Code Club ideas: young people teach their peers how to code

To inspire more young people to fall in love with computer science, some Code Club volunteers and teachers have had a brilliant idea: get the young people to do the teaching! Here we talk to members of two different Code Clubs that are led by teenagers, and that prove that young people often are the best role models.

St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School

Calvin Robinson is the Assistant Principal and Head of Computing at St Mary’s and St John’s CofE School (SMSJ) in London. He currently runs two Code Clubs in the school as a way to encourage pupils to have fun with computing outside of the curriculum.

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Mr Robinson with the Code Club mentors

One of the Code Clubs is exclusively for Year 8 girls, and it’s run by six girls from Mr Robinson’s GCSE Computer Science cohort:

“The idea behind this was that as a male teacher I appreciate that I may not be the best person to bridge the gender gap, but I certainly recognise it as an issue.”
– Calvin Robinson, Assistant Principal and Head of Computing

Positive role models for younger learners

Interest in the club is high, with a huge amount of Year 8 girls wanting to get involved. Being taught by older girls means that the learners can identify with the people teaching them, and they learn to view what their older peers have achieved as possible for themselves.

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Mr Robinson thinks that participating in Code Club enables the Year 8 girls to become more confident and passionate about the subject, making them more likely to take GCSE Computer Science next year.

“We currently have a higher than national average number of girls taking GCSE Computer Science, and it’s the most popular GCSE option in the school, but we’ve still got a long way to go in bridging that gender gap.”
– Mr Robinson

Benefits for the teenagers

Of course it’s not just the younger pupils who benefit from having older students as their mentors: running a Code Club also gives the GCSE students the perfect opportunity to solidify their coding skills:

“I like how I get a chance to develop my coding skills by teaching younger children. Coding is hard to explain and understand, and being able to teach others is a whole other skill, which is why it has helped me so much in my Computer Science GCSE.”
– Weronika Pawelczak, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

“Running the sessions means that I get to consolidate my knowledge and share it with younger people who may take Computer Science GCSE in the future. Also, the sessions improve my coding and I learn new things I could use in my code in lessons. For me individually, it has boosted my confidence to socialise more.”
– Nadia Wu, GCSE Computer Science student and Code Club volunteer

The Year 10 girls at SMSJ are clearly proud to be encouraging younger girls to fall in love with computing. They also think that more female Computer Science GCSE students should be setting up similar clubs, seeing how successful it has been in their school.

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Dragon Hall community centre

Another Code Club that is partly led by a teenage volunteer is one at Dragon Hall community centre in London. After volunteering at the centre over the summer, secondary school student Alvin was encouraged to participate in running their weekly Code Club.

Club host Keeley Reed has been hugely impressed by the effect Alvin has on the club members:

“Having a student volunteer allows the young people to have a role model to look up to. Alvin has been an asset to the group, as the young people connect with him very well. He brings the whole package to Code Club, that you wouldn’t get with adults.”
– Keeley Reed, Youth Work Manager at Dragon Hall and Code Club host

Like the girls at SMSJ, Alvin recognises the positive impact that helping at Code Club is having on his studies:

“I am now a lot better at explaining concepts, especially in exams, because
explaining code to children always has to be clear and precise. Teaching helps me learn new things as well, because I have to explain concepts very clearly so that the children understand.”
– Alvin, secondary school student and Code Club volunteer

Start a student-led Code Club

Peer-led Code Clubs offer huge benefits, not only for the learners but also for the young people leading the clubs. If you’re starting a Code Club in your school this term, why not get one of your older students to act as a mentor? Anyone over 16 can sign up on our website and help run a Code Club alongside an adult — find out more at

SVW 2017: student volunteers inspiring the next generation

svwwebsiteAs part of Student Volunteering Week, we’re profiling some of the awesome people who work with Code Club student volunteers to run clubs and help inspire the next generation to get excited about coding and digital making.

