Primary school Code Clubs get royal approval and ARM cash

The Duke of York and processor firm ARM have put their shoulders behind Code Club, a nationwide volunteer project to teach programming to 9-11 year-olds in after-school clubs.

Thought up by computer scientist Linda Sandvik and user experience designer Clare Sutcliffe in a pub last year, there are already 530 Code Clubs across the UK.

To promote Code Clubs – the target is to have 5,000 of them by 2015 – Prince Andrew has become patron, and ARM had donated enough money for Sutcliffe to become the first full-time employee of the scheme.

“We are supporting Code Club: we are giving it some money, we are giving it some expertise, and we are giving it some people,” said Stephen Pattison, v-p public affairs at ARM, at Soho Parish School, one of the first schools to have ons of the clubs.

ARM’s support extends to funding the establishment of up to 1,000 Code Clubs “enabling over 15,000 UK primary school children to learn the fundamental basics of how to write computer programs,” said the firm, whose employees have already set-up 12 clubs at primary schools around its UK offices.

Prince Andrew is accepting the post as part of his support for initiatives that encourage young people to continue with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school, college and university, and thereafter to consider a career in science and engineering, said ARM.

Clubs have at least one volunteer programming expert from industry, plus teachers.

Programming is in Scratch – the MIT-developed graphical language for young people which runs on Windows PCs, under MacOS, and under Linux (including Debian Linux on Raspberry Pi).

The educational programme is set out by the organisation.

“We provide all the curriculum materials,” Sandvik told Electronics Weekly.

So far, Code Club has prepared lessons for three term’s-worth of activities at the clubs, and is working on a Python curriculum for older children.

Scratch and Python are also the languages that the Raspberry Pi Foundation has selected for the same age groups.

3,000 of the 15,000 Raspberry Pis that Google is donating for education in the UK are earmarked for Code Clubs.

Your Code Club needs YOU

Originally intending to start five Code Clubs, founders Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik are up to 530, are funded for 1,000, and intend to have clubs in a quarter of the UK’s 17,000 UK primary schools by 2015.

Each Club needs at least one adult with coding experience.

“Volunteers are people who can donate one hour per week to go to an after-school club. “Timing can be worked out with the school, and we write the lesson plans,” Sandvik told Electronics Weekly.

What sort of experience?

“A programmer of some sort with an understanding of how a higher level language works: C, Java, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, for example – any language with curly brackets,” said Sandvik.

The curriculum is based around Scratch, although Python will come later for secondary school clubs.

“You can teach yourself Scratch in a day, or half a day. It is quite easy and quite fun,” said Sandvik. “Scratch will run on almost any computer: PC, MacOS, Linux – not an iPad

CRB checks are necessary, although educational organisation STEMnet will pay associated CRB fees, and for insurance.

If yu are interested, don’t be surprised if you are asked to apply for a ‘DBS check’, as this is what the Government is attempting to rename ‘CRB checks’ after it changed the name of the Criminal Records Bureau to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

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