Free programme launched to boost coding and robotics confidence in schools

BAE Systems has funded the programme along with the Royal Navy and the RAF, offering 600 places to non-selective state schools

Digital skills will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic, so the launch a brand new programme to boost confidence in coding and robotics across the nation’s schools could not be more timely.

BAE Systems has partnered with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force (RAF) to fully fund the free STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative Coding Success, striving to develop technical skills in students and teachers alike.

With the pandemic-driven shift towards technology in virtually every aspect of daily life, there is heightened demand for knowledge and expertise in AI, cloud, robotics and more among businesses not just in the UK, but across the world. That said, recent research from the Learning and Work Institute revealed that the number of young people committing to IT-based subjects at GCSE has fallen by 40% since 2015. This shortage in digital skills could be devastating to the UK’s post-pandemic recovery.

In light of this, Coding Success hopes to inform and inspire future coders, computer scientists and software engineers, supporting schools and helping them nurture the talent and curiosity needed for students to explore technological fields.

The fully-funded programme is open to 600 non-selective state schools, providing spaces for students aged 8–14 complete with curriculum-aligned lesson plans and resources to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.

The initiative is the brainchild of education charity the Smallpeice Trust and LEGO-authorised education partner Raising Robots. It includes informative teacher training sessions, six complete lesson plans and two LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Prime kits for children to gain first-hand practical experience in programming and robotics.

Programme participants will enjoy a virtual humanitarian mission set on an isolated volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Here, students must successfully code their robots as part of a fictitious earthquake response scenario. The operation aims to replicate the type of aid provided by BAE Systems, the Navy and the RAF, including reestablishing communications, assisting the injured and sourcing fresh drinking water.

“Using the LEGO® programme to make something that actually physically moves that you can get hold of makes it so much more real, not just to the children but to me as a teacher,” said Carrie Nicholson, teacher at Norbreck Primary Academy. “My confidence in doing this coding has just absolutely blossomed.”

In other news: COVID-19 closures drove multi-generational digital upskilling in schools

Coding Success has 300 spaces available for non-selective state primary schools, and another 300 open to non-selective state secondary education providers. Places will be allocated against certain criteria to ensure a fair regional spread and encourage participation from a wide range of students. Participating schools will attend online training, deliver six lessons to 60 students and complete programme evaluations.

Owen Cooper, teacher at Ormiston Venture Academy, commented: “It’s great for secondary students in year 7 where we can introduce coding, and the Python for year 9 and 10s – we can link it to their GCSE in a fun way. That will be a massive benefit and I’m really looking forward to that being and being able to experiment.

Applications will remain open until 28 May. Visit the website for more information on how your school can apply.

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