Chriss McGlone-Atkinson is Network Manager at the Flying Bull Academy and runs the school’s Code Club a alongside student volunteers from the University of Portsmouth. He told us a bit more about why he got involved, and how his club is run…

I first found out about Code Club when I was approached by another member of staff, who was in the process of setting up a reading group with volunteers from the University of Portsmouth.  The staff at the University explained to us that they were working with Code Club and asked whether we’d be interested.  I’d been looking to set up a coding club, but finding time to prepare resources and run the sessions had been difficult, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a club started. The partnership with the University has taken the entire burden off of me, with well-prepared resources and volunteers willing to run the sessions.


We started our club last year, and run every Monday for an hour.  We have approximately fifteen children from years five and six, with many more interested in joining at a later date.  There are currently three student volunteers from the University of Portsmouth who run the sessions, and they have been absolutely fantastic for us.

In the club sessions we have been working through the Scratch projects supplied by Code Club, which the children have really engaged with, and look forward to each week.  

Last week we had a year 5 pupil who was overjoyed that he had managed to finish one of the projects we’d been working on.  He can sometimes struggle to pick up certain instructions, but the structured nature of the projects has enabled him to make steady progress in the weeks since we began the club.  The children take real ownership of their projects and work hard to complete them, therefore to see how happy he was just confirmed to me how effective the club has been.

We have now begun using some of the Code Club projects in our computing lessons, and those children who are members of the club have been assisting their teachers in the delivery and support of the lessons.  I would expect going forward that we continue this practice, as children take pride in being able to take responsibility for the development of their peers.


Code Club and the University of Portsmouth have been so supportive in helping get our club up and running, having taken out all the stress of resourcing and running the sessions.  I’d highly recommend speaking to them if you’re interested in setting up a Code Club.

Find out more about what Code Club can offer for student volunteers and for schools.

SVW 2017: supporting Code Club’s student volunteers

svwwebsiteIt’s Student Volunteering Week! And to celebrate, this year we’re profiling some of those who work with Code Club’s student volunteers to help them in running clubs. Student Hubs are just one of the organisations that have been supporting our work with students across the country. We spoke to Rachel Tait, Student Hubs’ Network Operations Manager, who told us about their work with over 50 Code Club student volunteers from a wide range of universities who work with pupils at over a dozen schools…

But what brings students to Code Club? Rachel explained to us a bit about what motivations students have to volunteer their time to Code Club: “The three primary motivations are to improve things / help people, to develop skills, and to gain work experience. It’s almost always a combination of these things. Applicants have been evenly split across first, second and third year students, which shows that it’s a relevant opportunity whether you’ve just started uni or are graduating soon. 95% of applicants study a STEM subject, many of which involve programming, so it’s no surprise that this is a popular volunteering opportunity for them. The good news for non-STEM students is that the software used in Code Club, Scratch, is very easy to learn, so don’t be put off from giving it a go!”


“There are definitely some common themes for what people get out of volunteering,” Rachel told us. “Volunteers find it very rewarding to see the children’s increasing interest and confidence in coding. The other is that volunteers gain valuable skills and experience themselves. Teachers agree as well, with one teacher telling us, ‘I think working with the student volunteers has given our children some understanding of where their education can take them, what university is and has raised their aspirations to go to university when they are older.’”

Rachel also mentioned that volunteers can face challenges along the way. “It’s worth noting that volunteering with children in schools isn’t always smooth sailing. There have been issues such as low pupil attendance or challenging behaviour in the classroom, which can put volunteers off, but we’ve found that regular communication with the volunteers and additional coaching/training when necessary can help volunteers to solve problems themselves which makes their experience even more rewarding and developmental.”

Nevertheless, there has been a great response from students who have been volunteering with Code Club. In fact, the feedback has been unanimous; “100% of our 2015-16 Code Club volunteers would recommend volunteering with Code Club to a friend which speaks for itself. It’s a fantastic opportunity whether you’re looking to make a difference in your local community, learn basic programming, put your existing programming skills to use, or gain practical leadership, teamwork and communication experience. If you’re at Bristol, Brookes, Cambridge, Kingston, Oxford, Southampton or Winchester, please contact your local Hub team to find out how we can support you to become a Code Club volunteer. If you’re at any other uni, visit the Code Club website.”