January 2019


Digital Schoolhouse sowing the seeds of our next generation of engineers

"The results have been spectacular with more than 90 per cent of primary school children in the programme in Warwickshire left feeling more confident about computing and programming."

Thousands of primary school children across Warwickshire are enjoying a head start in digital skills thanks to the groundbreaking Digital Schoolhouse programme.

Digital Schoolhouse is running in four secondary schools in the county - Campion School, Kineton High School, The Coleshill School and King Edward VI School, Stratford - and there is scope for more to join.

The programme, delivered by the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), is backed Warwickshire County Council along with industry leaders PlayStation, Sega and Ubisoft.

It offers computing and digital skills training to secondary school teachers which they then pass on to local primary school staff and children. The focus is very much on fun-based learning with a range of inventive ways to engage youngsters in the subject.

The results have been spectacular with more than 90 per cent of primary school children in the programme in Warwickshire left feeling more confident about computing and programming.

Almost 3,000 children and more than 200 teachers in 32 schools across the county have benefited in the last academic year from the programme which also serves to strengthen links between secondary and primary schools.

Richard Barfoot, head of computer science at King Edward VI School, Stratford, said: "We get very positive feedback from the primary schools that come - they tend to come over and over again.

"The long-term aim is to get children thinking about computing careers and, even at this early age, show them the range of things there is to be interested in and eventually the range of career options when they move up to secondary school.

"The whole ethos of Digital Schoolhouse is computing with a bit of play. We want children to realise that it is not a dry subject. There is a lot of play and experimentation involved. We sometimes start off with a 'magic trick' where the kids work out that, as long as they follow the steps in the trick, the magic works. They don't necessarily need to understand how it works at first, but they understand the process behind it."

Richard Sandle-Keynes, a Year Five teacher at The Willows Primary School, said: "Every time we come to KES the children are really engaged by what they see and hear. We are really lucky to have this on our doorstep.

"Children now are much more interested in how computers work and what they can do and Digital Schoolhouse helps them develop so much more quickly. It can only help them become equipped for those careers, which is brilliant particularly in Warwickshire where the digital sector is so strong.

"It is a very creative programme. From one session we had children writing an algorithm for making a jam sandwich. You can't just say 'put the jam on the bread' because then you put a jar of jam on a loaf of bread and it doesn't work, so they have to be really specific which feeds into their writing skills and involves an element of maths.

"It feeds across the curriculum. For example, if they know how to publish information to a website, then they know that, if they go to a website they can't necessarily trust what's on there because it could have come from somebody like them just wanting to put up whatever they wanted. So they start understanding what is behind computers and become more savvy and safer on line."

Warwickshire County Council's foresight in supporting Digital Schoolhouse has been richly rewarded with thousands of children receiving a springboard towards careers which will help the county retain its place as a leader in the Digital Creative Sector.

Warwickshire County Council head of economy and skills Dave Ayton-Hill said: "In Warwickshire our need to keep skills in this sector coming through, in the next generation and the ones after that, is paramount. That key challenge is being addressed by our Skills for Employment programme which works constantly with schools, colleges and employers, but the additional input from Digital Schoolhouse gives our offer a new dimension.

"Many schools do not have the capabilities and resources to fully address and maximise the benefits from this key part of the curriculum. Digital Schoolhouse addresses this problem from within.

"Warwickshire County Council is delighted to have enabled four vibrant and impressive schools - Campion, Coleshill, Kineton and King Edward VI - to become involved and we would love to see more schools get involved."

The county would also welcome involvement of businesses from the county's digital sector. Any who would like to be involved are asked to contact stacyoconnor@warwickshire.gov.uk.

* If you would like your school to join the Digital Schoolhouse programme please contact: http://www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/articles/2019/01/applications-have-opened


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