and support their learning.  We have also been doing more code-alongs this term to keep them focussed and explain key coding concepts.”

At Ali and Mustafa’s club, transparent plexiglass between seats and reduced club numbers allow children to code together safely. At each session, volunteers prepare a safety zone where each attendee checks their temperature, puts on a mask, and sanitises their hands. Sessions also take place at a time when only club attendees and organisers are likely to be inside the cinema. Their club has now run several sessions, including one designed specifically to support local orphans. 

Top tips 

Ruth’s top tip is that preparation is key: make sure that you know what precautions you need to take at the venue well in advance.  

“The girls are so used to having to do things a bit differently at school now, it hasn’t fazed them. Yes, it’s a bit more work, but it’s so rewarding that I’d say if you get the opportunity, take it!”

Rohima recommends making sure that you know what equipment will be available, so that you can plan your session. She also says that being comfortable with the projects helps if you need to support with debugging from a distance.

Young coders at The Mount School Code Club

And finally, Ali and Mustafa shared that it’s important to continue doing what you love! 

“We encourage educators to resume their in-person clubs again if it’s safe to do so! Keep the passion and creativity up!”

If you’re thinking of restarting in-person sessions at your Code Club, take a look at our guidance for volunteers. You can also find out more information about ways to run your club on our website. 

Coding at home with Willow Brook School

Willow Brook Primary School Academy started using Scratch to help their students keep coding from home while schools were closed. 

Find out how they set up their #CodeClub@Home and read their top tips for running remote coding sessions.

Going online with Scratch

Willow Brook Primary School Academy started their Code Club in summer 2016. With the uncertainty of the past few months, the club was keen to find a way to continue offering engaging extracurricular opportunities to their cohort of young coders.

With the help of Scratch’s free Teacher Accounts, the school was able to offer their students a way to connect through remote sessions called #CodeClub@Home. Multiple Scratch classrooms were set up for attendees, with nearly 500 young coders across several schools offered the opportunity to take part.

Young coders at Willow Brook work on a Kano Windows PC

Online learning is a central part of school life at Willow Brook. Club projects are added to the school’s existing online learning platform, for students to download and work through at home using their Scratch accounts. The club has used Scratch projects from Barefoot Computing and Code Club to run their sessions, starting with one of our favourites, Rock band!

The club also awards certificates, which provide a fun way to celebrate creativity and success, and to keep club members feeling interested and motivated to attend the club.  

Code Club certificates are a great way to celebrate success!

What makes a good online session? 

Allen Tsui, the club’s leader, shared that gaining support from the school’s SLT and multi-academy trust has been a huge help:

“One of the founding principles of our school and its multi-academy trust is offering high-quality extracurricular provision to as many children as possible through its Wide Horizons programme. Its support for Code Club has been enthusiastic from the outset.”   

He also shared his five top tips for running successful sessions:

  • “Make use of the expertise that’s available! Attend free training events offered by the National Centre for Computing Education, Computing at School, or through social media.”
  • “Be limitless in your approach: teachers often work within ‘age-related expectations’, but access to the internet and technology may mean that younger learners are able to engage with what might be considered ‘higher digital literacy skills’.”
  • “Celebrate success by allowing your attendees to showcase what they have made.”
  • “Encourage families and the wider community to get involved.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to ask for donations for your Code Club. Our club has benefited from significant donations and amazing opportunities, such as building LEGO® robots at the Houses of Parliament.”

The club’s new format has received amazing support and engagement from families keen to get involved. And the young people at the club are having a wonderful time taking part too: 

“I love showing my family how I am learning to code using project ideas from Code Club and the online version of Scratch.”

If you’re inspired by Willow Brook School, we have free guidance and resources to help you run your club sessions. Take a look at our website for ideas and guidance on ways to run, or join an upcoming community call.